Top Six Tips for Choosing Winning Images for Photo Contests

Time to get your entries ready for NANPA's 2020 Showcase Competition.
Time to get your entries ready for NANPA’s 2020 Showcase Competition.

In a photo contest, everybody wants their entry to win. So, what can you do to maximize your chances of having one (or more) of your photos chosen for recognition in NANPA’s 2020 Showcase Photo Competition or, for that matter, any other photo competition?

It
should go without saying that your images have to be creatively composed,
properly focused and exposed, and taken in beautiful light. Any technical flaw
is a quick ticket to the rejection pile. But, once you have a technically
perfect and artful composition, what will make your shot stand out?

Over
the years, NANPA has collected feedback from Showcase judges and compiled their
best suggestions. You can read all the details in an article about Showcase Tips
and Judging
Process and Tips
but here are six of the top suggestions.

1. Study past winners

There’s
no better way to get a feel for the kinds of entries that are popular with
judges than to carefully examine the images that won past competitions. You’ll
get a sense of what kind of compositions are in favor, whether any fads or
current photography trends are favored by judges, and how well your images
stack up against past winners. You can find past issues of Expressions,
NANPA’s magazine-style publication featuring the winners and top 100 photos
from each year’s Showcase competition, in the Members Area of the NANPA
website.

2. Don’t do what everyone else is doing

Photos
of Great Blue Herons, brown bears, waterfalls and sunsets are a dime a dozen.
Classic shots of the Watchman from the bridge over the Virgin River in Zion or
Tunnel View in Yosemite seem to be in every photographer’s files. If you submit
an image of something that the judges have already seen a thousand times, it’s
going to have to be pretty darn spectacular to grab anyone’s attention.

3. Be creatively new

Instead
of the same old shot, do something creatively new and different. Maybe that’s a
completely new angle to an iconic landscape shot. Maybe it’s an animal doing
something unusual or a weird weather pattern. Photographing a subject in a new
and different way is one key to capturing a judge’s attention.

Quick Tips on What Are Judges Looking For in Photo Contests from NANPA Video on Vimeo. NANPA members can view Wendy Shattil’s entire Photo Contest Secrets Revealed webinar in the Members’ Section of the NANPA website.

4. Catch the rarely caught

Animals
exhibit many behaviors, most of which are fairly common. And millions of
camera-toting people are photographing everything in sight for their Instagram
or Facebook feeds. If you are able to catch a rarely seen behavior or location,
you may have a winning image! Certain weather phenomena, species, and
activities are also rare and unusual. And it’s the unusual that stands out!

5. See what’s never been seen

There’s
nothing as new and unique as something that’s never been seen before. From
delving into a macro shot that reveals things otherwise invisible to the human
eye, to documenting a hitherto unknown behavior or species, to capturing an
image of a unique phenomenon, that which has not been seen before is all the
more compelling. It could also be a new location, one that isn’t famous, that
hasn’t been shot by thousands of photographers already. Assuming you don’t live
in Yellowstone or Yosemite, finding a great shot close to home, in an area you
know intimately, can result in an image the judges have never seen.

Photography
contest judges are often culling through thousands of images. They’re going to
see a lot of very good photos. Yes, yours are all spectacular, but what makes a
judge stop and spend some time with an image will be your ability to know what
kinds of images they like, avoid the obvious, show them something creative,
new, rarely seen or never before seen.

6. Follow the Rules

It
really should go without saying but, every year, some wonderful photos are
disqualified because they didn’t conform to the rules. So, read the Showcase rules
closely and follow directions. Don’t use watermarks or borders. Don’t miss the
deadline. Make sure your image files are the right type and size. People don’t much
read instructions these days, but the Showcase rules are there for a
reason.  Don’t disqualify yourself.

Whatever
photos you enter, good luck!  The deadline for entering NANPA’s 2020
Showcase Photo Competition
is September 16th, at 11:00 PM
Eastern Time.

Want some more information? Check out these helpful pages: