Have you been framing your photos or looking for likes on Instagram only to feel there's something more to be desired? Photo contests might be for you. Not only can they be monetarily rewarding, they can also help boost your creativity, drive, and discernment. Plus, they provide great exposure and can help get you out of that comfort zone! We've laid out some tips to set you up for success so you can start getting rewarded for all your hard work.
1 | Know what will disqualify your image
Each contest has different rules and requirements beyond the primary category heading. For example, some may prohibit human interaction with animals. Contests also often prohibit watermarks and heavy editing in Photoshop or Lightroom.
2 | Submit multiple entries
Many photo contests allow you to submit multiple images within the same category. This can increase your odds of winning and who knows- you may end up with 1st AND 2nd places!
1st Place: Blackwater, Ocean Art 2020. "Acanthonus Armatus" © Steve Kovacs
3 | Get the sizing right
Check the dimensions of the file you’re submitting and preview it on a high quality (ideally 4K or better) display. Judges will quickly dismiss a pixelated lo-res submission.
4 | Be critical of your composition
It may seem obvious to you, but make sure the subject of your photo is obvious to the judges as well. Don’t be afraid to crop your photo a little bit to emphasize your subject properly and balance negative space. But keep the original and be aware of the specific rules of the contest you’re entering - some limit or even prohibit cropping.
"For me, an important point to include in an article about winning competitions is that people shouldn't be disappointed if they don't. Photo competitions aren't the be all and end all, photography is about the enjoyment of capturing a scene or subject. Also, the judges are normal human beings like the rest of us. This means that, depending on their mood, they may favour one type of image on one day and another type on another day. In the past I have entered competitions with what I thought was my best image ever only to have no success and in contrast, I have entered images which i never thought were any good and they have had great success."
- Grant Thomas, Ikelite Ambassador
5 | Study what has won in the past
Many judges are looking for a unique perspective or a shot they haven’t seen before. This will give you an idea what to avoid submitting to a particular contest. You can also get an idea of the average image quality of your competitors and the photographic styles that are favored by the judges.
6 | Read the fine print
It’s rare, but we have seen photo contest terms where you actually provide unrestricted license to publish your image to the contest host when you make your submission. Know what they’re requesting and make sure you don’t lose control of your best images.
1st Place: Over-Unders and Best of Show, DEEP Indonesia 2019. "Papuan Sunset" © Grant Thomas
7 | Don’t be afraid to try
We have seen winning images come out of every camera system on the market- from low end to high. Set an annual budget for photo contest entry fees and put your work out there. Most of the prizes will more than pay back your investment if you win! If you only have one or two images you feel comfortable submitting, try submitting them to a wide variety of contests throughout the year.
"My best advice would be to enter multiple different competitions and try to be diverse in the type of images you enter. That way you can begin to develop an idea for the style of images that work and what competitions to enter them into."
- Grant Thomas
8 | Hit submit
You've selected your photo(s), double checked the criteria, and now you're ready to enter your work. Use this list of Underwater Photo Contests to Enter Today to get started.
1st Place: Over-Unders, DEEP Indonesia 2018. "Love Birds" © Grant Thomas