How to win a photo competition: 7 secrets for coming out on top

How to win a photo competition: 7 secrets for coming out on top

Photo competitions are everywhere. No, really. Just do a Google search and you’ll be amazed. As well as established contests, such as Travel Photographer of the Year or Garden Photographer of the Year, companies and organisations all over the world are increasingly using competitions as a marketing device.

Everybody from the London Zoo to the British Heart Foundation seem to be jumping on the photography-competition bandwagon, and you can see why — it’s a great way to get free publicity in the specialist or regional press or online, and engage with their key audiences. There are even dedicated photo contest sites, such as

Make no mistake, winning a photo competition isn’t just about the prizes; smashing a prestigious contest can raise your profile and even help kickstart a pro career.

Just ask travel and portrait photographer Neil Buchan Grant, who saw his commissions really take off after winning a photo competition organised by The Independent newspaper. So, how do you improve your chances of winning?

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Secrets to winning photo competitions: 01. Choose your battles

While it’s good being spoiled for choice, don’t waste time on a piffling, low-entry competitions that nobody has ever heard of. Selecting and prepping images for entry can be time consuming.

If you do decide to enter a high-profile contest, make sure you are competing against your peers — beginning amateurs are unlikely to prevail against seasoned pros, so it’s important to be realistic.

Checking out previous winners is the obvious way to figure out how high the bar is. Do some research on the work of the judges, too, so you can get an idea of how THEY work.

Secrets to winning photo competitions: 02. Play to your strengths

Few of us are real ‘all-rounders’ when it comes to photography, so make sure you enter a contest that suits your strongest genre.

Also, consider getting some honest feedback on your ‘best’ shots before entering — you’re often too close to your work to be objective, and your strongest shot might actually be lurking at the back or your portfolio. Try, or join your local camera club.

Secrets to winning photo competitions: 03. Read the rules

Terms and conditions may seem like a formality, but always read the rules before entering.

However strong your entries, you could at best, annoy the judges if you break the rules, at worst, get disqualified.

Check what happens to winning images too — working photographers might not want to give all their copyright away.

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