Running a photo contest or award open call is no small undertaking. There is much to consider from your contest theme to a promotion plan to selecting your jury. Even the most seasoned photo contest hosts will tell you there are a myriad of moving parts around which to build your strategy. We’ve asked our clients, some of the most prestigious photography organizations in the business, to weigh in and share what they know about making your photo contest or open call a total success.
OUR COMPREHENSIVE MANUAL TO MANAGING & EXECUTING A SUCCESSFUL PHOTO CONTEST WILL COVER:
- Photo Contest Goal Setting
- Establishing a Timeline for Your Contest
- Using an Effective Contest Management Platform
- Promoting and Organizing Your Contest
- Choosing Your Prizes
- Selecting Your Jury
- Winners Announcement
- Contest Recap
1. PHOTO CONTEST GOAL SETTING
What do you want to accomplish with your photo contest? Maybe it’s your organization’s first year running a contest and your main goal is simply to successfully pull it off! Alternatively, maybe you’ve been offering this contest for a few years now and would like to see more diversity in your submissions. Whatever your goals may be, it is important to identify them early in the contest planning process as they will inform nearly all decisions you make down the road.
Through past contests, our clients have been able to effectively support artists, photographers, and creators through awards, grants, and other capacity building opportunities. Because of Picter’s creator network, our clients have also been able to reach more applicants. Additionally, by hosting a photo contest, brands can witness a myriad of benefits from boosting their brand awareness to increasing audience engagement to sourcing new talent for future projects.
Picter is a wonderful platform for submissions. With an intelligently designed system that is equally attractive as it is easy to navigate, we are relived to host all of our calls for entries with Picter!LESLEY A. MARTIN, CREATIVE DIRECTOR, APERTURE FOUNDATION, NYC
2. ESTABLISHING A TIMELINE FOR YOUR CONTEST
Start planning early: this is what the hosts of World Press Photo advise. Organize the details while also keeping the big picture in mind. The best way to figure out your photo contest timeline is to start at the end and work backwards. Answering the following questions should help you determine your contest timeline.
YOUR ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS WILL SERVE AS YOUR GUIDE IN SETTING YOUR CALENDAR AROUND THE CONTEST:
- When do you plan to announce your winner or winners?
- How long do you want to promote the contest before it opens?
- How long do you want to accept submissions?
- How long will you need for the judging once the submission window closes?
PRO TIP: SURE IN ADVANCE THAT YOUR JUDGES ARE AVAILABLE TO SET ASIDE TIME WHEN YOU ARE SCHEDULING THE JUDGING PORTION OF YOUR CONTEST.
3. USE AN EFFECTIVE CONTEST MANAGEMENT PLATFORM
In order to run a successful photo contest or open call, you need a solid management platform. Trying to receive and manage submissions manually doesn’t only lend itself to error—it drains the time and resources of you and your team. You should not have to focus on the logistics, and frankly, they don’t want to. By leaving the logistics to a trusted platform, organizations can focus on the most important parts of their contest: the entries and the visuals. Furthermore, good contest management software helps entrants enter your contest by being able to smoothly input their information and complete their submission.
Picter keeps both you and your contest organized. Picter’s visually focused contest management platform gives you a straightforward, easily navigable overview of all submissions to your open call. All of your vital contest information is organized for you, without the need for you to track spreadsheets and documents. From the manager’s view, you can easily view submitter profiles, projects, and individual images. Furthermore, Picter allows you to sort, filter, and label your submissions giving you full control of your specific needs. Additionally, Picter facilitates straightforward communication with your entrants and offers engagement opportunities for organizations to increase both the quantity and quality of submissions.
Picter doesn’t just masterfully organize your submissions, it allows for a seamless judging process as well. Invite your jurors to view and rate submissions with Picter’s unique contest judging system.
The importance of an excellent contest management system can not be overstated! Picter is the trusted choice for many of the biggest names in photography.
4. PROMOTING AND ORGANIZING YOUR CONTEST
As with all marketing endeavors, your promotion plan should strive to reach as many interested parties as possible. Communication is key: make sure you are clearly communicating to potential applicants your expectations for the contest, and what they can potentially win by entering. Be sure to also communicate to all entrants the results of the contest, so those who did not win are not left wondering. Keep your language concise and digestible: entrants should be able to understand what type of entries you are looking for, and what the entry requirements are, in a few sentences. Use strong visuals and design to help potential participants understand what your contest is all about.
YOUR PROMOTION PLAN SHOULD:
- Promote via your social channels (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)
- Promote via your owned channels (Newsletter, blog, other owned publications)
- Consider organizing an outreach event. If you plan to publicly display the winners from the previous year, organize an outreach event at the exhibition or similar event to spread the word about the contest.
- Engage your community and network to spread the word. Tapping into new audiences will give new exposure to your contest.
- Consider paid media if it is within your budget.
PRO TIP: HOSTING A CONTEST ON PICTER MEANS THAT YOUR CONTEST WILL BE FEATURED IN OUR MONTHLY OR BI-WEEKLY CONTEST NEWSLETTER TO 55K PHOTOGRAPHERS AT NO ADDITIONAL COST. OUR NEWSLETTER HAS AN ABOVE AVERAGE OPEN RATE OF 40%. ORGANIZATIONS CAN ALSO CHOOSE TO ADD A DEDICATED NEWSLETTER FOR AN ADDITIONAL COST.
Staying organized during a photo contest is paramount. With Picter, you will have all of your image submissions and submitter data clearly organized and easily accessible. You can use your Picter Manager View to sort and organize submissions to your specific needs.
- Decide on your overall contest budget including internal and external fees, prizes, travel expense, paid outreach, and any printing or exhibition costs of the contest winners. Consider if you want a brand partner to help cover some of these costs.
- How much will entry to your contest cost? Entry fees can help cover some of your budget, however keep in mind that your entry fee will impact who can and can not participate.
- Decide if you want your contest to have a theme. Also, decide if you would like to include categories.
- Set your contest terms and conditions.
- Decide what information you want from your entrants during the registration process. Again, Picter has preset tools to help with this.
- Make it clear to entrants that by submitting to your contest, they are agreeing to the terms and conditions you have set. This will help ensure you avoid any future intellectual property disputes.
PRO TIP: USE LAST YEAR’S WINNING IMAGES TO MARKET THE NEW CONTEST.
5. CHOOSING YOUR PRIZES
The prizes you choose to offer will be one of the most alluring reasons for potential entrants to enter your contest. Try to get inside a potential submitter’s head: what prize would deeply appeal to them? Some contests offer desirable camera equipment while others keep it simple with cash.
WHICHEVER PATH YOU CHOOSE, HERE ARE SOME THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND:
- Make your prize(s) worthwhile.
- Decide who will be awarded prizes. Will there just be one overall winner or tiered awards (1st, 2nd, 3rd). Consider if you want to include prizes for honorable mentions.
- Consider making the prize (or part of the prize) a product or service from your company. This keeps the focus on your brand front and center.
- Decide how you will deliver the prize to the winner. If it’s a cash prize, will it be awarded via wire transfer, paypal, venmo etc? If it is a physical prize, how will you get it to the winner? This may determine who is eligible to enter your contest.
6. SELECTING YOUR JURY
Arguably the most important step! Your jury will determine the winner(s) of your contest. It is a good idea to have some clear criteria in your jury selection process from the beginning. One piece of advice that all of our contest clients give? Start this process early!
At World Press Photo, the jury selection is complex and involved. They start by asking for recommendations from their network and looking to their own community. Furthermore, they perform extensive juror research in order to gather a group of potential jury members who can contribute unique and valuable perspectives to the judging process. For them, potential jurors could be former winners and/or jurors, nominators, or mentors. When selecting their jury at World Press, they concentrate on certain aspects of potential juror profiles in order to ensure the jury is diverse and is representative of the world and the photo industry.
At the Copenhagen Photo Festival, a Programme Committee is chosen from both documentary and fine art photography professionals. They are selected for their wide ranging expertise in photography, and to ensure varied and diverse perspectives in the judging conversation.
7. WINNER’S ANNOUNCEMENT
Congratulations—you have a winner! By the time you get to this step, you should have already decided how you want to announce the winner of your contest to your audiences and to the other contest participants. You should notify all entrants of the contest results—Picter organizes entrant emails into a downloadable document or you can use the mailchimp integration, making this step easy and painless. Additionally, you should decide how you want to announce on your social accounts, newsletter, and blog. If your budget allows, consider pair PR to generate as much buzz as possible. At this juncture in the contest, things tend to move quickly, so having your templates designs, and language drafted ahead of time is smart. Also be ready to initiate delivery of your hard-earned prizes!
PRO TIP: LEAVE PLENTY OF TIME IN YOUR CONTEST TIMELINE TO GET IN TOUCH WITH YOUR WINNER(S) TO ENSURE YOU CAN REACH THEM.
Don’t wait until before your next contest to discuss what went well and where you can improve—do this while it’s fresh in your mind. Consider facilitating a survey to contest entrants to get their feedback. Furthermore, make sure to discuss goals for the next contest at this time, as those goals will be created from the foundation you and your team have just built.