How to Place in Competition
17 Aug 2011
Fall is coming soon and with it the county fairs. Many fairs hold photography competitions and they can be a lot of fun to enter. As a judge and a participant, I have learned many tips for entering and winning. I have over a hundred ribbons and I got them by doing the following:
1. Read the rules carefully: Images are often disqualified or scored lower simply because they were placed in the wrong category or the rules for submission were not followed.
2. Impact: There are often thousands of entries that have to be judged in a very short amount of time. The judges have only a few seconds to score each image so you really want to grab their attention. Often, they first go thru the images selecting ones to score. The remaining images go to the side...forgotten. Impact is what gets your image placed in the scoring pile. You have only a second to wow them.
3. Technical: After the images are selected for scoring, the judges go back thru each image looking for technical issues. Again, they only have a few seconds to see if the image has impact, is it in focus, is it exposed correctly, are there distractions, is the subject isolated or lost in the image. They are looking at how you used the rules of composition to add drama and impact to your image. They are always looking for something different. Does the matting flatter or distract the image? Is the print clear and professional? All the images are scored according to these basic rules of photography. Higher scores place and lower scores do not.
4. Best of Show: Once all the images are scored and all the ties are broken, many competitions award a Best of Show. The Best of Show images are usually selected by placing all the first place winners in a group. They are studied harder on this round using all the tips above. Impact really comes into play this round. You have to really knock their socks off.
There are a few basic tips that are not really rules but things I have noticed over time such as; Sunsets rarely do well in competition. After you have seen a hundred sunsets, they do get pretty boring. If you enter one, make sure it is remarkable. Statues and pictures of artwork rarely place at all. I am not sure if it is because they fall more along the line of a travel photo for the family album or if it is just an issue with photographing someone else's art. Perhaps it is a combination of the two. The People and Animals categories are usually the most popular. Imagine looking at a stranger's photo album. Boring!!! If you are entering pictures of your children or pets, make sure they are original and eye catching. Wedding pictures don't usually do well in competition unless it is a competition especially for wedding photographs. Some categories don't get a lot of entries. Enter those since there is less competition.
If you do enter and do not win, don't get discouraged. Judges have different taste. One judge may score a category lower simply because it is not his favorite subject. One image may score low in one competition and then place Best of Show in another. Often, there are just so many good images that they all can't win.
If allowed, I really think it is a good idea to watch a judging competition take place. You will learn a lot just by watching how it works and all the work involved. Often, you can see the images as they are being judged and get a feel for what the judges like or do not like. If you do watch, never confront the judge. Often, there are volunteer photographers working and you may ask them for some tips and suggestions for the next competition.
Good luck and have fun!