Are you a good photographer? Enter our Photo Of The Day contest! (we offer tips to help you win)


posted Friday, March 21, 2014 at 3:24 PM EDT


Ah… to support yourself with your craft. Now that is a dream many artists aspire to and so few achieve. But just getting recognition for your talents and winning awards is also fulfilling, especially when accompanied by a nice prize to go along with the recognition.

Our Photo Of The Day contest is a great chance for you to have your photography seen on our site and possibly even win a prize at the end of the month. All you need to do is shoot a compelling photograph, send it to us via our contest submission page and we'll do the rest. Our team takes great pride in the time we spend examining every submitted image and weighing each one on both artistic and technical merit. We receive hundreds of submissions per month, and less than 10% make the cut, so for any of you who have been recognized in previous days and months, you can indeed be proud of this achievement.

After each month is complete we print out the daily winners, post them to a big viewing display (a tilted drafting table beneath one of the skylights in our conference area) and our editorial team launches into a lively debate over which ones deserve our monthly awards. Once we whittle the month's daily winners down to 10 prime candidates, we have a secret-ballot vote and the top 5 for the month are chosen, with the top 3 winning prizes.

First prize is currently a $300 gift certificate from Adorama, one of our trusted affiliates, and a really great camera gear provider, with second and third prizes taking home $200 and $100 gift certificates, respectively. And, of course, winners and runners-up have this respected award to wow their friends and colleagues and add to their shooting resumes as well.

"Cleansing" by Lorenzo Cassina was our monthly first-prize winner in Janurary

To help you in this quest, below are a few hints to help better your chances at being selected as both a daily and monthly winner:

• It's your choice to process the image to your liking, including sharpness, saturation, HDR, creative filters, etc, but what we're looking for first and foremost is a good photograph. If the first thing we see is the processing itself, a photo won't usually make the grade. When we see a great photo, we may discuss what (if any) processing we might notice, but that's after the fact. Every now and then we'll choose a photo that used a special creative filter or post-processing effect as a dominant part of its aesthetic, but those circumstances are the exception rather than the norm, so it's wise to limit your use of them for this contest. We aren't looking for outer-worldly, HDR'd, or hugely contrasty photos unless the image itself really stands on its own in terms of composition, framing, etc, so simple is usually better.

• For heaven's sake, pay attention to the horizon and verticals! We can't count the number of great shots that didn't make the cut because the ocean was tilted, buildings were obviously leaning, etc. A moment or two two to straighten up your image in even the most basic photo editor could be the difference between a monthly winner or your image not even being seen.

• Don't be afraid to crop your image! This is another surprisingly frequent failing. We so often see photos that have the makings of a truly great image, if only the photographer had cropped more tightly, to eliminate distracting foreground or background elements, or to just draw attention more closely to the primary subject. Before submitting a photo, put it up on your screen, make a little frame with your hands (the way you see the stereotypical "director" do in movies), and see if cropping in a little (or even a lot) might not produce a better picture.

• Borders: we really dislike borders, so you'll do yourself a favor not to use them. While we occasionally let a great photo through that has a border, we generally view them as gimmicky, and have seen many otherwise great photos ruined by a border (or two or three).

• It's best to leave off your signature – we've sadly discarded a lot of otherwise excellent photos that were ruined by an obtrusive signature. Rest assured your name will show up prominently below the photo on our site, so everyone will know it's yours. If you absolutely insist on adding a signature, make it discreet, and at the bottom, so it interferes as little as possible with your shot. (And yes, we do occasionally vote a photo in as a monthly winner, even though it has a signature on it. But wouldn't you rather not have your photo need to fight against that handicap?)

• Vignetting: just say no.

• Don't get all wild and crazy with saturation, either. This was somewhat covered in the earlier point about processing your images, but it deserves special mention because we see so much of it. Cranking the saturation up to 100 doesn't automatically make a sunset, blue sky, green trees, or even fall colors look better. Slightly bright color is generally fine, but it needs to be believable, not garish. Occasionally (and we mean very occasionally), extreme saturation can be used to good advantage as an artistic effect. It takes a lot of skill and artistry to pull this off, though, in 99.99% of the cases, pumped saturation is going to hurt, rather than help.

• While we ask you to limit submissions to one per month, we're OK if you send two or three, but please don't send more than this (you know who you are out there!).

• Don't rely on one month's patterns to determine your submissions, which is to say, if you see 4 birds one month this doesn't mean we're looking more for birds. In fact, it more likely means that we'll be "birded out" the next month, so to speak.

• If there's one category we need more of it's people/portraits, but we really do love seeing all types of shots, and showing a diversity from month to month. (Also, "people/portraits" doesn't mean random snapshots of your kids, grandkids, boy/girlfriend, etc. We're looking for thoughtful, carefully-composed photographs, not the dozens of snapshots that probably look great to the photographer simply because the subject is a loved one.) We could also use a bit more astrophotography.

• When possible, please name your JPEG with the same name as you gave it on the contest submission - this helps us tremendously.

"Mullaghmore Island" by Sean Rooney won our First Prize in December

We'd like to take this opportunity to say a very special thanks to our "regulars" - those of you who submit fabulous photos throughout the year on a consistent basis. You make our jobs and our contest so much more interesting and enjoyable, and we are grateful.

And to anyone who has yet to enter our contest, there's no time like the present!

"Elegance" by David Apeji won our contest for the month of July 2013
(An example of a great "people shot", by the way)