вторник, 12 януари 2016 г.

Contests - what to do with them, why do we need them?

Image taken from - chicago.shine.fm

In the life of each photographer there is a moment when you want to show you work to the world. At that time you have a few options and today I'm gonna talk about one of them - participation in photo contests.

By the way, I wish you a very happy and successful 2016!
Now, let's get back to work...

First of all, why do you need those and how can a photo contest help you get noticed?

Well, it is one of the ways in which you can showcase your work. There are many companies that buy photos that made it to the final round of the contest for various purposes - advertising, publication etc. If you have captured an amazing moment and someone notices it - you have a big chance of getting paid for that.

There are many contests that have a prize - if not money, then a trip to somewhere or some new gear. A friend of mine won a trip to Sri Lanka for two after uploading a stunning macro shot. And it was a Bulgarian photo contest - imagine what international contests can do for you. 

Once entering such a competition you'll have the motivation of improving your performance next time. Nothing motivates you to improve your skills - in any area - better than a competition. Besides, the judges will show you where do you stand in the common flow of shots - if you make it after the second selection - you have potential, if you make it even further up - you have a high chance of winning next time. 

The more contests you participate in, the more you will get noticed. Even if you just have a picture of yours in the exhibition without winning anything else - that is still a way to get noticed. 

Here is a link where you can check out some of the thousands of contests that go on in the net:


This one has many contests as well - though at initial stages there is some voting - but in the end you can get real money in some cases.

This one also has a lot of contests - some of them with paid entry, however.

Amazing contests with great prizes, unfortunately to enter most, you need to be a premium user at least - which means you have to pay. 

Here is a great guide to photo contests - you can download it by simply typing your email and they will email you the link to a PDF file you can save to your device. Also, you can download some of the other guides - trust me, you won't regret it!


What do you need to know BEFORE you sign in?

Image taken from www.annecarlini.com 
  • Winning is NOT all - sometimes you will learn much more from the experience when you fail. 
  • Observe the other entrants - what they have uploaded already and how it was received.
  • See the winners from previous year - if they have given the grand prize to a landscape shot last year they are not very likely to give it to a pop-art this one (even if it is stunning the chances are slim). Judges have their preferences and they change them very little through the years
  • Read the rules - even if that sounds boring to you, you should take your time to read all the guidelines in the FAQ section. It is there that they normally say if you have the right to edit the images or if they need images that have never been shown before. Copyright issues are also addressed there. IF YOU DO NOT COMPLY THEY WILL DISQUALIFY YOU!!!
  • Check if the contest is your thing - there are specialized contests - macro, wildlife, portraits, food etc. If you are interested in a specialized field it's wise to try specialized contest - you have a better chance of learning something there than in a normal one. Besides, the chance of getting your work appreciated more. 
  • Check the deadline - this may sound ridiculous at first sight but, trust me, there is a point when you have 100 things to do and only 24 hours to do them all. And at that point contests are as high a priority as, say, tiding up your room - you know you should do it but the motivation escapes you, somehow. That means - you'll do it when there is nothing else to do. So if you really want to participate - create a reminder!
  • Check the fee - if any - some of the best contests in the world have an entry fee. if you want to participate you have to make sure that the fee arrives to the organizers' account BEFORE the deadline of the contest expires. Check and double check the payment methods, create a profile here and there but don't let bank transaction speed determine whether you participate or not.
  • Avoid contests with audience vote - Facebook and other social networks.  Generally when there is voting from the audience and it determines the winner (without any judging) the picture which wins is 99% out of 100% not the best one but the one belonging to the person with the biggest number of friends on Facebook. So if you wanna spare your nervous system - just leave them to social media maniacs. If you do participate - just try not to take it personal.
Image taken from blog.netaffinity.com

The content

Once you have sorted out the fee and deadline it's time to talk about the real stuff. The actual images you're going to upload. There are a few 'rules' about that, too. 

  • Be to the point - if the contest is about garden macro photography, a picture of your recent trip to the jungle of Belize (hope we all will be able to go there or to the Amazon one day!) will just not do. Your content has to be similar to the topic of the contest, at least. Few contests allow gross derivation from the topic - they will not disqualify you, just will discard your images at stage 1 of selection.
  • Check if you comply to the technical standards - even if your image is a masterpiece, if it doesn't comply to the technical standards - i.e. size, editing, type of camera used, max resolution, etc. it will not be accepted. Check the criteria BEFORE you submit your content, because once you've done it - there's no way back. if you have 3 entries, you'll have only 2 because you've used up the third one for nothing - a ZERO ENTRY. 
  • Check if your image can compete with the others - this sounds a bit odd but it's not as ridiculous at a second thought - you MUST and SHOULD know whether you stand a chance with the others - i.e. whether it's worth it to participate. If the contest is about amateur landscape photography and you see many images that look worse than yours - you do have a chance of winning, but whether you'll learn something is quite another matter. On the other hand - if you go for a contest that has only high-end entries you should consider going for a simpler one first. Point is to learn, not waste your time. 
Image taken from www.myonlinebusinesscorp.com

After you submit the content

Now we come to the unpleasant stage - the waiting for results part. It's connected to a lot of expectations and, subsequently - disappointments. There are a few dos and don'ts as well:
  • Do NOT get frustrated - that's of no use anyway. what was up to you, you have done already. Let go, whatever has to happen, will.
  • Do NOT envy the winners - try to analyze LOGICALLY why did they win and what the judges saw in them.
  • Do go to open selection of you can - if the judges offer open selection - that is selecting the winners in public, do go. You'll see how they proceed, what they think of this or that image and you'll learn a lot about the way winners are selected. 
  • Do visit the exhibition, even if you don't participate in it - this is a way, again, to see what are people looking for and to devise plan to achieve it next time. Besides, it's a wonderful opportunity to have a chat with fellow photographers and ask them in person how they do what they do.

Image taken from www.nwf.org


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