Can’t get out? Why not enter a photo competition

By Geoff Harris

Fact: there have never been so many photography competitions out there.

As well as larger and well-establishes ones, such as Travel Photographer of the Year, a lot of smaller ones have cropped up as organisations, charities and companies realise it’s a great (read cheap) way to get publicity and engage their target audiences.

With a lot of photographers unable to get out of the house much owing to coronavirus, why not use the time to enter some of these contests? Chances are you have a quite a few images sitting around, and may indeed be sorting through a lot of them now. Doing well in a competition brings many benefits: as well as the kudos and prize purse, it can boost your confidence and attract a much wider audience to in your work. Careers have been built on it.

Before going any further, remember the golden rules of entering photographic competitions. First, read the rules several time over. If you don’t meet the brief of the judges, and supply the wrong kind of image in the wrong format or size, you are wasting your time. Second, be careful about Photoshopping images: it might be ok to do a bit of ‘gardening’, such as removing stray twigs or a distant van from a landscape, but heavier editing work could get you disqualified – particularly on the stricter, more scientifically orientated contests such as Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

Third, put yourself in the judge’s shoes. You may think your image of your young niece is the cutest image ever, but is it really going to make the cut in an international portrait competition? Getting objective audience from a photographer friend, or the members of a ‘friendly’ photo forum, can help you decide which shots to enter and give you a higher chance of winning. Fourth, try and provide something original, or at least a bit different. There’s little point entering a similar image to the one which won the last Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition for example: chances are it’s the same judging panel and they’ll want a change this year!

Close Up Photographer of the Year 2020

Although many photographers are pretty much housebound, there is nothing to stop you taking close-up and macro shots, and that includes out in the garden. So in many ways this is the perfect competition for our challenging times. The closing date is 23.59 on 17th May so there’s still some time to perfect your shots. The entry fee is £10-£40 depending on number of entries and there is a £2,000 cash prize for the winner. The contest is open to anyone using any device, from a mobile phone upwards. This winning image is called Seeds on Stage by Henri Koskinen

Landscape Photographer of the Year 2020

This is one of the most popular contests in the UK so don’t expect an easy ride but quality work should get shortlisted. The closing date has been extended to 10th May 2020. It costs £9.99 (single image), £24.99 (up to eight images), £34.99 (up to 20 images). The overall winner gets £10,000, and shortlisted entries are featured in a commemorative coffee-table book. This image was taken buy Pete Rowbottom, Landscape Photographer of the Year 2018.

Travel Photographer of the Year 2020

Another annual favourite, this competition attracts many thousands of entries and has gone from strength to strength since Chris and Karen Coe set it up in 2003. While tpp-name pros such as Marsel Van Oosten tend to dominate the winner’s list, amateurs often do well too, and the varied categories mean it’s well worth a shot. The closing date is 6 October 2020 and the entry fee is £8-£30 depending on category. Last year’s prizes included a Fujifilm X-T3 camera and £2,000 for the winner. This image was taken by2018 winner Stefano Pensotti.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

This is another biggie, and is organised by the Natural History Museum. Although there are lots of categories, you need to be very careful about image editng and manipulation (the most successful shortlisted entrants usually have to provide the original raw file). The new competition date is usually October, when we hope a lot of this coronavirus disruption will be over, and the closing date is usually December. It costs £30 for five entries and the overall winner gets £10,000. This image is called Face of Deception by Ripan Biswas, and won the Animal Portraits category, Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2019.

Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year

There is a lot of misunderstanding about this competition (I speak as a former finalist in one of the categories). It’s about way more than just styled photos of expensive looking food or celebrity chefs at work; indeed, I’m struggling to remember when one such image actually won the thing. The contest has many categories, so it’s a very broad church, and an image of people cooking a BBQ or kids enjoying a snack in the developing world is just as likely to win as a shot of posh grub produced by a Michelin-starred chef. The dates for the next competition have yet to be announced but will probably February 2021, so there is plenty of time. It costs £30 for five images, £6 per additional entry, There is £5,000 for the overall winner, and various prizes for category winners. This image is called Harvesting Gold by Kazi Mushfiq, Bangladesh from the category Bring Home the Harvest.

Geoff Harris

I am a journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill and Steve McCurry. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time. In addition I write about well being/personal development and antiques collecting for a range of other titles, including BlueWings, the in-flight magazine of Finn Air.

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