Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ten Top Tips for Winning Photo Contests

Title: Angel Awakening
caption: If one looks closely enough, one can see angels in every piece of art. ~Adeline Cullen Ray

The above photographic montage will be entered in a contest in July. I have based my decision on this entry on the ten tips below. I am already thinking this will be a winner.

Can you win photo contests? I would think so. I have had winning entries in over 50 percent of the contests that I have entered, both locally and internationally. So are there secret keys to success? Yes, so please don't share these tips it is our secret.

This is what I do with every contest.

1. Read all the rules carefully: Be sure what you are getting yourself into. Some contest are just a sham to have your copyright. So be careful. Once you have read the rules comply. And, make sure you use the exact format the contest requires.

2. Look at the past winners: Here you can find exactly what the contest is interested in. Do you have photos of similar quality? Study the past winners for compositional elements, color, subject, and representation. Then study again. These people were not winners of a lottery. They fulfilled the expectations of the judges. And, if a contest put out by a company, or organization: How does your photo play thematically into the message or mission of the contest sponsor?

3. Look at the judges: Not always but often the judges are listed. Now, you need to search and seek out their photographs. Study their photographs carefully. Find in their photographs salient traits and style. Study carefully and you will unearth their taste. Study their bio and their writings. The more you know about who is judging you the better you will be in choosing the photograph to enter. If they write about light, composition or other photo attributes: Then these are the secret keys in unlocking their interest your submission. I would not say mimic their style, but I would say try to present what they would appreciate in a photograph.

4. Go through your photographs carefully: Set up folders of candidate photos based on you would think the judge would pick. Pick perhaps a hundred. Put all your candidates in a folder called "winners." Yes, you need to think positively. Pick out the top ten and put in another folder called "the winners."

5. Get appraisals from others: Now this is the real test. Invite some friends over for evening of photo appraisal. Go over everything you learned in researching tips two and three. Ask them to play the role of judge and show them the folder called "winners." Ask them to pick out the top ten that makes the grade. Once done, compare with your own top ten picks. How many choices were the same? Now, you should have a good idea of which photos to use in the competition.

6. Decide if you should start from scratch: Now decide if your photos really have the mustard to compete. Be honest. If the photos are not competitive you have a camera and editing tools. Armed with what you know it is time for a photo outing and get what you need.

7. Examine your selections: Put your selected photographs back into your editing program. Enlarge you photograph and check every small detail of the photograph. Decide if it can be improved. Attention to detail is an important key. You should offer the most technically correct photograph that you can. Perhaps you have learned a new technique of improvement since you last edited your photograph that you can now apply.

8. Title and caption: Taking the knowledge you have learned in tips two and three, carefully decide on a title and caption. Sometimes the decision of a title and caption for me can take longer than actually editing the photo itself. Do not take the importance of this lightly.

9. The unavoidable bell curve: Realize you are trying to push you photograph to the very best end of the bell curve. If you have followed these tips you are getting to the good end. Ninety percent of the photos submitted will be rejected quickly. You should now have a photo in the top ten percent. One little tip, is to submit early. It may be okay to submit your taxes at the last moment, but photo contests are a very different matter.

10. Be a winner: You are a winner if you followed these steps. You have improved your chances of winning the photo contest dramatically. So sit back and wait for the notification. Don't be disappointed if you lose. Look at the winner and his photos. Congratulate them in your mind. My experience is being a winner 50 percent of the time. Try again and know you are going to succeed.

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