12 Photography Tips to Capture That Winning Shot

Nothing boost and compliments a photographer like winning or even get nominated in a highly regarded competition. In order for all these to take place, one must participate in a competition as a first step because a photography competition is also a great way to understand your skills and sharpen your perspective.

As mentioned, submit yourself to a competition is the first step, but how do you capture the ever demanding judges’ attention?

For the basic, you must understand the theme, rules and regulation, requirement and most importantly the media format. Make sure your photos fits the theme and do some research on why some photos can make it and the reason why some just does not.

All these seems pretty easy to understand and people usually took it very lightly but this is one of the reason that might fail you.

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Here are the 12 elements that define a winning photographic print. Use it as your guide to increase your chances of winning any photographic competition.

1. Impact

The image should make an impact to the viewer upon seeing it the first time. It has to evoke an intense emotion that is compelling. They have an odd quality about them, such that they adhere to your psyche and refuse to let go. You tend to stare long because the photo sticks to you in some way.

Buddhist Monk, Thailand by Stephen Shaver

Credit: Buddhist Monk, Thailand by Stephen Shaver

2. Composition

Bring out the idea of the image thru visual elements in your composition. Create a visual focal points to isolate your subject. Be original. Avoid cliches. Think about what it is you are trying to say and how you can best convey this in your composition.

Effective composition can be pleasing or disturbing, depending on your intention. The viewer’s eye should be drawn to the center of attention naturally.

Rooftop Golf, New York Photo by Landon Nordeman

Credit: Rooftop Golf, New York Photo by Landon Nordeman

3. Lighting

Getting a perfect exposure is very important when it comes to creating detail and dimension which defines an image. Lighting is the key to creating images that stands out. Proper use of lighting can enhance your photo.

Knowing about the various qualities of light can help you arrange your shots to best advantage. High temperature light sources lean towards the blue spectrum and low temperature sources are extra reddish in color.

Too much light will get you a washed out picture. Too little light will make your photo too dark and has too many shadows. When the light gives up more contrast, your photo will have more detail, shape and texture.

Tokay Gecko by Erin Yard

Credit: Tokay Gecko by Erin Yard

4. Technique

What was the method used to create the image? Let the judges see your artistic eye. Try to capture the exceptional and the unusual and make the most of it. Be aware of the right moment, unique colors, and quality of light as well as its graphic elements when taking the shot.

Staccato by King Douglas

Credit: Staccato by King Douglas

5. Print Presentation

A high-quality print starts with a good negative or digital file. It must be correctly exposed prior to printing it. Glossy photo prints are shiny and vibrant in colors but hard to view when reflected by intense light. Matte finish is best suited for black & white images but the texture can make a photo look grainy.

Death Valley National Park by Michael Melford

Credit: Death Valley National Park by Michael Melford

6. Creativity

How did you express your imagination through the concept you want to convey on your photo? The image should show the original idea, message or thought that you did more than just copy some other photographer’s style.

Picador by Joseba Ibarra

Credit: Picador by Joseba Ibarra

7. Center of Interest

The viewer’s eye should be drawn naturally to the center of attention. Any leading lines should direct to that point without making the viewer’s eye jump to and fro around the image.

Cavern Explorer, Tennessee by Stephen Alvarez

Credit: Cavern Explorer, Tennessee by Stephen Alvarez

8. Color Balance

The tones and color should work together in harmony or be used in contrast to stir up a mixture of feelings. The color has to be realistic and does not clash on each other. A good mixture of color can produce dramatic effects.

Montgolfieres by Armel Couette

Credit: Montgolfieres by Armel Couette

9. Style

Various fields of photography require a different style and perspective. The techniques used may vary based on the subject, the situation and the theme of the contest.

Whirling Dervish by Nour Elrefai

Credit: Whirling Dervish by Nour Elrefai

10. Subject Matter

Try to look for a subject that is truly extraordinary and that stands out among the popular subject matter entered in the competition.

Feast of the Sacrifice by James Nachtwey

Credit: Feast of the Sacrifice by James Nachtwey

11. Technical Excellence

The printing, sharpness, exposure, retouching, correct color and mounting are some points that shows the quality of the physical print.

Boom Boom Christophe Kiciak

Credit: Boom Boom Christophe Kiciak

12. Story Telling

As Ansel Adams used to say, “There is nothing worse than a brilliant image of a fuzzy concept.” A photo can convey emotion, mood, narrative, ideas and messages. These are the elements that make a statement and tell a story.

Circumcision Ritual, South Africa by James Nachtwey

Credit: Circumcision Ritual, South Africa James Nachtwey