Seven sure ways to -NOT- win our photo contest! (Read this, improve your chances!)


posted Wednesday, June 15, 2016 at 1:57 PM EST


$300 goes a long way towards camera gear these days, and that's exactly what you'll receive if you win the top prize in our photo contest each month. It comes in the form of a gift certificate to Adorama that's as good as cash towards your next camera body, the new lens you've been dreaming about or that awesome new travel tripod you've been wanting. Second and third prize gift certificates of $200 and $100, respectively, are also awarded each month, so you have 36 chances per year at a real prize!

But... too many of you, including some frequent contributors, are making easily avoidable mistakes that are getting your images discarded before the judging even begins. This was such a bad month for simple mistakes, with so many otherwise worthy images rejected that I felt compelled to post something on the topic, a condensed list of things to avoid *at all costs*. If you'd like a bit more depth, there's a link below for a story we penned last Fall that offers even more guidance and useful tips, not only for our own contest, but for other contests as well.

As a quick reminder, here are some pretty clear "Thou shalt nots" for avoiding the trash bin in our contest. Want a chance at the monthly prizes? Here's what you need to sign up for:

• I will not submit more than 3 images per month

We've altered our system so that it now automatically
discards your images if more than 3 per month are submitted.
We're not interested in your 20 favorite images.
They can't all win. Send your best.

• I will not put a border around my image

Borders are crutches for weak images. They may be OK
for framing and printing for grandma, but not here.

• I will not put a watermark on my image

We understand that you want to protect your property, but your name will always be
displayed prominently beside your image, and watermarks are easily removed by thieves anyway. If you can't live without one, it needs to be *very* unobtrusive or the judges won't consider your image at all. (If you don't believe us, go look at our Winner's Gallery.)

• I will crop my image carefully

We see way too many good images that would have worked if they were either
cropped a bit tighter (or at all), or not so tight that a bird's wing gets chopped off.
Pay close attention to your cropping; it can make or break your photo.
(For what it's worth, too little cropping is much more often a problem than too much.)

• I will not over-sharpen nor over-saturate my image

Over-sharpened images sting the eyes, as do over-saturated ones.
If some color is good, more is not automatically better.
Very rarely, extreme color saturation can be a part of the creative effect.
- Like 0.1% of the time...
SO many good photos get tossed due to over-the-top processing.

• I will straighten my image

Bodies of water (the ocean, lakes, etc) don't tilt downhill. Broad horizons are level.
Whether it's a tall building, trees or a distant horizon, take a few seconds to straighten things up. I mean really: it takes less than a minute, and we throw out a lot of images with tilted oceans and horizons.

• I will only submit well-exposed images

We received so many dark images this past month I was wondering if my monitor was going bad. Moody images can be OK, but too dark is too dark. Unless it's a deliberately low-key image, some highlight somewhere should be white.

•   •   •

An example of the prize-winning images from a month in our contest.

So there you have it! These seven mistakes are easy to avoid, and if you do so you'll be a thousand miles closer to the chance at a real prize in our contest, and likely most others as well. If you'd like to see more tips please click the link below, and if you've taken the oath and are ready to submit an entry, please do!

Submit your entry

See our Winner's Gallery

How to NOT win a photo contest (more detail, more tips) •

[Co-written with Dave Etchells]


An example of the prize-winning images from a month in our contest.