How to enter a photo contest

Rule #1
Don’t expect to win when you enter a photography contest.

As strong an image as you think you may have, the odds are not very good.

It is so subjective.

I know this for a fact because I’ve judged a few contests in my day.

Depending on the caliber of the judges, there is sometimes a tone of jealousy in the voices of the judges especially when they like a picture.

Old piece of firewood–One of my earliest contest wins. This is old as you can see from the date. But, it wasn’t anything to sneer at. The Akron Press Club paid for one whole semester of tuition! For an impoverished foreign student majoring in photojournalism, it meant a lot. I’ve kept it all these years as a reminder to myself that daring to dream is important.

It’s as if they won’t admit that they wish they were the one who took the winning picture.

So they sometimes say, this picture could be improved if… the photographer had stepped to the right about a foot. So what if it meant that the photographer would have to walk off the edge of the cliff.

Rule #2
Don’t enter contests if you can’t stand losing
This goes without saying. Photographers are poor losers. Count yours truly as one too. This is also why I won’t admit to entering a photo contest in over 10 years.

Rule #3
Read the rules and fine print very, very carefully.
Many contests are what’s called a rights grab by unscrupulous folks who put on contests.

Be mindful of what you’re agreeing to when entering contests.

The unscrupulous ones may end up your picture forever and ever without paying you a single cent, even if you don’t end up winning. Just by entering, and checking a box that you agree to their terms, you may be forfeiting all your rights.

Rule #4
Use contests as a “kick in the rear” to get you out the door so that you are using that camera.
Whenever I bid adieu to my students, I wish them well and suggest contests and starting a photoblog.

Now that you’ve spent all that hard earned money on gear, here’s your chance to see how you measure up.

If nothing else, you can always check yourself against my signs that you’ve crossed the threshold from pretender to contender. Before you harangue me with your comments, please note that was written in tongue-in-cheek.

Instead of shooting for a contest, why not shoot to share with others?

Creating a photoblog can be rewarding, a lot of fun, not terribly expensive or difficult. That is a better motivator in the long run.

Starting a photoblog isn’t all that difficult anymore. The platforms are there. You don’t even need to know any HTML. The GUI (graphical user interface) makes everything easy.

The big popular ones are Blogger, WordPress or TypePad.

4 thoughts on “How to enter a photo contest”

  1. Hello,
    Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving your comments. I think every beginning photographer and even seasoned pros should use those online resources to share their work online.

    The feedback you get from strangers can help you grow.

    Personally, this blog helps push me to get out and shoot new pictures and explore subjects that are out of my comfort zone instead of just showing my old pictures and stagnating.

  2. Hi Paul,
    Your photo teacher Tim would be my kind of role model. Too often photographers let those awards get to their heads.

    Yes, number #3– rights grab– is very real. Sadly, too many people especially beginners and amateurs hungry for a little “limelight” don’t pay attention to that and they check that box and hit upload. Once that is done, their image is gone, out of their hands forever.

    If it’s the attention they crave, they can easily create their own photoblogs.

  3. Great advice for all photographers. Never take any contest to heart, even if you do win!

    Number 3 is a big problem today. You must read the fine print, or you’ll be screwed in the end.

    One of my photo teachers, Tim Broekma, said had his sports portfolio been judged the day before or the day after, or ifone of the judeges had a cold, he wouldn’t have won POY 2004 Sports Photographer of the Year. He drilled it into our heads that contest are purely subjective. don’t take them to heart.

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