Photo Contest Tips

“There is a point in every contest when sitting on the sidelines is not an option.”—Dean Smith

From time to time I’m asked to judge photo contests and because of time restraints, this year I’ve had to limit the number of competitions I can judge. Instead, I’ve focused my time on face-to-face critiques that I do for charity during the holidays or mentoring sessions that can be scheduled any time.

In the meantime, here are some tips I would like to pass on that can help you score higher in your club’s next competition:

  1. One misconception is a photograph must be technically flawless to win. The picture doesn’t have to be perfect but has to be technically competent. A perfect but boring photograph won’t win any prizes.
  2. That’s because impact separates winners from also-rans. In any contest there will be lots of entries and some are going to be very good, but you only have one chance to make a good impression so make the judges want a second look.
  3. Doesn’t be a fair weather photographer. Often the best photographs are made under less than ideal conditions. See My post Photography: Weather or Not
  4. Make the image bold. Use strong composition with simple lines that say speed, and power, or use a formal, symmetrical organization to create a Zen-like quiet mode.
  5. Don’t be passive. Photograph subjects you’re passionate about, not ones you think the judges will like. The judges want to see that the photographer cared about the subject.
  6. joe.ladderAvoid eye-level camera placement. Climb a ladder, climb a lamppost, or climb a hill to provide your entry with a dramatic camera angle. Lie on your stomach, use wide-angle lenses, and shoot up against the sky to simplify the background.
  7. Get close to your subject. Use a macro lens, close-up filters, or bellows to show a simple everyday object in a way that has not been depicted before or at least not lately.

Even Vladimir Horowitz, arguably one of the greatest piano virtuosos who ever lived, practiced every day. The simplest and best advice I can give you is photograph every day. Barry Staver and I are co-authors of Better Available Light Digital Photography that’s out-of-print with new copies available from Amazon for $19.95 (non-Prime) or used copies for giveaway prices, only $7 as I write this.

Author: Joe Farace

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