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There are countless photography contests that you can participate in, both online and in your local community. Whether entering a contest for the first or fiftieth time, there are several methods that, when put together, can give you that winning edge. Remember in grade school when your teacher would remind you to read the directions before completing an assignment? One of the surest ways to stand out from the competition is by paying attention to your composition. Getting the glory shot means loss of sleep, trudging through mud, odd stares, and uncomfortable positions. We all are human (yes, even the judges!), and as humans there is something in us that loves a good story.
One of the most helpful ways to get your creative juices flowing is by looking at the work of others. When deciding to enter a photo contest, it is always helpful to get a second opinion on your work (or third, or fourtha€¦). About the AuthorImprove PhotographyThis post is a guest post by a reader of Improve Photography. If you enter to win, you are going to be disappointed almost every time…especially in the beginning before you know what you are doing.
I was just notified that I had a winning photo in the 2013 National Historic Landmark Photo Competition!
There is a difference between technically excellent and well executed images and contest winners.
You can enter a contest as getting a new photo assignment so you don’t get bored or run out of ideas. If you want to place or win a contest, be sure it is a judged contest, not a popularity contest. Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Pierre Garcon makes a one handed reception during the first half on Sunday against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md. The Carolina Panthers keep finding ways to win football games despite injuries to key players. That despite star middle linebacker Luke Kuechly being sidelined for the last three games with a concussion, top pass rusher Charles Johnson on short-term injured reserve with a hamstring injury and No. They give us an opportunity to examine ourselves and our work, gain exposure, and ultimately push us to become better photographers. Check out important details such as entry submission date, entry format, model releases, etc.
You may be tempted to enter a photo you took years back that you absolutely love, because it kinda-sorta fits the theme. Even in our beginnings thousands of years ago we told stories through cave paintings, dances, and simply word of mouth.

Look for inspiration from your favorite photographers, or the abundant photography across the internet. The more feedback you can get on your work, the less subjective you will be when critiquing your images, and the more prepared you will be when it is time to submit them. For those who have entered photo contests before, what things did you learn coming out of it and what advice would you give to those who are looking to enter?
I think its important to enter photo contests not necessarily for the chance to win, but it gives you a much better idea of what other people are shooting and a chance to improve your skills.
Check out your local state or county fairs, or seek out photography groups within your area. Dona€™t always place your focal point in the center, which tends to come off as boring and predictable.
Soft images are the second step most judges will take during the elimination process, after throwing out contest rule violations. When normal people are asleep at night, you are awake trying to get that Milky Way shot youa€™ve always dreamed of. If you arena€™t afraid to take pictures in rare, unexpected conditions, you will get the pictures that no one else dared to get. But more than anything, seek out the work of previous winners of the photo contest you are entering. You dona€™t need to seek out a professional photographer to give you feedback, though that would be very helpful! This material may not be broadcast, published, rewritten or redistributed without written permission.
Photo contests also offer a means for expanding our creativity and stepping outside the box a little. Reading the contest rules is the first thing you do, and the single most important step to winning a contest. Judging a photo contest between perfect entries is hard enough, so a single violation of the rules will guarantee your entry is thrown out right away. Follow the rule of thirds by placing the focal point one-third of the way in from the edge of the frame. When the judges are down to the final two photos, and are struggling to make a decision, the photo they will choose is the one that undeniably, without a doubt fits the contest theme. If you dona€™t know how to get tack-sharp photos, learn how before you enter into the photo contest. While normal people take the paved road, you take the dirt path through bushes, mud, and mosquitoes to get to that amazing sunset. And more likely than not, your photographs will stand out leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else.
The judges are looking for a connection with the image a€“ one that tells them within the first few seconds of looking at it that yours stands out from the rest.

I encourage every photographer, beginner or advanced, to consider entering into a photo contest and see how the experience improves you. If you want to win the contest, you must stick to the theme a€“ the more obvious, the better. Taking 10 minutes to learn how will make the biggest difference in your chances of winning, and will catapult you past the dozens of amateurs who didna€™t take the time.
Normal people stare as you stop on the sidewalk to get pictures of that beautiful stained glass window. Practice looking for the stories happening around you, whether it is two people conversing on the street, repetition of shapes and colors in nature, or an object caught in action. Viewing the work of past winners can show you what the judges look for in a winner, and you may even see a pattern.
Sometimes they will see something that you never noticed because you are too close to the subject.
The actual winner of the contest I entered, a photo of a fighter in between rounds, was an image that was three quarters black…in terms of a quality photo, it was a dog. You could have the most amazing photo in the world, but if it violates any of the contest rules, ita€™s as good as not entering at all!
Maybe the storytelling is done during post-processing when you heavily crop an image to create a sense of mystery and question. Think of it as an opportunity you had to better yourself, to be more creative, and to have fun!
Whatever your story, be careful to stay within the parameters of the contest and not stray from the core theme. There are many great online communities built around helping photographers grow and improve. Be so obvious that a 3rd grader could see your photo and think Yes, that looks like wild nature (or whatever your contest theme is). Perhaps the judges lean towards a more artistic style, or perhaps they prefer more photojournalistic images. No matter what the feedback, in the end your photography is ultimately yours, so go with your instincts.
They had been trying to notify me for over a week that I had won, but they were going to my junk mail box!

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