Pros & Cons of Entering Photo Contests

I’m sure you’ve seen all the different photo contests out there on the internet. You could make it a full time job applying because there are so many. But before you do, think about the pros and cons and this will help you narrow it down a bit. 

First, the PRO’s:


  • Exposure

When you enter a photo contest, you put your work out there for the world to see. Win or lose, this exposure builds your recognition and reputation, increases the size of your audience, and is a sound marketing strategy.  It’s also a great excuse to reach out to your current client base with news of your entry.  And you never know, potential clients just may take a look at your entry and head straight for your website to see more, buy a print of your entry, or schedule a photo session.

  • Motivation

Competition is a great motivator when it comes to both feeding your ambition and driving the creative process.  If you win, it’s a real ego boost and a surefire confidence builder.  You’ll be feeling pretty good about your work so go ahead and brag a little!  If you lose, all is not lost – you have an opportunity to increase your efforts and try harder!  Take a close look at the winners because you can learn a lot.  It’s really a win/win because you’ll be motivated either way.

  • Rewards  

Who doesn’t love winning?  Exposure, accolades, recognition – these are all exhilarating and vindicating, but cash or other prizes are pretty sweet too.  Whatever it is that you win, everyone agrees prizes are awesome! Just remember – entering solely for a material payoff would be selling yourself short.  Prizes are really just the icing on the cake of your talent and accomplishments.  Even if the prize is something you think you can’t use, that shouldn’t deter you from entering.  The prize may be something you can gift, barter with, save for later, or use in other ways. For instance, say you won a CMD website but already own one – you could use it towards hosting a second site or share it with a friend.

Now a few Con’s:

  • Ulterior motives

The organizers could be just looking to make money (who isn’t?) or there could be more nefarious motives at work, like obtaining cheap images by grabbing the rights to your photos.  Be careful not to give away your rights! Read the rules and fine print – language such as “…all entries become the property of…” is a red flag. Reputable contests will never require you to give up your copyright!

  • It’s an investment

Entering multiple contests can be time consuming and the benefits aren’t always immediate.  Be picky and enter only the contests that you think are worth your time.  Your time is valuable, and so is your work!  If there’s a cash prize involved, there will probably be an entry fee, but oftentimes this goes toward  paying for the winner’s prize or may even be donated to a charity organization.  Just be cautious and don’t spend too much money on entering contests unless you really think the payoff will be worth it. There are plenty of contests out there that don’t require an entry fee!  CMD has weekly and monthly photo contests that won’t cost you a dime.

  • Losing is disappointing 

Be prepared to face the fact that you WILL lose – everyone does!  Competition at the national or international levels can be fierce, and the number of entries can reach the thousands.  Start small and your chances of winning increase.  Judges can have very diverse tastes, so their selections can be highly subjective.  If the contest is based on “people’s choice” votes, the chosen winner may be more a result of popularity and social media sharing than the actual quality of the work – so take it with a grain of salt!  Persistence pays off, and if you adopt a positive spin you can use it as inspiration to do better next time.

For a few helpful tips on winning a photo contest CLICK HERE.