For all you weekend warrior photographers, it's time to put your money where your lens is. You can prove once and for all the time and money spent on your favorite hobby has been worth it by entering one of the many amateur photo contests available online. No matter your favorite subject, there's something for everyone of every skill level.
Free Photo Contests for Amateurs
Each contest has their own submission requirements, and most require some kind of registration. Be sure to read all the rules and fine print.
General Photography Contests
General photography contests accept photos that feature a variety of subjects.
Sony World Photography Awards: Enter one of the most prestigious free photography competitions. Win cash, prizes, and a trip to London. Entries are accepted at the beginning every June.
- JPG Magazine: Check out the JPG Mag site frequently as they add new contests often with a variety of different themes.
- Photography Corner: Enter one of PC's monthly contests as well as giving the larger year-end competition a try.
- CoinAPhoto: Sign up with CoinAPhoto and enter any of their ongoing photo contests. Each contest has a theme to keep you constantly challenged and growing as an amateur photographer.
Pet Photography Contests
Pet photography contests focus on capturing those cute, funny, and lovable moments with furry friends.
- Cutest Pet Contest: A new contest is open for entries every quarter, and winners get cash and prizes not to mention bragging rights for having the cutest pet.
- Comedy Pet Photography Awards: Enter up to four photos in this annual contest. The main criteria: make it funny.
- Modern Dog: The magazine Modern Dog hosts an ongoing photo contest. Winners are chosen weekly based on reader votes.
People, Places, and Faces Photo Contests
Wildlife, people, and art are popular for photo competitions.
- Nature's Best Photography Magazine: The editors of the world famous Nature's Best Photography Magazine host the picture of the week contest, in which you may enter two images.
- Defenders of Wildlife: This contest has two categories, their wild lands contest and their wildlife contest, and you can enter up to six photographs.
- ChildPhotoCompetition.com: Enter one of CPC's monthly themed contests. Past themes include Love and Sunlight.
- Grandparents.com: Here you'll find a number of photography contests, many of which ask for submissions of photos of readers' grandchildren.
The number one tip for successfully entering an amateur photo contest is to follow all the rules. Break these rules and risk disqualification. Contest guidelines are not arbitrary; judges take note of which entrants adhere to them. Make sure you follow each rule to the letter. It would be a shame to lose out on the chance to compete because you submitted your photo in the wrong format.
Other important tips to keep in mind:
- Consider All Categories: Many contests have a variety of categories. Evaluate your strengths and anticipate which categories will have the most entries and which will have the fewest. If you have the material to submit for a category with fewer entries, you increase your odds of winning.
- Less Is More: Keep it simple. In most cases, the "less is more" approach works for those award-winning shots. This is applicable to both the number of photos you enter and the content captured in each shot. Don't feel compelled to enter the maximum number of photos allowed in each category unless you feel you have high quality shots for the judges to review.
- Be Creative: Prior to casting their vote, most judges ask themselves whether a photo exhibits the use of creative techniques to make the picture more interesting. A photographer who is aware of unique colors, angles, shapes, patterns, and lines often scores well with judges.
- Relax: Entering your first photo contest can be intimidating, but you shouldn't let your nerves get the best of you. Once your work is submitted, you are at the mercy of the judges. Don't let one lost contest deter you from competing in others. Rather, examine the winning images, study any feedback given, and apply what you learn to your next photo session.
How to Choose the Best Photo
Choose a picture that is simple in nature and technically well done. Before you submit, review it for the following:
- Sharp focus: This will help show details of the subject.
- Outstanding composition: Whether it is symmetrical or asymmetrical, the composition needs to be well thought-out.
- Vibrant colors: Depending on the contest, vibrant colors often draw judges' attention.
- Excellent contrast: Good contrast is important, especially in black and white images.
- Beautiful lighting: Good lighting doesn't always mean the use of a bright flash, but does mean that the piece has good lighting on the subject.
- Pleasing background: A cluttered or unattractive background can be a distraction.
- Interesting subject: An interesting subject helps increase the overall appearance of the photo.
To avoid disappointment, be realistic about your expectations when entering a photo contest. Remember to keep your entry in perspective. You should be entering for the fun of it and focusing more on enjoying the picture taking process.