Recently, I was a member of a jury for an international photo contest, themed “Water”. Ten-thousands of participants sent in their photos and we were supposed to select the best ones. It was a hard and exhausting job.
I was really shocked about the vast amount of really bad images: no balanced horizon, stains in the sky or cut of parts at the edges of the frame, blurry images or long-exposure images taken without a tripod. It was so annoying.
In addition, I was shocked about the huge amount of images, where the sender didn’t pay any attention to the topic of the contest. Either, the image was completely off-topic or the main subject of the image was something different and the water only padding or an accessory part.
Lets dig a bit deeper. For this competition, I expected to see images, where water is the main subject. Water can have one of 3 states of aggregation: gas, liquid or solid. Show them to me: i.e. Rain, rivers, ponts, fountains, the ocean, waves, a shore, snow or ice. Be creative.
But, keep in mind, water has to be the main subject. So, people rushing through the streets during rain won’t match the subject. But, raindrops on the surface of an umbrella will do. Or, the tire of a car splashing water from a rain poodle in the street while rushing through it, will do, too. Another example might be: not a glass of water standing on the table, but the detail of pouring the water out of the glass or in the glass.
My advises for sending in photos to a photo-contest are:
- read the rules carefully and understand them. Even such an easy-looking theme like the one I mentions above can be very, very tricky
- pick images with the topic as the main subject
- make sure, the chosen image has perfect quality (no stains, no dust spots, straight horizon, no blurs, no motion shake but intentional, …).
When it comes to lens flares: check, if they support the main subject. If not, avoid lens flares. They are often considered as a flaw, too.
- pay attention on how to compose an image (foreground, middle-ground, background; as well as where to place the part of interest). There are guides on how to compose an image available at the internet.
- focus on the message of your image. Include as much as possible, but not more than necessary. Just like Robert Capa said “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough”
- put your emotions aside. I know, your feelings and you memories come back when looking at you images. But, someone else won’t feel them just like you, because no-one else knows, what you felt while taking that picture. Everyone else simply sees the image and judges based on the image. So, put your emotions aside when selecting an image for a photo-contest.
- check the legal side: are you the author of the image? Are you allowed to publish / send in the image? Do you have property and / or model releases?
You know, by sending in an image to a photo-contest, you also have to hand over some legal rights!!
Check the fine-print of the photo-contest. Are you fine with all of the regulations? What about the GDPR?
- usually your gear isn’t important for an image to be eligible for a certain contest. But, sometimes the regulations say i.e. only cell-phones, no cell-phones, only taken with gear by a certain brand, no edits, only edited with a certain software
- What about watermarks? Sometimes the regulations say no logo or watermark. Obey the rule for not being disqualified. You know, I also use a small watermark as my signature, just like a painter. It’s neither a weapon against image theft or a working concept for documenting your ownership. Even without such a watermark you keep your rights. If you really want to have such a watermark, keep it unobtrusive. Otherwise it could ruin your image.
- double-check your image again against all of these advises!
You see, taking part in a photo-contest is not that easy, as it looks like first.
If you want to, you can take this as an example and for you own training.
If you want me, to judge one of your images, drop me a note and a link to the image in the comments below. The review can be public as well as private. It’s your choice.