Enter to win the super deluxe photo contest and you could become the next (insert name of famous photographer here)! As a working photographer you may have received emails or been contacted like this about a variety of photo contests, many with the promise to make you famous if you win. Unfortunately, not all of the contests out there are reputable. With so many competitions available it is difficult to know which ones to trust and which will actually get your images in front of the right eyes.
You may be asking yourself if photo contests are something you should be spending your time on. While there are often tantalizing prizes at stake, the rewards of participating in a photo competition far outweigh winning a digital camera or another piece of gear. As you’re quite aware of, photography is a competitive field –and photo competitions are one of the best ways to get noticed. They also provide an opportunity to reach an audience you may never have had contact with before. For example, many of the top art buyers, photo editors, and art directors keep their eye on the big photo contests so they can discover new talent as it emerges. Many contests also offer a gallery show or a printed book to showcase the winning work, creating more opportunities for you to grow your brand as a skilled professional.
It is also a good idea to get your work out into the world on a regular basis and get as much feedback as possible. Many photo contests offer a critique from an industry expert as part of the grand prize. Having esteemed judges offer you their feedback on your portfolio images can be a major opportunity to grow as a photographer and learn from the best.
When considering which competitions are worth your time, it is always a good idea to look at the organization behind the contest. Especially since many contests require an entry fee. For example, if it is a large photography association like Professional Photographers of America, American Society of Media Photographers, or Wedding & Portrait Photographers International then the contest is likely legitimate. If you have never heard of the association or it seems difficult to find information about it, then you might want to reconsider.
For contests you are interested in entering it’s also a good idea to research who the judges are. If there is no information on who the judges are, or they do not seem to be affiliated with any photography organizations that you have heard of, the photo contest might not be all that it is promising to be.
Another aspect to consider is that many photo competitions ask for an entrance fee ranging from $15–50, and this expense can add up over time. We recommend that you do your homework before entering and only choose contests that are a good fit for your work and aesthetic.
Photo District News (PDN) runs photo contests on a regular basis with subject matter for all types of photographers. For example, its annual contest entitled Top Knots calls for wedding photographers to enter their best work , and another contest entitled World in Focus showcases travel and landscape images from around the globe. Currently PDN is running a contest called Faces, asking photographers to enter their most compelling and unforgettable portraits. If these are not a good fit for you, check out the other contests PDN runs on a regular basis.
Another company to keep your eye on is ViewBug. Its unique business model offers more competitions than you can imagine entering. With contest themes like Summer Fun, Patterns, Frozen in Time, Bright Colors, and many more, you are sure to find something to inspire you and spark your creativity.
You can also keep your eye on publications like Professional Photographer, Rangefinder, and Popular Photography as they offer contests to their readers on a regular basis with big prizes behind them. Having your images published in these types of trade magazines can get your work noticed by a much larger audience.
If you are giving serious consideration to entering some photography competitions in the future, a little bit of research will go a long way. Good luck and be sure to let us know if you win by posting on our Facebook wall or share your experiences with contests in the Zenfolio forums.