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Jul 5, 2023

How to organize a picture-perfect photo contest

Photo contests can be an amazing opportunity to showcase and promote talent, offer inspiration to both participants and evaluators and boost your brand and image as an organizer. Let’s see how to make it happen from start to finish and how the right photo judging software can help you out. 


Picture your goals 

Before organizing your awards in earnest, you need a solid foundation to build on. Knowing why you are organizing a contest in the first place will ensure you make the most out of it. To help you out, below we’ve listed several reasons for running photo awards: 

  • Exposure for talented photographers — you can showcase and celebrate talent, regardless of whether you want to award established industry veterans or provide a platform to kickstart the career of a future photography superstar; 
  • Promote new trends and best practices — you can use the photo awards as a platform to shine a light on the most deserving work, as well as show new trends and concepts in the industry;
  • Support a cause — photo awards are an excellent way to support a cause or promote awareness about an issue, and naturally, the cause or the issue in question will help you set the theme of the contest; 
  • Create buzz for your brand — even if photography is not your organization’s main pursuit, organizing this type of awards will promote your brand, engage your community, and get you some positive publicity;  
  • Use as a marketing tool — awards competitions are a powerful marketing tool, making them a win-win for organizers and entrants alike. As such, they can broaden your reach and customer base, and secure new leads and partnerships. 

So, think about what you want to achieve with your awards and focus your efforts in the right direction. 


Define your timeline, requirements, and fees   

This is where you need to put in some planning to define the different elements of your awards, now that you have a goal in place. 

1. Start with the timeline

Set a timeline for your awards, keeping in mind that you need to plan for registration, entry submission, evaluation, and winner announcement. In addition, you need to define the eligibility period for your awards — meaning, when the photos which would compete were taken. 

2. Think about requirements

This should be fairly easy if you have the goals in place. Some of the things you should consider at this stage include: 

  • Professional or amateur photographers — you can recognize established talent,  discover rising stars, or why not both? If you go for the last option though, make sure to have separate categories with different requirements; 
  • Decide on the type of photos — landscape, portrait, abstract, product, animal — you have multiple options but you don’t necessarily need to choose, just make sure your photo contest has enough categories. 

3. Consider entry fees 

Will you charge entry fees? They are a great way to generate revenue for your organization and will result in higher-quality submissions, especially if your competition targets professional photographers. On the flip side, they might deter some amateur photographers. This means that the decision of whether to charge entry fees will be largely contingent on the goals of your competition. 

A good solution is having a mix of free and paid categories or introducing promo codes and special offers that will add an element of exclusivity and lift your submission rates.  


Don’t forget about the prizes 

Now, to secure good submission rates and justify a potential entry fee, you need to think about what to offer in return. Check out these ideas:

  • Physical prize — if you organize an amateur competition, having photography equipment as the prize is a no-brainer. Professional photographers can also benefit from this type of prize, especially if it’s in the form of a voucher for a specialized photography store;
  • A trophy, certificate, and digital seal — a real-life trophy (maybe even camera-shaped), physical and digital certificates, as well as digital seals and other promotional materials — just one of those or a combination will enable applicants to brag about the third-party recognition they have received;   
  • Exposure — promotion across all your channels, your brand’s third-party recognition, and possibly circulating printouts of the best photographs in a calendar or a booklet; 
  • A money prize or a paid gig for the winner — the former is a classic, while the latter is a good choice for a local awards competition where you or a partner of your organization hires the winner for a product photo shoot, or to capture a company event, team building, etc. This way the winner gets money, work experience, and additional exposure.   

Regardless of the specific prize you go for, don’t forget that you need to recognize all entrants in some lasting way, such as by showcasing their photographs in a dedicated online space.  


What about evaluation?

Decide on how to go about choosing the winners. You have the following options: 

  • A professional jury — a panel of experts evaluating the photographs will lend extra credibility to your awards program and will ensure that the winners really excel at what they do; 
  • Public voting — having the public vote for their favorite entries will ensure the broader appeal and recognition of the images;  
  • A combination — you can have the best of both worlds by setting up both judging and public voting rounds. 


Don’t forget to market your contest

Just like your entrants expect exposure as a result of participating, your program also needs exposure to be a success which is where awards marketing comes in. Make sure to budget for social media ads and other types of advertising that will spread the word to your target audience. 


Choose the right software to help you out 

To run a successful photo contest, you will need the right judging software to lend you a hand with all of the above and more. Evalato makes organizing photo awards a breeze by helping you: 

  • Set up a program quickly — you can get started in a snap, starting from scratch or using Evalato’s pre-configured customizable photo awards template
  • Collect entries easily — Evalato’s embeddable registration form, single image, and gallery upload options, as well as the user-friendly applicant portal help you boost conversions and secure high entrant rates; 
  • Empower evaluation — Evalato has you covered with a next-gen portal for judges, and public voting space accessible with a social login, regardless of what type of voting you go for; 
  • Showcase winners — while the contest prizes are up to you, you can count on Evalato for a ready-made webpage where you can showcase your entrants and winners;
  • Analyze results & grow — Evalato’s analytics will give you the insight necessary to perfect and expand the next edition of your program. 

These are just some of the functionalities that make Evalato a top-notch judging software choice for a photo contest.  


The big picture 

Photo contests are a great way to capture and show some beauty to the world, not to mention they can do wonders for up-and-coming photographers and garner some excellent publicity for your brand in the process. And with a contest management tool like Evalato to streamline your program from beginning to end, you can focus on the big picture — growing your awards, brand reputation, and impact. 

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