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  • Writer's pictureJane

What you need to win photo contests

So, here is the most intriguing list on my blog. We are going to talk about a recipe for an award-winning photo. I’m not saying it’s a magic pill or anything like that. Indeed, if you don’t know how to use a camera, these tips won’t help, but look at the award-winning images you like and try to guess how many of the features I’m talking about they have. You will be surprised, but at least 5-6 out of the 8 mentioned. It means that these tips work for everyone.

A good quality image has at least 3 features out of the 8 mentioned. An award-winning one has 5-6. And a masterpiece may have them all.

I printed this list two years ago and pinned it to the wall above my desk. No kidding. Save this post for the future.


A strong idea is not typical for pet photographers. No kidding. Have you ever seen a pet photographer winning a serious photo contest not related to pet photography? I guess you haven’t. There are 2 main ideas pet photographers have – the love of a dog and its owner and the idea that every dog is beautiful no matter what. These ideas are not bad, but none of them are world-changing or mind-blowing. So, if you want to win a serious photo contest, look at other photography genres. There are many ideas worth trying, even with dogs.


A model should be memorable. Not necessarily beautiful or elegant, although that can make your model memorable. A model has to be unusual. Take a look at your pet model once again. Does it have any features that make it stand out? Everything from big ears to fancy fur color may work. If you have a dog model of enormous size, that’s great too.


The look typically relates to clothing, makeup, and hairstyle. It’s not 100% relevant to pet photographers unless they start taking pictures with an award-winning idea. Okay, it can be relevant to some extent when you tell dog owners what to wear for a photoshoot to look great in the autumn park, but it’s not exactly what I’m talking about. Imagine you decided to take a series of Cruella pictures. Costumes are not something to save money on if you want to win.


Hunting for new mind-blowing locations should be in your genetic code if you want a masterpiece. The best way to find a great place is by walking and looking around. The best sites are found by chance. There is a problem many photographers do not understand: A location is mind-blowing only while it’s fresh. Do you remember those beautiful pictures of dogs taken in lavender fields during sunset? A lavender field itself is stunning. But these pictures are not award-winning anymore. Simply because there are too many of them.


“I shoot emotions.” That’s what many pet photographers write on Instagram when they form their unique selling point. It’s all about marketing 😊. Emotions are a must if there is an award-winning idea these emotions support. And if not, emotions still add some extra points to your image but won’t help you create a masterpiece if you rely only on them.


Dynamic pictures where models do something (running, jumping, etc.) and interact with each other or other objects in a photo always look more attractive than static pictures. Photographers know this, which is why we see so many static images with dynamic elements, especially with people. Like “a woman is standing still, but her hair or dress is flying” and so on. It does not mean that you only need to take pictures of running dogs. But even a head turn adds spice to your dish.


Light is the most critical aspect of photography—no light, no photography, just a black square. Fine art photographers usually don’t use hard light and I don’t either. For instance, I’ll never shoot on a sunny day at noon. But the truth is that there is no wrong or right light unless you understand why you need this type of light and how to control it. So, choose any light you need, but do it consciously.


The second most important aspect of any photo is color. Color and light are strongly interconnected. You probably have heard about different color theories like the Itten Circle. But I think it’s not necessary to follow them strictly. What is important is to make sure that you plan colors before the photoshoot and understand why you choose these colors. It’s also a good idea to plan the colors considering the pet’s fur. For example, white dogs look amazing near a red wall. Use it or lose it.

If you have something to share after reading, any insights, please feel free to write in the comments.


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