Contest Photography | Capturing the Best Travel Photos

In the digital age photography has become more and more mainstream as a hobby than it was 15 years ago – now, any traveler can take some of the most breathtaking photos ever seen in a region without any multitude of photography experience. Cameras are on our computers, phones, e-readers, and even on kids’ toys can take photos in quality never before possible (at least not without spending several hundred dollars).

Despite the numerous devices that cameras can be found on, a real travel photographer or hobbyist sticks with digital SLR cameras because of the interchangeable lenses and options for high quality photos (plus they’re great on the go).

Photography contests are a great way to get your pictures from your latest trip in front of judges to find out just what you are doing right, or wrong. A contest can help you improve your photography skills and get your name in front of people who can help you enhance your portfolio. Before jumping into a contest it is important to understand what is necessary for your travel photos to have a chance at winning.

Know the Theme

No photography contest is without some theme, or niche. Black and white, landscape, people, etc (most of which can be found in abundance on your travels). A theme keeps the focus of the contest clear and prevents having too much disparity in content. Creativity and interpretation of the image have a place in the theme for certain, but leaving the image too innocuous hurts your entry more than it helps it – an abstract blurry shot of somewhere in the Alps won’t be as good as a clear picture of a specific mountaintop, done well.

Don’t just dig into your archives to find the right picture either. The chances of winning are better if you know exactly what they are looking for and how it will be judged, then go out on your trip and take the photo (or photos) to enter in accordance with the theme.


Just because you know the theme of the contest doesn’t mean you are ready to throw your photo in just yet. Before selecting a photo or going out to take one on a trip, look at previous winners (if there are any) to see what qualities the judges look for. This doesn’t mean you should copy the style or try to recreate the picture your own way. It is simply meant to guide you toward what the judges see. It’s called playing to the judge.

If you aren’t sure where to start looking for contests you can find some on Viewbug. They run a wide variety of photo contests with various themes and prizes. Keep in mind that with most photography contests, if you are in it for the money you aren’t likely be satisfied with the results. Most contests offer prizes, not cash.

Avoid Cliché’s and Distractions

When trying to stick to a theme, falling into cliché’s can be very easy to do. Before taking photos or submitting them, take some time to judge your picture – has it been done a thousand times before by other travelers with an SLR? Find ways to stand apart. Odds are if you thought of it, half the other contestants did as well. Use color, subject, and setting to stand apart from the crowd.

Be careful of distractions as well. Keep the subject very clear and avoid settings where distractions can hinder the overall feel of the picture (unless the theme is distractions, then go for it). Make sure nothing is interrupting the picture.

There are a number of tips to win photography contests, and your travel photos might do just the trick to separate yours from the rest. Lay a good foundation for your photograph and go with it from there. Just keep in mind no matter which contest you choose to enter; whether it’s a friendly local contest or a national/international competition, with a panel of professional judges it is important to follow the rules and guidelines before entering.

If you don’t adhere to the rules it’s a sure way to get automatically rejected as a serious contestant (or as a contestant at all depending on how strict the competition is). take some time to make sure your photo from your latest travel adventure has the best shot of winning it can get.

Photo by epsos on Flickr