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  • Writer's pictureAbdul Qudoos

Checklist for Entering Photography Competitions: Don’t Miss These Steps

Updated: Apr 7

Checklist for Entering Photography Competitions

Entering photo contests can be fun and help photographers show their best pictures. It also lets them see how good their photos are compared to others. 

But, to make your entry stand out, you need to put in some effort. Don't rush it or ignore the rules. Instead, use a checklist for entering photography contests to make sure you submit your best work that fits what the competition is looking for.

Follow these tips, and you'll have a better chance of catching the judges' eyes and winning. Let's get started on making your photography competition entry the best it can be!

1. Research and Select the Right Photography Competitions

Not all photography competitions are created equal. Before spending time curating images and preparing your submission, you need to identify reputable contests that match your style and goals.

But how do you select where to submit your work from the dizzying array of options? Here are some key considerations:

  • What genres and styles of photography are you most interested in? Find competitions that celebrate the type of work you love to shoot.

  • Research the competition’s history, judging criteria, and past winners. Do they seem to recognize work aligned with your vision and strengths?

  • Smaller niche competitions often receive fewer entries. This can improve your odds, provided your work suits that niche.

  • There is no one-size-fits-all photography competition. Seek out a range of entry fees, prestige levels, and potential prizes or opportunities fit for you.

Pro Tip: Avoid free-entry contests as there will be a lot of competition. Instead, leverage small niche contests with affordable entry fees like this one when starting to gain experience and increase your chances of winning.

2. Read and Understand the Competition Rules and Guidelines

It’s critical to carefully read photography competition guidelines before submitting your work. Seemingly small technicalities like image dimensions or titles being too long can lead to quick disqualification.

Rules serve an important purpose: they allow fair judging and smooth operations. However, photographers often rush when preparing their competition entries and overlook key details. This easily avoidable mistake jeopardizes an otherwise strong submission.

Common rules to understand thoroughly include:

  • Image requirements: Constraints related to aspects like size, resolution, and format (JPEG vs RAW).

  • Post-processing guidelines: Some competitions prohibit heavily manipulated photos or composite images.

  • Titling protocols: Requirements may dictate titling conventions for your submitted images.

  • Submission limits: Most competitions restrict the number of images per entrant due to judging constraints. Submitting over the limit can lead to disqualification.

  • Categories: Some competitions have defined categories with distinct guidelines tailored to genre (e.g. portrait).

  • Copyright considerations: Most competitions prohibit images with prominent visible logos or branding without permission.

Thoroughly reviewing the latest competition guidelines takes little time yet drastically reduces easily avoidable mistakes. When in doubt, contact the competition organizers with clarifying questions.

3. Choose Your Best Images for the Photography Competition

Selecting which images to include from your broader photography portfolio is a critical yet challenging step. You want compositions that make the strongest artistic statement and highlight your skills.

Unfortunately, our attachment as photographers to our work can cloud objective decision-making. That stunning portrait or sweeping landscape we love may not resonate as powerfully with others. External perspectives thus provide invaluable input when curating your photographs for competition entry.

Here is a framework to select images:

Gather Outside Perspectives

Solicit honest qualitative feedback from non-photographer friends or family. Get their gut reactions to understand how those unfamiliar with photography techniques view your work.

Photographer colleagues can also identify strengths or weaknesses invisible to your eyes after long exposure to a given image. They see subtleties a novice wouldn’t but provide more impartial feedback than you can.

Online photography communities like /r/photocritique offer another avenue for candid perspective. Explain you are choosing images for a competition to focus feedback on aspects like uniqueness, impact, composition, and technical excellence.

Consider consistent critique when selecting images. If multiple people identify issues like distractions in an image, it likely needs more refinement before submission.

Assess Composition and Technical Quality

Zoom out and examine your pictures with a fresh eye. Analyze strengths and weaknesses related to lighting, clarity, color, bokeh, and other elements that affect quality.

Study how photographic techniques like leading lines, symmetry, negative space, and patterns engage the viewer. Are there noticeable distractions? How do colors and contrasts guide the eye?

Strive to submit your most compelling, technically flawless compositions. Images with amateur mistakes like blurriness must be avoided in competitions.

Match Images to Competition Goals

Keep competition objectives and past winning images in mind during selection. If a contest focuses on nature photography, don’t submit an urban cityscape. Align your thematic choices with each event.

Carefully curating images significantly improves your chance of success compared to first-round picks. So take time to choose your best work.

4. Optimize and Prepare Your Images for Submission

With your photographic A-team selected, now prep your images to look their best for judges. Image presentation heavily impacts viewer perception and thus competitive success.

Be sure to:

  • Resize to meet minimum requirements like 2000 pixels on the long edge for web

  • Adjust resolution to around 240-300 PPI if specified

  • Stick to sRGB color space for optimum browser compatibility

  • Save files in JPEG format at the highest possible quality

  • Name files as requested or in an organized, descriptive manner

  • Check files meet maximum file size limits if provided

Meeting image specifications exactly prevents submission issues that could tank your entry.

5. Craft Compelling Titles and Descriptions for Your Photos

Imaginative titles and descriptive captions complementing your images are photography competition best practices. The minimal effort here significantly hampers success potential and resonance.

Follow these tips to effectively title and describe your photographs:

Titles Should Pique Curiosity

Viewers form quick judgments, so bold and descriptive titles can better capture attention in key moments.

For example:

  • Overworked Mother Captured in Late Evening Light

  • Machu Picchu Breathes with the First Rays of Sun

Tactics like alliteration make titles more compelling. Strive for titles between one vivid descriptor like the above or a maximum of eight words.

Descriptions Build Context

Well-written descriptions influence viewers' emotions and perspectives. Use vivid but concise descriptive language to transport judges into the scene you captured.

For example, are clouds swiftly rolling over mountain peaks in your landscape scene? Help them visualize this through descriptive captions.

Explain technical mastery when relevant, like challenges of shooting fast wildlife subjects. This provides helpful artistic context.

Align with Competition Theme

Sometimes competitions specify caption guidelines. Ensure your titles connect back to contest themes where applicable.

If you take liberties with titles or descriptions, explain your creative choice. Judges better understand intent seeing your thought process.

Make judges pause over your photographs through irresistible titles and captions. This amplification could make the difference for photography competition success.

6. Double-Check and Submit Your Photography Competition Entry

The most meticulous preparation still necessitates one final thorough review. After working intensely on curation and post-processing, fresh eyes often catch previously overlooked refinement opportunities.

Here is a photography competition submission checklist to finalize your entry:

Image Optimization

  • Confirm all images meet sizing, formatting, and resolution requirements

  • Review for any flaws like dust spots, banding, fringing, etc.

  • Give special attention to skin retouching for portraits

Competition Guideline Adherence

  • Count if you have not exceeded the maximum number of images

  • Ensure titles and descriptions align with length limits and naming conventions

  • No prominent visible branding/logos are included

Submission Completion

  • Include payment for entry fees as specified

  • Provide any requested entrant bio information

  • Carefully submit images via a proper procedure

Confirmation and Documentation

  • Save confirmation of successful submission from organizers

  • Take screenshots showing adherence to all requirements

  • Store copies of rules, releases, and invoices somewhere accessible

Leave no detail unchecked. Thoroughly comb through your photography competition entry one final time before hitting submit.

Submission Element


Completed (Yes/No)

Image Optimization

Images meet size, format, and resolution requirements

Guideline Adherence

Entry follows all competition rules and guidelines


The entry fee is paid as specified

Entrant Bio

Photographer bio information is provided

Submission Process

Images are submitted through the proper procedure


Submission confirmation is received and saved for future reference

After thoroughly reviewing, submit your entry allowing ample time before deadlines to avoid technical issues rushing at the last minute. Also, be sure to receive email confirmation so your submission was received successfully.

7. Learn and Grow from the Photography Competition Experience

French artist Edgar Degas famously said, "Art is not what you see, but what you make others see". Photography competitions present the ultimate test of our capacity to make others see the world through our vision.

The most rewarding part of competition participation comes afterward in reviewing judges’ decisions and feedback. Whether you achieve external validation through an award or not, every contest gives invaluable input propelling your growth.

Analyze judge feedback on your weakest elements needing improvement like better handling distractions within the frame. Identify patterns in winning entries regarding lighting, tones, and creative angles to inject into your personal style.

After that, apply what you have learned. Because the real value comes from applying your learnings to strengthen future photography work.

Revisit past images with a fresh perspective on areas requiring refinement to better meet judging priorities and audience tastes.

Use notes to expand creative horizons for new projects. Experiment with implementing suggestions around fresh vantage points, varied post-processing looks, or bolder framing choices.

Create a table like this one to track your progress and set goals for future photography competitions:

Competition Name


Images Submitted

Results/Feedback Received

Lessons Learned

Goals for the Next Competition

Fill that table after each competition to reflect on your experience, the feedback you received, and the lessons you learned. Use these insights to set specific goals for your next competition, ensuring continuous growth and improvement in your photography skills.

Final Words

Preparing a photography competition entry is no small undertaking. Submitting your best work to be voted against by peers requires thick skin and perseverance. However, avoiding common entry pitfalls maximizes your potential for success.

This photography competition checklist outlined gold standard practices for putting your best foot forward. Dedicated time researching suitable contests, soliciting feedback to curate images, meticulously optimizing shots, and crafting compelling supporting text. Follow the guidelines rigorously and quadruple-check your submission.

While awards provide nice validation, treating competitions as learning experiences proves most rewarding for creator growth. Use external judge and community perspectives to strengthen skills and take more creative risks.

Now grab your camera and start planning what compelling new images to enter in your next contest!

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