Photo Competition Tips.

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Photo Competition Tips.


15th June 2017, Singapore – As most of you know by now, Ourshutterjourney organizes many nation-wide photography competitions & exhibitions with our corporate partners. I’ve played many roles from being a regular Judge to the Curator for exhibitions for different campaigns and I am sharing some tips here on how to ensure your competition entry gets accepted. Recently we are running our annual signature competition & exhibition which is a national level campaign that allows submission and participation from the general public.

As I write, about 10% of the entries had been rejected for various reasons and along with the feedback from the administrators who are tasked with screening the entries, I’ve decided to write this article on competition participation tips and hopefully it can help you in some ways and not have your precious entry getting rejected for the stupidest of reasons.

Tips #01 – Read Terms & Conditions.
All Competition Organizers will have their set of rules, conditions, requirements and in most cases, all these will be published publicly on their website. It doesn’t hurt to read a bit more before you submit. In stricter than usual competitions, usually rejections can be due to the most trivial missing details like contact number, name etc. There will also be other terms like – if your submitted image will be used (or abused) and lose your ownership rights so you have to read carefully. However, do remember, if you do submit, legally it means you have accepted the terms & conditions stated and if you found your image being used elsewhere later, you really have no case against the organizer. Will talk more about this later in this article. In summary, please read the Terms & Conditions of any photography competitions before you submit.

Tips #02 – Required Details.
Depending on the organizer, different level of personal details will be required. Some is needed for your to collect your cash prizes, some is for verifying your identity and nationality, so is for auditing purposes and so on. If the terms & conditions stated that you need to furnish any form of information, you need to abide. For example, recently there’s a competition that requires the participant to furnish just a name & a contact number, that was easy – and then there’s another competition that requires Name, NRIC, Emails, Contact Number, DOB, Address etc etc. Now, for the latter, if you forget to add any one of the required information, your entry will be deemed as incomplete and rejected. So read carefully what are the details required. If you are concerned over your personal details being leaked and not willing to furnish to the organizer, then I will suggest that you do not participate. You have the choice & decision.


Tips #03 – Check Image Requirements.

While there are many competitions out there, many failed to check & read what the organizers want of your images. Some accepts all kind of images of any orientation while some only accepts strictly a stipulated orientation so just be sure and do not end up having your entry rejected just because you had shot an awesome image in portrait-orientation but the competition only accepts landscape-orientation images. And size, yes, some competition allows any image size, but some requires the image to be of a certain image size (pixel size). Like our Snapshot Series Competition & Exhibition, entries will be selected for exhibition and how do you expect the organizers to print your 45kb image into a Super 8R size? Go figure.

Tips #04 – Image Ownership Rights.

Some say photography competitions are CON-petition. Well, I am sure by now you have heard of photographers complaining about their images being abused, used without permission etc. Going back to Tip #01, you should understand that you have to read the terms & conditions carefully. Once you submit your image, you may lose the copyrights or ownership rights to your own image! Some organizers may state clearly in their terms but if you did not read, then it’s really your problem. However, some organizers may use your submitted image to promote the competition then really its OK. You get featured and You still own the images. So read and be really anal about this clause.




Tips #05 – The Judges or Photography Partner

This is a must-do that I will advise everyone to carefully check. Usually the Judge or Judges or Judging Panel will be announced, do find out who are these people.
– Are they even qualified to judge your images?
– Where are they from?
– What are their track record in photography?
– Are they certified?
– Are they supported by a respected brand?
– Have they won public awards? (In-house awards are bullshit)
– Are they professionals?
– Is their images even meeting professional standard?
– And if their certifications (if any) are even recognized.

Even if they comes from a registered outfit or a huge group, this does not mean that they are credible. So do your homework. Do not end up being part of a participation statistics while these so-call judges awards favorably to their students or members.

Tips #06 – Check Out Submissions by Others.
Some competitions are very transparent to which they actually post/ published all accepted entries for the public to view. (I can’t think of any reason why some organization chose to do judging behind closed doors and no one get to see the entries).
Do take a leaf from other photographers’ submission. See what kind of images had been accepted by the organizer, see the genres, the styles and you can form an idea of what kind of images that you can submit and likely to be accepted. A simple step, but sadly many did not realised the importance of this.

Tips #07 – Captions.

Keep captions simple and original is my tip to everyone. Do read the terms and check if there is any restriction or word limits. In some cases, language too. Do submit captions that best describe your image, or the scene or the mood at the time of the shot rather than trying to be abstract and ended up with a caption that no one can understand or relate. Worse, you submitted a caption that has zero relation to your image and in such cases, especially during judging, you stand to lose scores. During the recent competitions, we even have people copying & pasting text from Wiki and use it as their caption, needless to say, these entries are thrashed, no matter how beautiful the image is. Respect the word limit set by the organizer and respect yourself by checking for grammatical & typo errors before you submit. Trust me, the captions tells a lot about you as a photographer.

Tips #08 – Theme
This is another area that is commonly ignored. Well, a theme is there for a reason. If any competition accepts images from any theme – related and non-related – I will suggest you stop wasting your time with such competition. And you, as a photographer, read carefully what the theme is all about and work your submissions towards the theme. Organizers set themes for many reasons and you can try submitting an image of a Monkey when the theme is say – People. You ought to be shot, and shot again. 

Tips #09 – Watermarks.
Most competitions discourage the use of watermarks for many reasons. Firstly, the Judges must not know who submitted the image, by putting your name there on the image, people can cry foul – “Hey! That’s his student!” you get the drift. And if the competition eventually will bloom into an exhibition, you can be sure that there will be a name tag and a caption tag for your image and you do not have to destroy the beauty of your image by putting your name there. You are not in elementary school where you have to write your name on your lunch box, on your water bottle, on your pencil case etc.

Tips #10 – Sponsors
This is another way to see of the competition is well supported. Normally for credible photography competitions (in Singapore context), there will always be a camera brand and a mega retailer along with some media company sponsoring or in joint effort to organize the competition. If a photo competition with no photography-related sponsors still seems legit to you, I would like to know what have you been smoking. Brands will not give up a chance to be seen, to be associated with credible & large photography organizations and if a photo competition have none of that element, do think twice.


Hope the above 10 Tips will be helpful in your next submission for a competition.

Meanwhile, I would like to share about a conversation with regards to a Photography Competition & Exhibition that I am Organizing and Curating for.


Via Email – Part 1

XX: AL, why my image got rejected for 5 times? Your staff got problem?

Me: As the Curator, I do not know which images is yours. However, I had checked with my staff, they told me – despite them repeatedly asking you to read the terms & conditions, apparently you did not:
1) you keep submitting captions of 80+ words when the limit is 30 words.
2) it is stated we only accepts Landscape-orientation images, you keep sending Square-Cropped.
3) and it will be really tough for us to print your 45kb images into an exhibition size as we had asked for a minimal of 2mb.
4) And your entry name is BrightMelon Tan, I seriously do not think that name appear on your NRIC. When the staff asked, you keep ignoring that question.

XX: Why So strict? It’s just a competition!

Me: I believed my staff had informed you that all entries will be audited and yes, we are strict. Probably there are many other competitions that are going on – organized by some old folks, you may wish to enter those too since I heard they are pretty lax.

XX: But those do not have standard!

Me: Precisely, why we are strict. Please kindly adhere to the published terms and I am looking forward to your submissions.

XX: Can submit directly to you?

Me: Let me repeat, I am the Curator, you can send directly to me, I will send your images directly to the trash box.

XX: Why so strict???

Me: Please kindly read the published terms & conditions. We reserves all rights.

XX: Means?

Me: Please kindly read the published terms & conditions. We reserves all rights.

XX: I know but why send me images to the trash?

Me: Please kindly read the published terms & conditions. We reserves all rights.

XX: Can You give me a call?

Me: Please kindly read the published terms & conditions. We reserves all rights.

XX: Excuse me, you understand English?

Me: Please kindly read the published terms & conditions. We reserves all rights.

XX: I am going to share this on Facebook!

Me: Please kindly read the published terms & conditions. We reserves all rights.

Ok Bye.


Via Email – Part 2

XX: Hi AL. I had read the terms & conditions, the image size required is minimum 2Mb. Mine is 45Kb, why your staff reject?

Me: Hi, I already said, please kindly read our published Terns & Conditions carefully.

XX: I did. That’s why I am confused. 45 is bigger than 2.

Me: hope you are kidding BrightMelon, 2mb is bigger than 45kb. And as mentioned, Your image is square crop, not allowed.

XX: this is crazy! How can 45Kb be smaller than 2Mb! Your company needs to employ people with proper qualifications. Maths hallo, Maths!

Me: Please kindly read the published terms & conditions. We reserves all rights.

XX: Dun give that shit. You guys are just biased! As mentioned, I am going to publish this on Facebook and Mothership.

Me: Please kindly read the published terms & conditions. We reserves all rights.

XX: are you guys even from Singapore?

Me: excuse me? Yes we are all Singaporeans including all my staff and admins. Is there a problem?

XX: I am reporting your group! You guys are just rejecting my entry on baseless grounds! Being such a big group, can’t believe it is run by a bunch of people who do not know Maths!

Me: Excuse me? Whoa please chill. I suggest you google for Mb & Kb. No need to get so work up.

XX: Chill? Why scare I post on social media is it? Scare your incompetence is publicized?

Me: Hi, you are aware such allegations can amount to a Threat & criminal intimidation + defammation right? You are most welcome to share the full conversation. We are a legitimate company and a well respected Independant Photography Outfit, we are open to lawsuits and will defend our stand vigoriously if the need arise.

XX: You are scare. I will also make Police report because you are racist.

Me: BrightMelon Tan, please go ahead and do what you wish to do. 2Mb is bigger than 45Kb.

XX: You are crazy. Go do your Maths paper again.

Me: I have a Bachelor actually.

XX: I am not interested in your marital status!

Me: ok. This conversation is not going anywhere. Ok Bye.

XX: Bad attitude! How you do business like this?!?

Me: Please kindly read the published terms & conditions. We reserves all rights.

XX: This is bullshit!

Me: Please kindly read the published terms & conditions. We reserves all rights.

XX: i am boycotting your group!

Me: Please kindly read the published terms & conditions. We reserves all rights. Plus please google the difference between Mb & Kb.

XX: Stop replying me!

Me: Please kindly read the published terms & conditions. We reserves all rights. Plus please google the difference between Mb & Kb.

XX: That’s it. I am making a Police Report.

Me: Please kindly read the published terms & conditions. We reserves all rights. Plus please google the difference between Mb & Kb.


The above is a real conversation via my personal email.
Due to Singapore’s law & restrictions for public disclosure of personal details,
I am posting the email conversation as above.

Well, I am lost for words. Share your thoughts below!






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1 Response to Photo Competition Tips.

  1. Thank you for sharing your bad encounter.

    Indeed a good photo competition must have rules and regulations to control the entries for the next phase which is the exhibition where hi-res images are needed.

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