Guest Post & Photo by

You can use two different approaches for entering photo contents: One method is to submit your favorite picture and you might even win but the odds are against you. I enjoy photographing this old farm near my home, but although I love this picture, I might not enter it into a photo contest and expect to win.

If you want to win any competition, ya’ gotta know the rules and make sure to follow them. If you don’t, an entry that stood a good chance of winning can easily get tossed out. Start by making sure your entry is properly classified. If you want to enter an equestrian picture, it won’t fit the auto category just because it has one horsepower. Be sure to follow the technical specifications for file upload size or print sizes too. Read the rules and read them again, this time looking at the fine print.

One popular misconception is that a winning photograph must be technically flawless. Not true. Your picture doesn’t have to be perfect but should be technically competent. Perfection alone won’t win any prizes. A picture may be so sharp that you can count a subject’s eyelashes but if their eyes show you haven’t connected with that person, the entry will hit the circular file faster than you can say “the lights are on, but nobody’s home. ”

Great photographs force you to stop and take a second look and initial impact is what separates winners from “also rans” in any horse race. There will be lots of entries and some are going to be very good but you only have one chance to make the judges want a second look. Here are a few tips that might help you better in your next photo competition.

1. Don’t be a fair weather photographer. Often the best photographs are made under less than ideal conditions and are captured on dark, cloudy, rainy or snowy days, at dawn, sunset, or night. That doesn’t mean you should go out during a tornado but pick a time of year and day when other people are not around making photographs.

2. Make bold images. Create strong composition with simple lines that say speed and power or use a formal, symmetrical organization to create a quiet Zen-like mood. Use colors that by themselves could be the subject of the photograph.

3. Don’t just make a picture; make a statement! Photograph subjects you are passionate about, not just ones you think the judges will like. What they really want to so is that you care deeply about what you’re photographing.

4. Avoid eye-level camera placement. Climb a ladder, lamppost, or hill to find a dramatic camera angle. Lie on your stomach, use wide-angle lenses, and shoot up against the sky to simplify the background. Don’t be afraid to get yourself and your clothes dirty in pursuit of a prizewinner.

5. Get close to your subject. Use a macro lens, close-up filters, or a bellows to show an everyday object in a way that has not been depicted
before or at least not lately.

6. Carry a camera wherever you go. Vladimir Horowitz was one of the greatest piano virtuosos who ever lived, yet he practiced every day. Digital cameras give you the ability to make lots of images at little cost, so take advantage of this capability and shoot as much and often as you can. You never know when a great photo opportunity will pop up right in front of you.

7. Be organized. Analyze your work as a group of photographs not individually and one will clearly pop out as best. Use image browser software that lets you see lots of thumbnails at one time.

Whatever you do, don’t ask friends or family for their opinions about your photographs. Like Sally Fields said, “they like you, really like you.” and will tell you how great your work is (even if it might not be all that good.) Seek out people you trust but be prepared to hear that you are not the photographic genius your sister Kate thinks you are. Learn from those critiques and don’t keep making the same picture over and over again.