Yesterday’s post gave you some background on how entering photo contests for self-growth can fuel both your creativity and your career. Here are specifics about finding and entering great photo contests.

Kristi suggests starting with contests in your specialty, and even in your geographic area. “You have to hunt around,” she laughs, noting that lots of competitions aren’t widely advertised. “It takes some internet time.”

In fact, if you find a contest easily, consider that a potential red flag – there are plenty of would-be contests out there that are nothing more than rights-grabbing companies hoping to score some awesome pics for their own marketing projects. Avoid those!

“The contests that offer prizes are the ones I’m wary of,” Kristi says. She recommends sticking to contests that favor photographers. How do you tell the difference? Read the rules, paying close attention to how the contest is judged, and any legalese about rights you give up simply by entering, as well as any additional rights you give up if your image wins a prize.

The contests you’re looking for – the ones that will actually make you a better photographer –are the ones judged by talented photographers and editors, who are determining prizes based on the merit of the images. “Their interests are for the photographers,” Kristi says.

That sets them apart from ones that are just ad companies working undercover. That said, many reputable contests will ask for rights – non-exclusively, of course – to help promote future years’ installments of their contests. That’s fairly common, and not necessarily a red flag.

“I look for competitions that are looking to celebrate photography,” Kristi says.

As a wedding photographer for the past seven years, she has entered contests run by the Wedding Photography Association (WPPI), as well as Junebug Weddings and Fearless Photographers. She’s moving into nature photography now, too, and so has entered the Nature’s Best photo competition. (She hasn’t entered the Wedding Photojournalist Association contest, because “when I do weddings, I don’t consider myself a photojournalist.”)

Each of these competitions – even within wedding photography – looks for something different. Fearless, she says, is looking for images beyond the ordinary, while WPPI judges rely more on the classic values of line and eye movement. And this sometimes leads to what might be considered confusing results: A photo she entered in two contests got no honors from Fearless, but was considered one of Junebug’s top 50 images of the year.

Kristi is obviously – and rightly – proud of the honors her photos have earned. But that’s not how the contests have helped improve her work.

There’s a psychological mindset that has begun to take over her work – where she’s always trying to improve her work. On the one hand, sure, she’s looking for another award-winning image. But she’s also looking to push her own limits for the sake of growing and learning.

It is a speedy digital world – and we know weddings are fast-paced – but “the world of print competition has helped me slow down and work the scene a bit more.”

About Kristi Odom

Kristi Odom has a background in travel and nature photography that she brings into destination wedding photography. She has photographed weddings around the world including Ethiopia, Australia, Ireland, Thailand, amongst other locations. Her adventurous side tends to come out in her shoots; may it be shooting a wedding in a blizzard, on top of a castle in Ireland, or along the edge of cliffs.

Kristi’s work has been seen in Times Square, RollingStone’s website, National Geographic’s website, Eco-Beautiful Weddings, United With Love, Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine, Kodak’s website, amongst others.

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