Entering your first photography competition can be a daunting experience. I’ve spent hours deliberating over which competitions to enter and the right images to submit and have often found myself delaying it so much that I miss the deadline. I didn’t enter competitions for years and when I finally did I realized I was the one making it so difficult.
I suffer from imposter syndrome massively. I always feel like the people around me are better at what they do and deserve recognition more. I’ve followed photography competitions such as Portrait of Britain, Sony World Photography Awards, and The International Photo Awards for years now and I am always blown away by the thought, dedication, and skill put into the winning photos. But for whatever reason, I find it very hard to imagine my images being selected and so I never bothered.
Entering photography competitions is much like entering the lottery; if you don’t enter you'll have no chance of winning so you may as well give it a go. The difference between the lottery and photo competitions is money - while a lottery ticket may cost a couple of quid, photo competitions can be expensive to enter, and sometimes it's hard to justify when you don’t think your images are that strong.
In the words of Nike, you really have to “Just Do It.” You’re never going to feel ready to enter. You’ll always feel like you could take better photos, or come up with a more emotive series but chances are the photos you’ve already got are better than you give them credit for.
You don’t need to go out and shoot something specifically for a competition. Often, photography competitions have a variety of different categories to suit all styles and genres of photography. Take the Sony World Photo Awards, for example, there is a category for portraits, architecture, still life, landscape, and documentary projects as well as several others so chances are you have something in your archive that is fitting.
Even if you don’t, photography competitions usually have submission periods that last a couple of months so you could go out and shoot something with a particular competition in mind. Once you have several images you’re happy with you can start entering them into competitions. Unless stated in the terms and conditions, the same image can usually be entered into several different competitions - so long as it hasn’t already won.
If you’re new to the world of photography competitions, find some free or cheap ones to enter. With the current cost of living crisis, many photography platforms have started to offer a single entry for free so that all photographers can be included. Entering photography competitions can be life-changing - not only could you gain worldwide recognition if you win but you may also receive a hefty cash prize or lots of new equipment.
You are your own worst critic, give yourself some credit and let other people view your work - you might be pleasantly surprised by the outcome and even if you don't win, you've taken the first steps.
As far as achieving success in photography competitions goes, don't overthink it!