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8 Great Reasons to Enter a Photo Contest

Do you want to take your photography to the next level? Are you look for a focus to your work? There are many ways to achieve those aims in photography. One of the best ways is to enter a photo contest. That competitive edge is a really good way of driving your photography on by that extra few percent. In this article, you’ll discover some great reasons to enter a contest. Then you’ll find out some great contests to enter, and some of the potential pitfalls that some contests present.

1. A photo contest gives you direction

Image: A decent level of creativity and a well-executed photo are two things needed to win a contest...

A decent level of creativity and a well-executed photo are two things needed to win a contest.

There are times as a photographer that you’ll drift a little bit. Whether that means you photograph less, or when you do photograph there’s not too much cohesion to it depends on you as a photographer. Even those with clear ideas about their photography benefit from a clear direction to head in, and a photo contest is one great way to achieve this. Not all, but many photo contests have themes, and it’s this theme you concentrate your mind on as you look to compose the best photo.

2. Pushes you out of your comfort zone

In the same way that a themed contest can give you direction, it can also push you out of your comfort zone. Of course, if the contest is too far out of your comfort zone, you might choose not to enter for a variety of reasons. However, with enough time before the final entry date, contests provide the perfect opportunity to hone your skill in another area of photography. Contests also allow you to adapt the way you take photos to fit the theme of the contest. Do you enjoy landscape photography? A contest theme set to crystal ball photography could be the perfect chance to learn this new photographic technique while applying what you already know about landscape work.

Image: This photo ranked number 1 for the daily interesting contest on flickr.

This photo ranked number 1 for the daily interesting contest on flickr.

3. Focuses your mind on being perfect

Do you always photograph all your photos at the correct aperture? Was the ISO left too high, from the last time you photographed indoors? While you’ll almost certainly get those camera settings correct when you’re out photographing when it comes to a contest you definitely will. The smallest advantages you can gain by perfecting your technique can all stack up, and you’ll need every advantage you can get to win a contest.

4. Is a great way to gain exposure

There are several ways you can gain exposure through a photo contest. However, there is no doubt your photo needs to stand out because most contests gain thousands of entries. It’s in the interests of a contest to engage its audience though, so how can that benefit you? Those contests that run for a couple of months may well have a weekly top ten. Photos from this ten may not end up winning the prize, but it can put eyeballs on your photo if you make the ten. In addition to this, typically photo contests have a winner, as well as a raft of commended photos. Once again, this gives you a significant chance of more exposure, should your photo be commended.

Image: This photo won a contest in South Korea a few years ago.

This photo won a contest in South Korea a few years ago.

5. There’s the potential to win a great prize!

The bigger the contest, the bigger the prize! Of course, it is incredibly difficult to win the grand prize of any contest, and that’s certainly the case with photography. Those that win often gain a photographic opportunity that is a once in a lifetime chance. The national geographic contests often have prizes that involve traveling to exotic locations, and the chance to learn from established photographers.

6. See other peoples entries, and be inspired

There are plenty of places you can see other photographers work. More or less, any form of social media allows for this. Photo contests are the place people place their very best. Seeing how other people have interpreted a contest theme can lead to inspiration in your own work. Of course, plagiarism isn’t a good idea, but looking at style, technique and execution might lead to an adaption in the way you take photos yourself. Adapting other peoples ideas, and incorporating them into your work is a great way to improve.

Image: Photo contest sites like Pixoto are a great way to see how well your photography level is pro...

Photo contest sites like Pixoto are a great way to see how well your photography level is progressing.

7. Doing well validates you

All that exposure and a potential prize is not the only benefit you get from a photo contest. Having a winning entry, be that the overall winner or a top ten photo gives your photography validation. There is nothing that beats this when it comes to things like growing your photography business. The ability to call yourself a prize-winning photographer can go a long way. Does the size of the contest matter? From the perspective of calling yourself a prize-winning photographer, entering a smaller contest where there is a greater chance to win might be the way to go.

8. Gain feedback

If you’re lucky, you might get direct feedback from the person judging the contest. Those contests that allow comments may also lead to fellow contestants commenting on your work. Getting feedback on what you do is a great way to grow as a photographer. Contests are one platform where you may be able to receive some of this vital information.

Image: The really big contest to win is National Geographic’s. It’s of course incredibly...

The really big contest to win is National Geographic’s. It’s of course incredibly difficult to do so.

Photo contests to be wary of

There are, as you may have read, a great many good reasons to enter a photo contest. That said, there are a few contest types to be wary of.

Large entry fee

The majority of photo contests are free or have a nominal entry fee. Some contests charge large entry fees though. It’s up to you, but sometimes these contests are best avoided. There is no justification for a large entry fee. A good contest has many contestants, so they should only need to charge a nominal entry per person to cover their costs.

Loss of photograph rights

It’s always worth reading the terms and conditions of a photography contest carefully. That’s because some contests claim rights to your photo when you enter it in the contest, even if your photo is not one of the winning entries. Contests like this are essentially looking to use your work for their commercial advertising. Instead of paying for a stock image, they’ll instead run a photo contest to get their advertising material that way. This is why you’ll lose rights to your photo by entering this type of contest.

Image: The Photocrowd website offers two prizes: A Judges Award, and a Peoples Award.

The Photocrowd website offers two prizes: A Judges Award, and a Peoples Award.

Which photo contest is for you?

The rise in the number of photographers has also led to a rise in photo contests. There are now many choices. You could choose a local contest, contests that run weekly, or perhaps you’ll go for one of the big yearly ones. Those looking to try their luck with a weekly contest should look no further than digital photography school, which runs a great themed weekly challenge to get you out with your camera (though it is not a contest, just a challenge). Sony and National Geographic run two of the biggest yearly photo contests, though search the web and you’ll find more. Finally, there are now websites dedicated to photo contests throughout the year. You can look to Photocrowd or Gurushots for these types of website.

Improve your chance of winning

Of course, improving your photography, and going to the best locations to take photos, are great things that can improve your chances. An excellent tip is to find out who the judges are. Do your research on these people, and visit their websites. See what kind of photos they enjoy taking, and channel your own work through the prism of the judges work. It’s not certain you’ll win, but it’s likely to improve your chances.

Go out and win the prize!

Do you enjoy entering photo contests? Are you new to this, and keen to dip your toe in the water? Have you got prize-winning photos, which you’d like to share with the digital photography community in the comments section? We’d love to hear from you, and having read this article we hope you’ll want to join a photo contest yourself! So pick a contest you like the sound of, and start planning how you’re going to take the winning photo!

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Simon Bond

Simon Bond is a specialist in creative photography techniques and is well known for his work with a crystal ball. His work has featured in national newspapers and magazines including National Geographic Traveler. With over 8 years of experience in crystal ball photography Simon is the leading figure in this field, get some great tips by downloading his free e-book! Do you want to learn more about crystal ball photography? He has a video course just for you! Use this code to get 20% off: DPS20.