Photographic Competitions and Exhibitions

Author: Ian Whiting

There are a number of non-BCC photographic competitions and exhibitions that photographers can enter. They offer another interesting outlet for your favourite shots as well as inspiration/motivation for taking some different images. Check out a competition, note the closing date and theme, plan and make some images to meet the requirements.

Most only need you to upload one or more digital images, usually on a selected theme, by a certain date. Some may require prints. Many of these are free to enter. Some offer prizes and the others give you satisfaction, bragging rights and/or an award, certificate or medal.


Check the Terms and Conditions (click to expand)

Ensure the T&Cs are acceptable for you. Do read them. Understandably all competitions permit them to display or print all images free of charge for the promotion aspects of their competitions. Some include the right to display (or even market) winning or all submitted images worldwide. A few even try to claim copyright of ALL entries, winners or otherwise (I suggest you avoid these unless the prizes are exceptionally valuable)

FREE or CHARGED (click to expand)

Fee or free? When entry fees are charged be aware of the conditions.

  • Some are expensive and others less so or FREE.
  • Some might be free for the first entry but charge for two or more.
  • Some might allow a few, e.g. 4, entries for the single fee, but these may or may not be limited within each category or theme.
  • Some may require you to purchase a set of coupons and each competition within that site dictates how many coupons are needed for that competition.
  • Some require you to be in a particular place or time when the photograph is taken, which may cost you time and grounds entrance fee
  • Print competitions require you to make a print and mail it in, plus return postage where offered or required
  • Consider the likely number of entries to evaluate your chance of winning against the cost of entry. A competition may publish how many entries were received last year and how many winners will be chosen this year. Remember: judging is always subjective, your brilliant image may come nowhere against their “why did that win?” first choice.
Carefully note the entry conditions (click to expand)

These can be very specific to the competition. Typically they may include one or more of:

  • Start and end date for submissions
  • Maximum number of submissions
  • Digital and/or Prints accepted
  • Maximum dimensions in pixels (or print size; mounted or not)
  • Maximum digital file size in KB or MB
  • Digital image format (e.g. JPG, sRGB, TIF)
  • Digital file naming specifications (e.g. “Your title BY authors name.jpg”)
  • Text of author’s intention
  • Colour and/or mono
  • Content (e.g. macro, wildlife, portrait, landscape)
  • Unretouched or only basic editing permitted (often a requirement for wildlife and street)
  • Model and property releases when required
  • Unique (i.e. cannot have been entered into any other competition),
  • The work and copyright are all your own
  • Camera make
  • Location (e.g. National Trust properties)
  • Author’s residence (e.g. maybe open only to UK photographers or open worldwide)
  • Theme (e.g. portrait, landscape, macro, flower, wildlife.) Often wildlife competitions have a strict set of additional rules, e.g. cannot be a captive animal
  • Categories (e.g., professional, amateur, age groups)
  • No watermarks or identification on image (just about all competitions have this rule)
Digital Image Size and Mixing Pixels with DPI (click to expand)

The competition rules should specify the digital image in pixels or maximum file size in KB. Sometime they will specify a DPI setting, e.g. 300 dpi.

An image file can be specified in either

  • (a) maximum PIXELS 
  • (b) INCHES (or mm/cm) at a specified DPI

Almost all competitions will use option (a), usually saying the long edge must not exceed X pixels or must be between X and Y pixels.

Option (b) would be so unusual that I won’t even consider it here

However if the rules ask for pixels and at a certain DPI then this mix is either pointless or, more likely, the organiser has not a good grasp of image specifications. Nevertheless you will see some competition rules that say, for example, 1600 pixels at 300 DPI.

In this case I would suggest you only work in PIXELS and ignore the DPI. Save the image at the number of pixels.

If your software also allows you to set the DPI (sometime called RESOLUTION) then by all means do so but DO NOT let it change the number of pixels. Example, in the Lightroom Export module you might use settings like this where the image must not exceed 1600px by 1200px nor 5MB file size but specifies 300DPI…

If you are in any doubt then I would suggest you ignore the specified DPI and just work in the stated PIXELS

Maximum File Size (KB or MB)

Often the rules will state that the image file must not exceed a specified size, e.g. 2MB.

First save the image at the largest pixel size you can but also not to exceed any stated maximum pixel size.

Now check the file size. If this file exceeds the specified max file size you need to go back and resize it smaller in pixels or save it at a lower quality, your choice. After saving the file check it again.

Judging (click to expand)
  • Some competitions have an eminent panel of experienced judges
  • Some use “lay” judges, e.g. the organising company’s sales manager.
  • The People’s Choice. Some may open the judging to anyone who cares to view your image on the web or, more encouragingly, the judges select the top 20 and then leave it open for anyone to choose the winner. You might enjoy the idea of everyone voting for your image but personally I avoid these. It can simply be down to how many friends or “social media followers” the photographer can encourage to vote for their picture and so much less to do with the image’s merit. I feel that if I am going to spend time or money entering a competition then I want it to be fair.
Be Prepared to Win (click to expand)

Before you enter be sure you know what you need to do should you be one of the winners or potential winners.

Sometimes the judges will insist their top selections upload a large size version and this may even need to be the original RAW image, before the winning entries are announced. If this is a requirement it will be in the T&Cs.

They may need this to check the authenticity of the image or to ensure they have a printable version. Be aware of this and ensure you have an adequately large or RAW image available should you be chosen.

If you fail to submit the large/RAW image by a specified date you will be disqualified and removed from the potential winners’ shortlist or the prize will be awarded to another image.

A few years ago a club member said their excellent image had been shortlisted for one of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards (arguably the most prestigious wildlife competition one could enter) but devastatingly had lost the original RAW and had to withdraw.


Competitions…

The list below is competitions that usually have at least one per year, sometimes more frequently. Always check their website as conditions may differ. Alphabetic order.

(More to come)

Competition Notes
British Photographic Exhibitions Multiple photographic exhibitions for prints and digital. CHARGED, Medals won. Also see “salons” below
Historic Houses Theme an image from a HHA property, FREE, annual competition, prize.
IGPOTY International Garden Photographer of the Year, world wide, CHARGED, prizes, multiple themes
National Trust Open to NT and non-NT members, FREE, prizes, read the rules and the image guidance notes
PAGB Several inter-club competitions. But Masters of Print is entered individually from any member of an affiliated club. CHARGED, medals
Photo Crowd Multiple competitions, themed, FREE for 1 entry CHARGED for two or more entries / competition
The Photographer Academy Monthly Critique, open to all, FREE. Live, online image critiques. The top 5 or 10 get into their monthly/annual e-book
The Photographic Angle Themed, UK based, FREE, holds regular print exhibitions (they print the winners free of charge)and regular competitions with small prizes.
RPS The Royal Photographic Society run regular FREE digital and print competitions for their members, including the monthly 365
Salons Photographic salon exhibitions for prints and digital. CHARGED, Medals won, examples: Bristol, London
View Bug Multiple, regular contests. Themed, FREE & CHARGED. Prizes
Wildlife Photographer of the Year Annual, run by the NH Museum, London, Prestigious. Categories and themes. Prizes. CHARGED. Important, read the rules and the FAQ
World Photography Organisation Categories, FREE, currently sponsored by Sony, prestigious, prizes
Zeiss Photography Award Prestigious, FREE, 5 to 10 image series, themed, associated with the World Photography Organisation, prizes

Other Lists

Falmouth


If you know of any other regular photographic competitions suitable for UK based, BCC members to enter please email the web page link and brief details. Thanks, Ian