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A Cut Above: Changing Up your Competition Photography

July 14, 2015

Whether you’ve been competing for a while or are just starting to consider photography competitions, there are always steps you can take to improve your outcome in a competition. Let’s take a look at a few different areas you can improve in:

Match your photos to the contest

To start with, you’ll want to take a good look at each photography contest you’re considering entering. You’re going to want to match your photo to the contest and make sure its format is exactly what is requested by the contest.

  • What is the theme of the contest? You’re going to want to stay within that theme, but don’t be afraid to be creative in your interpretation of that theme. Just make sure that if you go too far off the beaten path, that you include an explanation of how it fits their theme.
  • What have past winning photography looked like? If you see a strong preference for photos with a small F-stop, try to send photos that match that consideration. Do they have a preference for natural backgrounds or cityscapes? Try to match their photo style without sacrificing your creative vision.
  • Have you read the requirements carefully? Don’t plan on sending in photos in RAW format if they’re requiring a high-quality JPG, or your photos may end up tossed out of the competition. Plan on staying within their requirements while presenting your photos in the best possible fashion.
  • Are you submitting in electronic format? Try to cut the light. Remember that photos provided in digital format are often viewed through a projector in a darkened room. Your dazzling sunlit meadow may blind the judges you’re trying to impress.

Improving your technique, framing and editing

Beyond focusing your entry to each individual competition, there are some general ways you can improve your photography that will help it place higher in competitions. By improving your work, your creativity shines through instead of bad editing, poor framing or bad technique.

  • Are you recording your photos in RAW format? With the inexpensive price of memory cards today, it’s important to save every bit of data to use with your editing software. You can always export the photos into a JPG or smaller format, but you can’t regain the pixels if it’s saved in a smaller format.
  • Have you spent some serious time getting to know your editing software? Though many photographers stick to the basics in their photo editor, using it to crop and adjust light, there are a wide variety of other features you can use to improve your final photos.
  • Are you remembering to watch your technique? If the photo isn’t perfect in terms of focus, exposure and composition, retake it. If your judges can’t get beyond the bad focus or odd branch in the corner of the frame, they won’t be able to focus on the brilliance of your photography.
  • Is there some emotion or element that will grab the judges’ attention? A photo that doesn’t evoke a response or feeling in the viewer is easily forgotten during judging. If your subject is a couple children, get some elevation so the judges can see how small the children are compared to the world around them.

Now that you have some options to consider, it’s time to take your photography to the next level. Implement these changes, then see how you do in a new competition or how much better you come out in one you’ve entered in the past. There’s a whole wide world of impressions out there to capture – go find it!