With so many photography competitions out there, it can feel a little overwhelming to know where to submit your work and get started. Some people feel discouraged by the sheer volume of applicants. Don’t let this set you back, if you are new to competitions, there is a growth process, or a healthy ladder to climb.
Although stage one may involve loosing competitions, it also involves learning from online communities and making your work public. Start small if you’re a beginner, then move on to bigger competitions as your skills improve. Even if you don’t win with your first entry, taking part can greatly improve your skills as a photographer because you will have an audience and can compare your work with others. You can build your confidence with peer reviews in online communities such as flicker. Peers may also recommend photography contests that are more suited to your unique style. You can build your portfolio and your confidence while you search for new competitions to enter. For many photographers, no matter what their skill level, winning isn’t about the money—it’s about the prestige, the feeling of victory, and of course the extra publicity. The money is just an added bonus! Stage two involves winning small competitions, doing more research, and developing further skills. Stage three is the payback for being the most incredible photographer to ever wield a camera: winning big competitions with your awe-inspiring work. When and where to submit? Clicking your cursor on an empty Google page is a start, but really, where to begin?
There may be photography magazines in you area, or online, that hold monthly or annual contests. If you keep it local you may benefit from final exhibitions, not to mention face to face networking opportunities if you do win. That is not to say that competitions online are less likely to make you successful. Online competitions are fun to take part in and offer an incredible range of diversity. Some competitions online have area restrictions as part of their competition guidelines; in other words if you do not live within a certain region you may not be allowed to enter.
2. Type of photography to submit
Photography: it is an art, after all. Anyone with a camera can have a go but keep to a theme, keep it neat and simple and think about how you can stand out, or bring the judges a bit of the X factor. Submit work according to the contest guidelines and keep track of your entries. Don’t submit your photos more than once, as you may be disqualified.
3. Research and compare
Review past winners’ work. Research the photos on the website and compare them to your own. Think about your level of photography and where you wish to be. Viewing work by previous winners may give you insight on what a panel of judges are looking for. The panels change but the type of work and level of skill will remain the same. You can see what you’re up against in order to compete. It is good to bear in mind just how many images a judge views per hour; stick to the competition requirements and think how you can stand out from the crowd. Think of the size of the contest. Sometimes it is better to start with smaller contests and work your way up.
4. Time frame
Time is of the essence. Put your work in as soon as you can: don’t enter it on the last day of the competition. With the large amount of entries it’s better to be among the first couple of hundred that are reviewed. Check the deadlines and give yourself time to reflect on your work.
5. Read the guidelines
How will they use your photographs? Unfortunately, some companies advertise contests online only to gather a photography database. They will then use photographs for their own marketing purposes. Sad but true. This is why you should read the guidelines for each competition. Check to see if the company will be entitled to the copyright of your photos after you submit them. You don’t want to pay a competition entry fee, and then have your photographs used to promote products that you have no authority over. There are many free competitions online and it is not really worth paying entry fees unless you know the website has a reputation for being the best. National Geographic is famed for being one of the top websites promoting photographic excellence, and they require a fifteen-dollar entry fee.
If you have been selected as one of the winning entries you will gain momentum to continue submitting work to more prestigious competitions. The key is to research who the company is and what their purpose is. Aim for online competitions that are directed toward helping emerging talent.
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