Competitions are fun and exciting but no fun if you're not winning any. In order to win a competition you have to know some basic photography skills. Those skills should include lighting, shutter speed, ISO, aperture and most importantly how to compose an image that inspires or sparks flowing emotion.
This "how to" manual will not explain the basics of how to use your camera but instead, how to increase the chances of your skills winning a competition. First of all it is important to understand the competition you want to enter. Homework is no fun but it is pertinent in finding out how to compose an image tailored for the competition. Competitions come in many forms, but most commonly they are judged by prominent photographers or by your peers. Some competitions use both photography judges and peer votes.
Read the rules
Reading the rules is one of the most important steps to follow. Without reading the competition rules you might as well have not entered. It's happened before, photographers win the competition and later come to find out they are disqualified for something as simple as the photo was manipulated too much. Save yourself some embarrassment and read the rules.
Know your judges style
When the competition is judged by a panel of photographers it is important to understand who the judges are. Many photographers enjoy different styles and will judge accordingly. Find out who the Judges are and study their portfolios. Typically there are two styles that photographers lean towards and those are the journalistic and creative styles. Those who love journalistic images don't like much retouching and generally despise overly edited photos. The creative photographer enjoys clean edited photos that can range all the way into heavy manipulation of the photograph creating an imaginary look. Make sure your images lean toward the majority of the judges styles. Typically Nikon shooters lean toward journalistic, "National Geographic" type images and Canon shooters lean toward colorful highly retouched images.
Build an army
If the competition involves voting don't kid yourself. Your photograph will never be good enough to match the Facebook/twitter army. Build up a base of followers to your photography page on social media networks. I have seen poorly composed images win and stunning once in a lifetime photos lose simply because other photographer had more friends on Facebook. So build an army that loves your style of photography. Join and get involved with photography groups and networks online and prepare for that great battle. Once you have your fight, let everyone know every day that they can vote for your photograph and to share the news with their friends. Don't be shy and feel that people will hate you for posting too much.
Following these simple rules will increase the chances of you winning photography competitions and winning some of those really nice prizes. Don't just rely on your awesome photography skills to do all the work. Only the photographers with the smarts, hard work and fake friends get a payout.
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