Photo Contests: Your key to success?

Have you ever looked at results from Photo Contests? Have you ever thought about entering photo contests? If you are an aspiring photographer, this is a good thing to try. Why? Because you have to really concentrate on the “perfect Photo” to win. Can you win if you don’t know the rules of composition, and is that important? Yes, and Yes!

Photo winner of the Life Framer contest, – animal division. Photo by Charles Chojnaki.

My friend and I was asked to judge photographs for a state fair once. That was a real experience. About 100 or so photos were entered, and we had to pick 1st place, 2nd, 3rd, and 2 honorable mentions. My friend and I talked about what to look for before we even saw the photos. And our number one thing we were looking for was good composition. Also, would there be a photo that the rules of composition just would not apply, and pick that photo. I can tell you right off, even if we didn’t know the rules of composition, it wouldn’t matter. The winning photos were those photographers who used the rules of composition correctly, and did it really well.

From the largest photo contest in the world, over 200,000 entries, this contest’s theme was “Monuments”. This photo took 5th place in the whole competition. Photographer had to wait for just the right time to get the moon in the background. Photo by: Donatas Dabravolskas.

Knowing what you need to get a winning photo, here are some key ideas to help you win:

  • Know what the topic is and don’t deviate from it. If the contest is on stray cats, then take photos of stray cats only. Don’t take pictures of your cat in the alley.
  • Know the deadline for entries. If you know the deadline, you have time to figure out how to do the best photo of the main subject
  • Make sure you totally understand the rules of composition. 95% of the time, a well composed photo will be the winner.
  • Read through the rules of the contest. Many times, these sponsors use your photo for advertising, or some other thing to benefit their cause. Are you willing to not be the owner of your photo anymore?
  • If you do custom service, such as Photoshop, lightroom, etc. make sure that will be accepted. Many of these contests want only natural looking photos.
  • Does your photo tell a story. I have found that winning photos tell a story, or bring out emotion to the viewer.
  • Can you accept defeat? The thing to realize you are going up against hundreds, maybe thousands of other contestants. Your chance of winning is 1 in 1000 (if there are 1000 entries).
  • If you don’t win at this contest, try again. There are hundreds of photo contests every year.
  • Some contests may require you to pay a fee to enter. That is done so that they don’t pay for shipping, and they may actually pay a staff to take care of this job.
International Photo winner in Architecture. Photo by Franklin Neto – Jewels of the Republic.

Photo contests are very rewarding. Not only for your ego, but, for your photographic career. Your name will be published worldwide, if it is that type of contest. If you are nervous about going for the big ones, then start with your local county fairs. I was surprised to find so much great quality photos in the local fair this last year (2019 – The year before Covid.

Another way to practice taking award winning photos is to join a Facebook group, that specializes in quality photo entries. I have seen all kinds of Facebook Groups, and have even started one group of my own. If you are interested in sharing your photos, and having other photographers comment on them, then go to:

This is simply photographers that are by invitation only, who want a place to practice displaying their photos.

May be an image of nature, sky and tree
Photo by Ron DePayola and this is just one of many great photos displayed in 123PhotoGo Group.

Other contest winning photos:

2nd Place winner from Life Framer in the category: Animals. Photo taken by: Alice Zilberberg
Winner of the IPA award (International Photographers Association). Photo by Takahiro Yoshizaki – In the category: Beauty, Advertising – Non professional division. This photo won an Honorable mention.
Grand Prize Winner of the Nature Conservancy for 2019 – Winner: Tyler Schiffman – United States

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