Photo Essay

How to Place in Competition

Brahman Bull

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!

VOTE: Do you like this story?

Tell a friend about this story!

Tell a friend about this story!

  1. or

Hi there!

thought you might like this story!

—The JPG team

17 responses

  • Donald Garrett

    Donald Garrett gave props (17 Aug 2011):

    An outstanding and VERY informative essay! Well done

  • Chrisso Newton

    Chrisso Newton (Deleted) said (17 Aug 2011):

    Great advice - have entered a few myself, and try to follow a similar path...

  • Linda Houghton

    Linda Houghton   gave props (17 Aug 2011):

    AWESOME -- And it gave me something to think about as I have been making my selections these past few days....

  • John Tanner

    John Tanner said (18 Aug 2011):

    Good story,excellent advice from someone who really knows what they're talking about !!!
    Thanks Regenia ; )

  • Zapata Juan P

    Zapata Juan P   gave props (18 Aug 2011):

    Powerfull. Thank you do much. I really consider these tips if i submit my work on a competence. Voted

  • Andrea Petersen

    Andrea Petersen gave props (18 Aug 2011):

    Wonderful photo essay with great tips for winning competitions..You have helped many people with your expertise..You have my vote both times..

  • Judy and Wayne Wanamaker

    Judy and Wayne Wanamaker gave props (18 Aug 2011):

    You have certainly illustrated your essay beautifully! Wonderful advice, Regenia! voted.

  • John Linton

    John Linton gave props (18 Aug 2011):

    Hell YEAH! Rad!

  • Ann Reece

    Ann Reece   gave props (20 Aug 2011):

    You wrote some excellent tips on how and what to do to enter photo contests and have the photos do well. Voted : )

  • Saroj Swain

    Saroj Swain gave props (22 Aug 2011):

    Such a nice story you can write for the youngsters... very nice my dear friend Regenia!!! Voted!!!Wonderful advice!!!

  • Regenia Brabham

    Regenia Brabham said (23 Aug 2011):

    Thank you so much everyone for your sweet support!

  • Jason Platt

    Jason Platt gave props (24 Aug 2011):

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge..of course I voted!

  • Litz Go

    Litz Go gave props (24 Aug 2011):

    Yes! your advice is well taken. Competition or no competition, this is a great advice. Thank you for sharing! Voted!

  • Deborah Downes

    Deborah Downes gave props (25 Aug 2011):

    Excellent tips, my friend, with winning images to back them up. Looking forward to the day when I'm in the States long enough to enter competitions.

  • Betty Maxey

    Betty Maxey   gave props (6 Sep 2011):

    This is fantastic!!! Wish I could show you my state fair selections!!

  • Regenia Brabham

    Regenia Brabham said (14 Sep 2011):

    I wish I could see them Betty. Time was an issue this year and I only entered three. In the beginning it was hard to find the one to enter. Now, it is deciding which one. LOL. Much of this applies to everyday photography as well.

  • Debbie Smartt

    Debbie Smartt gave props (28 Sep 2011):

    I love this! You should submit it to!

Want to leave a comment? Log in or sign up!