Why You Should Enter Photography Contests


Why You Should Enter Photography Contests


Contests are powerful approaches to vastly improve your images. Probably more than any other approach, Photography Contests change the way you see your images.

If you approach it right, the benefits are huge. If you take the leap; becoming a judge really magnifies your skill growth.

Contests really get you focusing on your composition. A weakly composed image cannot rise above interesting. Rule of thirds, the Golden Mean, the Golden Ratio, Golden Diagonal and so on. (Don’t know what they are, Google the names.) After a while setting up perfect composition will be a habit.

  • In focus and other technical necessities. Contests are demanding. The judges the first consideration is: “Are the technical standards met?” It does not matter how impactful an image is, how much it tugs at your heart, out of focus, bad color, bad alignment, etc will kill it. A judge cannot give an award to an image that does not meet the basic bar.
    So you will really look at raising your technical skill; it does not take much. Especially because you start to pay attention to the technical details.
  • Your impact and story telling begins to vastly improve. As you enter more contests you will find these two things are found in abundance in all the winner’s circle images. If it cannot tell a strong story, if the impact does not make a viewer at least pause, it won’t cut it. You will become more skilled as you focus on this contest need to tell deeper stories, to find the angle and effect that brings your image up a notch.


  • You become more creative. Stock and standard images won’t make it. You can train yourself to be creative, to look at things a different way, to find an angle, a shaft of light, a resonating moment that makes your image speak. You will push yourself, learn more, study other images with a critical eye so you can reach higher.
  • You will get a thicker skin. If you enter a lot of contests, you are going to lose a lot of contests. You will get more criticisms. At first it will be scary, perhaps even offensive. It is a different world than the like button on Facebook. It is real though; you can’t take the rejection personally. You should listen to the critiques that encourage you to improve your work though.
  • You will get noticed more. Contests are not for everyone and everyone knows this. Pick challenging contests; treat them like demanding clients you strive to satisfy. As your images move from rejections, to hanging and acceptances to wins, people notice. They like to be with a winner so work will flow to you.


These thoughts on entering contests came to me as I was watching the Professional Photographers of Canada (PPOC) 2015 National Print Salon awards. I have been entering that contest for 31 years now, won some, lost lots. It is an honor to hang a print, it is exciting to be in the running for an award and stunning to be judged the winner.

There were some incredible images up so I was surprised and thrilled when my image Fury, took top prize for the Freestyle class. There was a collection of very impressive work in the running.

Fury is a cool image. It was a collaboration with body painter Kim Brennan and model Leigha. With the PPOC contest, each winning trophy is sponsored by one of PPOC’s commercial partners. I thought it was ironic that the company to sponsor my trophy, Beau Photo from BC, had sold me the lights used in the image. Good Karma, what goes around comes around.

Each year, every entrant in every contest push themselves a little further than last year. After several years of this you start to see the results in the photography community at large. Either you rise to the new bar or get left behind. Images that won contests even 10 years ago would likely not even be considered by today’s standards.

So you should really enter some contests. Push yourself; find some new heights to look at the world from.

You will love what it does for your photography.


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