How to Win Photography Competitions + the judging process explained

Hi… I’m Karl Taylor and in this video I’m
going to tell you how to win photography competitions or at least how to give
yourself the best chances based on our own photography competitions that we run
now we get a lot of questions come in from people that enter our competitions
all sorts of different questions some of which I’m going to go through now we
don’t actually respond really to these questions because as the judges of the
competition we’re not really able to enter into a discussion with any
entrance because that really wouldn’t be fair but let me let me just explain a
little bit about process so here on Karl Taylor education comm we have a
competitions page which is accessed through the my account login and if we
go to that page you can see that our next competition which is the December
2018 competition that one is the theme is red and the prize is an EOS Canon EOS
5d Mark for body so a pretty good prize there we’ve given away one of these
before you can also see in our future competitions we’ve got like a $700
manfrotto tripod we’ve got a $3,400 Bron color cirrus lighting kit there then
September we’ve got whole Lee filters $500 Lee filters kit and then next
December probably another Canon 5d Mark for that
we’ll be giving away now the competition themes you can see motion for March 2019
beautiful light for June 2019 technology for September 2019 and architecture for
December 2019 so for competitions year quarterly competitions plenty of advance
warning for people to either look through their back catalogue of images
all go out and shoot something fresh to submit and you can submit entries
through the submission page now we also have our past competition winners so
that you can see the standard of the winners that have won free
yes Lee but what I want to do is point out a couple of tips really for those
people entering competitions not just our competition but any competition
these rules would be applicable or these guidelines I would say would be
applicable now I’ve made a few notes here because what one I don’t want to
forget anything about this but the first thing is the topic so you can see at the
moment this theme for December 2018 to win this canon 5d mark 4 the topic is
red the previous topics were macro was a previous one fast was a previous one
travel and culture a previous one and then the next one in March motion now
one of the important things with a competition is the topic is the theme
it’s in interpreting that theme and coming up with a picture where the
narrative of that picture the story of that picture or the mood or feeling of
that picture represents the theme now sometimes we get people say well what
does the theme mean you know what you know that for example fast that was a
previous one oh well does that mean I can put this type of image in or that
type of image or that well no we can’t tell you that okay we can give sometimes
a very vague description in addition to the theme but as the entrant to the
competition it is your idea it is your perception of the theme that is
important however it does seem that we get a lot of people enter that have
completely misunderstood the theme or they’ve just tried to throw in an image
that they think might get away with being close to the theme now I wouldn’t
recommend that okay because realistically we are going to judge the
competition strongly based on the topic and the theme if the image is off-topic
and it doesn’t coincide or have any relatable value to the theme then it’s
not going to score well no matter how good the images I mean if we have a
competition and the theme is fast and someone sends in an amazing picture
of I don’t know a pair of headphones or some amazing product shot or an amazing
Beauty shot and no matter how good that shot is if it doesn’t match the topic or
the theme such as fast in a previous one then it is not going to get any points
no matter how good the picture is so that’s the first thing to point out
don’t randomly throw pictures in just because they’re good and you like them
if they’re not on topic so let’s start by dealing with this problem of images
being off topic let me go into the competition fast for example because
there’s some really good examples in here we’re going to run through some of
the entrants that we received for fast that I would consider weren’t on topic
so here’s one image it’s an interesting image but it doesn’t it doesn’t really
say fast by any stretch of the imagination I’m afraid neither does that
I have no idea why that image came in under the theme fast I have no idea why
that image came in under the theme fast it does seem sometimes that
photographers want to send their work in just hoping that you will like the
picture and as I said no matter how good the picture is there’s no way it’s going
to get judged under the theme fast lovely food shot to some extent here but
it has absolutely nothing to do with the topic and the same with this one product
image nice product image nothing to do with theme fast this particular image
has absolutely nothing to do with the theme fast it’s the complete opposite in
that it is a completely still image now maybe paradoxically someone could read
something into that but I’m afraid as far as our competitions go that’s not
good the case and neither would this one no
this one now this one one could argue okay we have a Ferrari which is a fast
car but really all we’ve got here is a Ferrari that looks like it’s in a
showroom with a beautiful young lady sat in it with quite a busy background it
does not depict the theme fast okay so so those type of images I’m afraid and
not going to qualify let me show you what did qualify and what did win for
the theme fast and we can see that in first place this was the image that won
me zoom in on that a little bit for you so we have the scared and ski-jump
beautiful Twilight now we definitely understand that the feeling of fast the
second place winner was this beautiful image of this fighter jet we can
certainly perceive the theme fast the narrative fits and then third place this
spinning liquid moving around we can perceive the theme fast and all of those
three images were also well executed well composed well exposed images with
good narrative so that’s why they won and why they placed in that theme fast
the next thing we have to look at is the actual judging process in how do we
eliminate pictures how do we decide on the pictures that are going to win well
usually what happens out of all of the entries that we receive in we do a first
cull that’s myself and the team and we’ll eliminate things that are poorly
composed or poorly exposed or do not fit the topic and we eliminate all of those
straightaway we then segregate the images into sort of categories like what
we immediately think are potential winners and then possible winners and
then sort of possible next stage and then we’ll review those a few times to
get our heads around the images in case we missed anything double-check the
interpretation of the theme etc etc and then we’ll Whittle it down to a folder
of images and then between the team and I we’ll Whittle it
down a little bit further and then I’ll make the final decision on the final
choice and I normally Whittle that down to about six images for the three
potential prizes and then I’ll discuss with the team again for a little bit of
outside input on their opinions as well and then we will arrive at a decision
between us so that’s that the the judging process but if we again if we
have a look at some of the other examples of where photographers have
gone wrong let’s take a look at the theme for macro which was obviously a
previous competition that we ran let me show you some of the odd ones that came
in for macro so that we have a landscape image that came in under the theme macro
we have a strawberry now this is a close-up image but it’s more of a
product food image it’s certainly not macro where it’s in really really close
we have a dramatic portrait in you know very high contrast lighting with deep
shadows every no where does that come anything to do with macro that doesn’t
come anything to do with macro that doesn’t come anything to do with macro
and yet all of these images including this picture of Venice came in as
entries on the subject of macro photography so go figure
I’m afraid on this because I have no idea this particular image possibility
on the macro but it’s still really not macro enough and neither is that one so
there you can see the sort of odd entries that we get if we go into the
next category moments another great example of some reasons why images will
not place well have a look at these this will never
qualify I’m afraid because we asked for a single picture not a montage of
pictures now yes there are lots of moments happening there but in my
opinion this is kind of cheating the rules because you’re putting lots and
lots of photos just as a as a contact sheet and the rules strictly stated you
were allowed to enter one photo at a given size so I’m afraid that wouldn’t
qualify we have no idea how that came under the theme of moments really that
doesn’t either neither does that that possibly but it’s nicely lit in many
ways but it does look kind of artificial and over photoshopped and we will come
on to the subject of Photoshop in a sec in a second now moments yeah not really
applicable there and then here’s another common problem this one did actually
meet the subject of moments but it came in at a ridiculously low resolution so
and you can see how pixelated this one as well
the entrant made they said we allow 2000 pixels wide or on the long edge of our
entries and these ones came in at like 200 pixels so something really went
wrong with the entries perception of the sizing requirements as well now one of
the other common requirements is the one of the other common problems is
watermarking so these this came in and the theme of adventure but it has this
horrible massively imposing watermark on the image now I’m afraid that completely
destroys the photograph and we see this time and time again where we see these
massive big watermarks or big signatures on the image and I’m afraid as far as
judging for a competition purposes go we really aren’t going to score highly when
we have these very disturbing or imposing war
two marks on the image so so far we’ve looked at remaining on topic that’s key
not having big imposing watermarks on the image if you are going to add a
watermark keep it small keep it discreet and then we’ve got problems with
actually entering an image that is the right size it clearly says that you can
enter it 2000 pixels wide we have a video on our YouTube channel that shows
you how to resize your images clearly explains how to do that if you’re not
sure on how to resize your images but you know it still amazes me that we get
these images that are so off-topic so this particular theme is travel and
culture let’s take a look at let’s take a look at some of the problems that
occurred with these so first image well it is kind of related to travel and
culture but I I mean I must admit I was wondering whether this was a little bit
of a joke with this image in that it came in at a completely tilted skew if
angle the image isn’t even sharp there’s some motion blur from a slow shutter
speed and the composition obviously is miles off given the diagonal approach to
the image this image is a painting it’s not a he from a photograph anymore
so under travel and culture in a photography competition how can we
possibly score an image that is actually a painting and then we have an image
that is a photograph but again heavily Photoshop with this heavy vignette not
really going to cut it for us we want to try to retain at least mostly
photographic elements and if we are going to have Photoshop become part of
the part of the process then it’s got to be done in a discerning fashion with a
little bit of finesse in that Photoshop from our perspective shouldn’t really
impose itself on image it should almost go unnoticed you
should not even really be able to perceive it it just enhances the image
so I’m I’m not really keen on this sort of effect used as a post-production
technique this is also no problem this this one came in and it’s actually got
two images it’s got the travel and culture element on the left but then we
have this lady wearing a scarf as if it was a clothes advert on the right that
has nothing to do the theme and yet the two images came in joined together so
I’m afraid it was disqualified immediately so what I’m trying to do
here although it’s kind of comical and pointing some of these things out just
really trying to make people aware of some of the key things and if we take
the travel and culture winners so we can see here the winners this was the winner
first prize in the travel and culture center section perfectly exposed nicely
composed good narrative good atmosphere good lighting and it’s on theme and he
won first prize not a great one here Nicolas lodger oh great travel and
culture immer image here that was captured and then third place we really
liked this one as well so you can see the sort of thing that we’re requesting
all that we’re hoping for based on the themes of the subjects based on the
topic if we just also refer back to this element of Photoshop we have one image
here that was kind of on theme but really just look that this was for
adventure and one could perceive this as adventure that’s absolutely fine but the
post-production work I’m afraid on this one was a little bit overcooked a little
bit overkill so it started to deviate away from photography and became more
like artwork and painting again so there’s this there’s this thin line if
you like this threshold where we have to decide
you know we’re running a photography competition and whilst we allow
post-production we don’t want the entries to end up being a
post-production entry and that’s something that doesn’t look like a
photograph anymore and I think that is important to point out as well I guess
one of the easiest ways to ascertain your chances of winning a competition or
how you should relate to the competition or how you should interpret the
competition is to actually go back and look at previous winners so in our
competition section we have past competition winners listed and you can
clearly see from that the caliber of the work and the style and how on theme it
is and the quality of the type of images that we expect to win so those are some
of the key components being on topic quality of the image itself watermarks
and logos a big no-no strong narrative good quality good exposure good
composition obviously fitting the theme at the same time make sure that the
post-production work is not overpowering post-production should be sort of
indiscernible in many ways and you know concentrate on the details of the image
you know key things that absolute basics like is it in focus is their camera blur
is their motion blur is is the composition pleasing is the lighting
good are these elements going to work well given you know the the sort of
standards that we’re expecting to judge now hopefully that gave you a bit of an
insight into how we judge competitions and how we think you should put
potentially perceive competition entries going forwards now as I said it’s not
long till the closing date of December the 10th for our competition red and in
that competition we have a Canon 5d Mark 4 up for grabs so those of you that are
able to enter we hope and look forward to receiving some great entries thanks
very much for watching we’ll see you next time you

47 Replies to “How to Win Photography Competitions + the judging process explained”

  1. Would a picture of the moon be considered macro? JK 😀
    Anyway, I really dislike watermarks and feel any watermark (unless it is less than 1×1 pixel) should lower the score. It adds a distracting and unnecessary element to the image intentionally. It is like submitting a landscape photo of Mount Everest or other nature photo, and having some fast food/ takeout trash in the foreground.

  2. Hello Karl Taylor, reason I'm sending this comment I just saw two images on your video I didn't not apply for competition can you tell me who's the one sending that to images..

  3. Brevity is not my strength either, but dear God this video takes a long time to say anything. The entire thing could have just said "read the instructions" and "don't kid yourself". A real lack of self-edit going on here.

  4. Some of those entries where surprising, considering the theme. Thanks for the laugh, needed it after the day I have personally had.

  5. Have you had issues or concerns with terminology having cultural or language differences? For example, 'fast' may refer to motion but it also to food or a meal (break-fast or fasting) or knot or a lock.

  6. It’s like at the airport when people are queuing up rapidly at the first announcement…..let me get in!!! I still ask myself what to think of such situations…I fully get you on that Karl. I wonder whether it’s gonna change, ha;-)

  7. Well Karl, that just shows the urgent need to educate those people in more than one way….
    I have to say i'm surprised by the high quality of your former winners as they all seem to pay the monthly fee to access your trainings, good advertising for you since so far i was thinking for myself it would hardly be worth it as everything i've seen so far for free was good, no question, but pretty basic and not really new to me.

  8. Hi Karl, great vlog to try and educate entrants. I've been a judge on online fb photo contest pages. The amount of times people try to shoehorn a picture of there cat,dog or other pet into the competition theme is laughable.

  9. Is this really an instructional video or just a come on to get you to enter their contest by paying $14.99 a month to be a member?  If anyone needs to be told the picture needs to match the theme of the contest, they aren't going to be winning many photo contests.

  10. Hello! Maybe someone interpreted the theme "Fast" as "Not eating", that would probably explain why someone sent food photos. Given the winner I guess the theme was "high speed"

  11. i really can't see my entry getting in the top 3 but i wish i could've seen their faces when they saw it 😀 should make it through he first cull though

  12. This was a lot of fun to watch, Karl. I know that's gotta be super irritating to go through all of those photos that aren't even close. "I have no idea with this one." LOL! Gotta straighten these people out, man.

  13. It was long video, but listening was fun. I ike this ENERGY that is behind his nicely put wordings. I admire this channel if nothing else for Karl's diction.

  14. If sometime in the future would enter a competition, I would definitely make sure that the image I send does fit the theme for the competition

  15. You forget that photographers are the exact same as professional footballers…Very very good at their profession but complete FUCKWITS in every
    other aspects of life. Most have trouble knowing the correct way to face when sitting upon a toilet and that is why you get sent so many off topic pics for your comps.

  16. As a how to win video this does not pass… However it does qualify for "I am taking the opportunity to rant and shame entries which have wasted my time and pissed me off"

  17. Great video. I am somewhat new to the art of photography, please take a look at some of my aerial photography videos and subscribe if you can.

  18. In other words: 1. Read the brief thoroughly, 2. Use your own interpretations that will conform to the brief, 3. Any post productions should be discreet if not invisible to the naked eye.

  19. Like with the Huawei Photo competition. I took some time to read the brief thoroughly before submitting any pictures and it said that the pictures being submitted should be taken with a Huawei product. And since all pictures usually have metadata information that eliminates my entry because I don't have a Huawei product to use. Nor could I afford one, even for rent.

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