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How To Take Prize-Winning Photographs


Photography contests are a great way to have fun, improve your picture-taking skills, and win prizes. These tips will help you take amazing pictures with a higher chance of winning photo competitions.
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: 5 Minutes

Here's How:

  1. Read the Rules Carefully
    Some sponsors will have special requirements about the pictures they’ll accept for their contests. Before you start setting up your shot, make sure you are following the rules to the letter.

  2. Use the Sponsor’s Products in the Shot
    If Snuggles Fabric Softener is sponsoring a baby photo contest, put your child on top of your dryer wrapped in a soft yellow blanket with a bottle of Snuggles in the background. Sponsors are more likely to select winners whose photos help their advertising efforts.

  3. Use the Rule of Thirds
    Placing your subject in the center of the shot makes for a boring, predictable photograph. Imagine a tic-tac-toe board over the shot, and place your main subject where the lines intersect. When the picture is off-center, it will look more interesting. See the Rule of Thirds Photo Gallery for examples of how to use this photography technique.

  4. Let the Subject Fill the Shot
    A common beginner’s mistake is to take a picture from too far away, including too much irrelevant background. For example, when taking pictures of people you don’t need to get your subject’s full body in the shot, focus on the face.

  5. Avoid Pictures from Above
    Shots that look down on your subject tend to feel small and distorted. Get down on the level of your subject for a closer, more intimate look.

  6. Watch Your Lighting
    Shadows or the glare from overly bright lights can destroy an otherwise perfect picture. Try taking pictures early in the morning, just before sunset, or on a cloudy day. Use the flash on bright days to fill in shadows on faces or irregular surfaces. If you're taking a lot of pictures inside, you might want to learn how to set up your own studio lighting.

  7. Take Lots of Photographs
    Don’t settle for a single shot, take dozens of pictures and select the best to submit to the contest. Try photographing the same subject from different angles, in different lighting, and at different times of the day.

  8. Tell a Story with Your Picture
    Most contests have some kind of theme. It may be a one-word theme like "gold" or something more philosophical like "the meaning of life." In any case, make your entry stand out by not just sticking to the theme, but actually telling a story with your shot. If you are invited to submit a title and/or a caption, these can be used to reinforce your story. See Advice from a Photo Contest Judge for more information.
  9. Submit the Most Creative Shot
    You want to submit a picture that stands out from the rest, so look for shots with eye-catching colors, unusual composition, and great expressions. Remember that unintended blurriness is the kiss of death of competition entries.


  1. Digital cameras are great for contest entry, since you can take a lot of pictures and instantly see how they will look. They also save on development costs.

What You Need

  • Camera
  • Contests to Enter
  • Sponsor's Products (if necessary)
  • Subject to Photograph

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