How to Win Photography Competitions + the judging process explained

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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