Why Taking Pictures For Photo Contests (Part I)

Taking pictures for a photography contest is its own field of photography. The photos must be planned especially for the contest. This is strategic preparation for the event. Nothing should be left to chance.

Participating in a photo competition enables a photographer to progress, assess his photographic qualities and compete with others. Contests are a separate discipline in the world of photography.

This photo of sailfish hunting sardines has received several awards in competitions
This photo of sailfish hunting sardines has received several awards in competitions.

Achieving an artistic level through competitions

In general, photography is taking pictures for pleasure. A contest is a way to showcase your vision and share it with an audience.

Participating in contests is not only a way for a photographer to make rapid progress, to evaluate what level of technical skill he is on, and to reach a higher level, but also a way to gain recognition. Photography becomes like a personal challenge because the photographer is competing against others. Contests are a way for a photographer to prove his worth and reach the highest level of proficiency. A photo contest enables a photographer to get references and to be compared to other photographers. Contests are well suited for people who like to compete and win.

A photographer’s goal is to improve his skills and to share his photos with larger audiences. But many people’s photos are often lacking in creativity and artistry. Photo competitions are a way to remedy this.

The photograph must always be related to the theme of the contest

A photographer should not participate in a competition because he needs to. He should participate in it because he chooses to. This implies that the theme of the competition should fit with the vision of the photographer.

A photographer must analyze and understand his personality to understand exactly how he likes to set up the scene, the lighting, and the points of interest.

A good example of analyzing your own personality is understanding why you love eating at a restaurant. First, look at the facade and the sign. For example, say that there is a photographer who wants the restaurant to be clean, attractive, and neat, have tidy tables, and be nice, simple, original, and more sophisticated than the others.

He likes simple dishes, like steamed recipes seasoned with basil. He likes for the food to be unusual, refined, well presented, and tasty, with great flavors.

After analyzing what the photographer in this example likes to eat, we can deduce that he likes to use colorful accents sparingly to spice up his photographs.

He should play with unusual situations, shapes, and lighting.

Analyzing how you choose a restaurant says a lot about how you take pictures.

Another method for understanding the personality of a photographer is to analyze the entertainment he likes. If he likes music, theater, opera or dance, this can indicate that he likes the appearance of the background, cheerful scenes, and the captivating, bewitching harmony of movement.

If he likes looking at paintings, this can suggest that he likes bright colors and a happy atmosphere.

A third method is to analyze the photographer’s relationships with others. They say a lot about how he takes photos.

Whatever the photographer’s skill level, every competition is worthwhile

Many photographers who want to participate in contests are afraid to because they think that they are not good enough. There is no shame in being evaluated by photographers who are better than you are. It is the best way to progress.

Whatever level he is on, if he really wants to, a photographer can participate in a photo contest. As we have explained before, a photographer should prepare for a photography contest as a competition. The photographer must know himself. This preparatory phase of self-analysis will lead to improved self-understanding. It is the most important thing to do in order to make progress.

How to choose the right contest

A photo competition is often an opportunity to provide a low-cost photo library for the organizers. It is necessary to carefully read the rules of the contest to see if the photographer loses the rights to his photographs.

It is essential to avoid competitions which are judged by the audience. You are likely to lose because one of the participants will have a lot of friends in the audience who are going to vote for him. It is not the best photo that will win, but the photo taken by the photographer who has the most friends in the audience.

It is best to focus on competitions with real juries composed of photographers who know how to judge a picture on the grounds of both technical skill and emotional impact.

A competition should not have entry fees. Usually, sponsors will give money to the organization holding the contests for publicity reasons. If there are admission fees, it means that the organizers do not have sponsors and there is little interest in the competition. It is best to avoid such a competition, because it has no advantages for the participants.

Some qualities which a photograph for a contest should have

  • Impact
  • Beauty
  • Uniqueness
  • Simplicity
  • A clean scene
  • Airiness, with lots of space: there should be room to breathe in the photo
  • Zen-like relaxation and tranquility
  • The use of closeups for stationary subjects
  • Elegance
  • Originality
  • Singularity
  • Refinement
  • Sleek graphics
  • Subtlety
  • The colors can be bright, but they must be harmonious, not aggressive.
  • Wide shots are well suited for scenes of movement, which must be orderly and fluid, not chaotic. In wide shots, there must be a discrete visual anchor, which should be barely visible. The photographer should have several plans for adding space to the scene.
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