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  • Writer's pictureAbdul Qudoos

How to Create a Compelling Write Up for a Photography Contest

Updated: Apr 7



When hundreds of world-class images flood a photography competition, a mediocre description won't cut it. 


So how do you make sure YOUR entry rises above the fierce competition? How do you craft a write-up that grips attention and perfectly complements your photographic artistry?


This comprehensive guide pulls back the curtain on insider techniques to hook judges with visual storytelling that spotlights the power of your images. 


Learn how stellar writing can elevate good shots into prize-winning submissions.


Why Nail the Writeup?



You invested hours into finding and editing that special picture. The one where the light is just right, your technique is perfectly executed. Surely the strength of the photo alone will sway the judges?


Not quite. Even the most stunning photograph relies on an equally strong write-up to reach its full potential.


Consider the judging process. Panelists may view thousands of visually brilliant entries. Technical mastery and subject interest start to blur together. This overwhelms the senses and makes it exponentially harder to champion one piece.


But the right words cut through the noise. They draw focus to the precise details that make your work special. A compelling write-up provides the why behind the what, helping judges advocate for your advancement.


In short - a weak writeup fails to convey the distinct value of your submission. Whereas a strong one spotlights your visionary skills as an artist.


Want to capture the contest win? Learn how to make words and images work together to deliver maximum impact.


Research First, Write Later


Does picturing judges yawning over dense blocks of text give you chills? Don't worry. Writeups only burden minds when not purposefully composed.


Think of it as a discussion with a fascinated friend instead of a formal exhibition proposal. Intrigue and emotion influence far beyond facts alone.


Of course, quality content matters too. Building a compelling framework requires diligent research beforehand:


Understand Contest Motives, Rules, and Judging Criteria


Contests, like photographs, often concentrate on specific themes. Consider:

  • What core idea or concept does the contest aim to highlight? How might this translate into judging priorities?

  • What technical, content, and entry guidelines or limitations apply?

  • Are there questionnaire or application components beyond the write-up itself?

  • Which criteria carry the greatest weight in reviewal-originality? Storytelling impact? Mastery of technique? Knowing these emphasis areas will strengthen your writing focus.


Analyze Your Photo from Multiple Perspectives


Put aside biases and study your image as if seeing it for the first time. Explore various angles of intrigue to reveal deeper artistic insights:


  • Visual Flow - What composition and effects guide the viewer's eye through the frame? Where does their gaze naturally land? Are there distinct layers of foreground/background focus?

  • Light and Color - How do lighting, contrasts, and saturation influence mood and atmosphere? What story do they convey?

  • Intentional Messaging - Does the image seem to communicate particular emotions or concepts beyond its literal depiction? If so, do some elements work together to reinforce the theme more than others?

  • Subject Matter - Specific locales, objects, moments in time, or living things depicted all influence relatability and viewer curiosity. Do any details hold clever double meanings beyond initial perceptions?

  • Technical Execution - What camera settings were chosen and why? Did weather conditions or timing affect outcomes? How about post-processing techniques?


As you scrutinize, identify both granular qualities and overarching themes or impressions made. This expands material to pull from later when drafting your write-up.


Read Past Winning Entries and Actual Judging Commentary


Most contests publish excerpts of prior selections with portions of accompanying text. Many even include snippets of real judging panel critiques.


Analyze the vocabulary and story-crafting techniques used. Make notes on phrasing or areas called out for excellence. This reveals what specifically resonated with past juries.


See what extra details expanded beforehand research to make photos spring to life. Whether through conveying motivation sparked from personal memory or highlighting how early morning dewdrops enhanced natural vibrancy.


Reference entries awarded prizes closest to those you seek to win. However, don't copy approaches outright but rather let them guide your unique interpretations.


Craft an Audience-Grabbing Title



View your title as a one-two punch designed to:

  1. Hook judges with intriguing mysteriousness, emotion, or beauty

  2. Clarify exact photo details so they instantly recognize alignment with expectations upon clicking through


This grabs attention without confusion. For example “Lonely Road Home" or “Echoes of Ancient Times” balance curiosity and clarity.


Aim for roughly 5-10 words. Remember contests often display thumbnails of entries with titles listed below photography thumbnails. Brevity enhances skimmability. Audiences are likely to click or scroll past wordy titles when so many other options clamor for their focus.


When drafting, brainstorm a list of potential titles first before selecting the winner. Read them aloud to detect sticky rhythmic allure. And be sure your title doesn't misrepresent photo contents but rather hints alluringly toward them. This builds eager anticipation.


Craft a Magnetic Opening Paragraph


Your first 1-3 sentences set the tone. Don’t just jump to dry stats or overly formal analyses. Draw judges INTO your images with you. Make them care passionately about recognizing excellence just as you do in creating it.


Some opening hook formula examples:

  • Rhetorical question - “What Does a fairytale forest truly look like after rainfall first caresses the woodlands awake at dawn?”

  • Backstory/worldbuilding - “While exploring genealogical archives last winter, the faintest handwriting on fragile parchment transported imagination back through time itself...”

  • Emotional resonance - “Confidently she stands. Weathered barn wood backdrops wildflower-studded meadows where future dreams bloom as abundantly as the sweet purple lilacs framing this view...”


Once hooked, segue attention directly into the photo itself. For example: “This rare perspective only lasts two weeks each year. Capturing its fleeting beauty at peak vibrancy felt like finally glimpsing long-fabled unicorn herds grazing rainbow pastures...”


Reveal Deeper Meaning: Discuss Motivation and Backstory


Photographs intrinsically expose moments where deeper stirrings ripple beneath. Allow this natural storyteller quality to shine through.


Share origins driving your artistic eye while composing the shot. Maybe childhood memories playing hide and seek within the wooded glen influenced perspective. Or you sought to capture your daughter’s carefree essence just before college whisks her childhood away.


These connections make compositions highly personal. Some questions to ponder:

  • What core memories or inspirations shaped envisions for this subject matter? Why was it meaningful to you? When did you first discover the location showcased?

  • Were special techniques utilized to accentuate mood based on backstory emotions? How so?

  • Did certain shooting conditions like weather or obstacles make achieving your vision for the final product especially tricky...or especially serendipitous when everything aligned perfectly?


Such origins form an emotional bridge between the creator and the viewer. This investment makes judges far more likely to champion submissions as a result.


Circle Back: Reinforce Key Impressions in Concluding Statements


Just as opening hooks provide entry points, closing recaps cement key ideas in readers' minds.


Summarize 2-3 of the most prominent experiences described as takeaways. For example, revisit how early childhood treehouse adventures influenced your downward sightline perspective from atop the central oak.


Describe residual emotions still echoed from the moment you witnessed wisping waterfall mist create ephemeral rainbows over the Riverbend on that early spring morning.


Choose to summarize descriptors with resounding resonance to leave judges gazing back over your photograph with enhanced meaning as they score category ratings. Aim for impactful closing quotables like:

  • “Some moments fade rapidly from memory if not captured immediately through the lens. But the truly magical ones ripple visual poetry long after shutter release."

  • "Hidden beauty waits patiently everywhere for discovery by those choosing imaginative perspective over ordinary assumption. Have you peeked closely enough lately to notice?”

  • "Photographs freeze memories, yet also free them - liberating embedded emotions inwardly experienced outwardly to unite humanity in glorious reminiscence together.”


Final Checklist Before Submission



  • Re-read entry from judges’ eyes conveying first impression

  • Check for coherence, clarity consistency

  • Confirm proper grammar/spelling/formatting

  • Include any other requested contest materials

  • Triple-check adherence to all guideline specifications


When confident every component meets excellence standards - enter that winning shot!

Then keep practicing and refining photography and reflective writing abilities alike.


Hone intuitive creative vision behind the lens, and descriptive amplifying voice through written reflections.


Both photography mastery and write-up eloquence develop over time through applied practice. Consider each new contest opportunity a stepping stone along an endless journey of artistic growth.


Final Words


Take a deep breath and hit submit, confident in the colorful backstory dynamics you’ve conveyed. Allow non-verbal details photographed to speak volumes through imaginatively written framing.


Trust that heartstrings tugged gently through tactful words awakens the juror's passion for recognizing another’s manifested dream. For it’s often the imagery evoking nostalgia, hope, wonder, or tranquility - which people connect most with.


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