I try to impress upon my students how helpful viewing and entering photographs in competitions can be. When subjects and topics are provided – the sky is the limit – and you have the ability to become as creative as you wish.
Competitions dictate to us the subject or topic of a photograph. This means you are able to view the photographs and decide for yourself if you “see” the subject or topic. This is a great exercise which helps you develop your photographic and creative eye. You can also look at the photograph critically to see what you would do differently. Would you have shoot from another angle? Would you have made the photograph B/W or kept in color? Would you have taken a completely different photograph all together? Would you have used depth-of-field differently?
Entering competitions gives us a chance to showcase our best and get feedback which helps you grow as a photographer. Having others look at your work and provide you with constructive feedback helps you correct mistakes you may not know are making. Are you using a bokah affect too much? Could you have cropped a tad tighter? Would a different orientation made your subject stand out more?
Why enter competitions and contests when is subjective? You build a photographer vocabulary as you critique photographs and have yours critiqued as well. You learn to say “This photograph has powerful lighting which really highlights your subject.” instead of saying “Cool lighting!”. You learn to say “The depth of field really shows the details in your subject.” instead of saying “WOW! Look at all the pollen in the center of that flower!”. “You did a great job emphasizing the subject with those foreground elements.” sounds much better than “What a beautiful picture!”.
Whether viewing or participating, competitions help you improve your photography. Critiquing others and having others critique you helps refine your eye and therefore, improve your compositions.
Another advantage of viewing and entering competitions is to learn about and meet new photographers. Interacting with other photographers gives you a chance to compare your work to other photographers which is another way of helping you to develop your creative eye. Colloborating with other photographers will also stimulate your creativity by giving you a forum to discuss ideas, techniques, and skills.
Finally, remember, the ultimate goal in participating in photography contests is not to win…. although that is a great benefit!! Enter contests to learn, expand your skills, and have fun!