Thursday, August 2, 2012

Win A Photo Contest

Whether you're motivated by the great prizes, exposing your images to a big audience of fellow photo enthusiasts or the possibility of being published, entering a competition can be a rewarding part of being a photographer.
By The Editors Published in Shooting
Winner of the 2nd Annual Art of Expression Photo Contest, "Expressive Portrait" category, 2011
Winner of the 2nd Annual Art of Expression Photo Contest, "Expressive Portrait" category, 2011
Another thing to pay attention to is how the images will be used. Every contest does things differently, and most don't require you to sign away all rights to your image. But by submitting you do often give the organizers and sponsors the unlimited right to use your image in promotional material regarding the contest. You still own the photograph, but you agree to let the organizers and sponsors use it for drawing attention to the contest.

Tell A Story. Good photographers are good storytellers. You want to enter images that a judge can look at and immediately know what the idea or emotion is that you're trying to get across. Images that connect with the viewer are often those that tell a story and evoke some kind of strong emotion or reaction.

In figuring out what kind of story you'd like to tell, it may be helpful to have a look at the winners of previous contests. The idea here isn't to copy what they did, rather it's to give you some hints on what kind of images grab the judges' attention. It's also worth keeping in mind who's running the competition because it could tell you about the type of image they're looking for. If you know who the judges are, doing some research on their work can give you a sense of the kind of photography they may appreciate.

The Wild Card. After you've gone to great lengths to deliver an image that's both strong in technique and emotionally appealing, there's still a bit of an X factor that comes into play. Your photograph is competing against hundreds, maybe thousands of others. While you can eliminate any technical flaws by making sure the image is sharp, exposed properly and composed well, what separates very good from great is harder to delineate.

You can start by coming up with subject matter that's fresh. So if you're entering a contest that focuses on location, try finding a place that hasn't been photographed repeatedly. Or if you're capturing a popular spot, look at images of how it's most often portrayed and then figure out a new way to shoot it. Originality is often the something extra that makes winning photographs stand out to judges.

Don't forget that judges have their own tastes, so all you can really do is think about what you're trying to capture and then create the best possible image you can. Win or lose, participating in photo contests is a great way to showcase your work and improve your skills.
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