A compilation of resources to help you create and submit the best photo contest entries
By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator
If you’re a seasoned NANPA member, you know that August brings warm weather and the beginning of Showcase, NANPA’s annual photography competition. And if you’re new to NANPA or haven’t entered Showcase before, now’s your chance to enter your best shots and compete for $6,000 in prizes, a variety of promotional opportunities to build your brand, and recognition from not just your peers, but also from some of the top names in the business. So, head for your photo catalog and start selecting your best images. One could be a winner, but you’ll never know unless you enter!
From now through September 20, 2021, you can enter your top images in any of six categories: Altered Reality, Birds, Conservation, Mammals, Scapes, and Macro/Micro/All Other Wildlife. The entries will be evaluated by a prestigious panel of judges, each a top name in their field. In each of the six categories, a Best in Show, a Runner-Up, and two Judges’ Choice awards are made. These “Top 24” winners receive cash prizes, and multiple opportunities for exposure in all of NANPA’s web and social channels, and a prominent spot in the new, interactive, digital version of Expressions. If your image is one of the Top 100 or Top 250, it and you will be recognized in Expressions and on NANPA’s website and social media channels. Learn more about Showcase, the categories, prizes, judges, and rules.
Tips and tricks
As you go through your files, take some time to review NANPA’s Showcase Tips. You’ll hear from past judges, learn to avoid some common mistakes, see how to prepare images for entry, and gain an understanding of some key definitions about the categories, photo illustrations, and captive animals.
Shooting with a smartphone? Drone? Camera Trap? There will be special recognition for these and other “non-traditional” captures that are in the Top 250. Looking for some ideas? See Charles Needle’s webinar on iPhone photography, Pixels in Your Pocket: Creative iPhoneography, in the Member’s Area of the NANPA website. Or read how Mark Hendricks used camera traps in the Appalachian Mountains, or how Ryan Trenkamp uses drones.
As a NANPA member, you have access to a vast array of information and inspiration that can help you find the perfect image for Showcase or spark your creativity as you head out into the field to find that winning shot. Check out NANPA webinars like Gen Benjamin’s and Bill Rudock’s discussion of The 12 Elements of an Award-Winning Image or What Would the Judges Say? a conversation between Wendy Shattil, Amy Gulick, George Lepp, and Marc Muench, found in the Member’s Area of the NANPA website. Looking for expert advice on photographing birds of prey or butterflies or flowers? NANPA has a webinar on each of those topics and a free Bird Photography handbook.
Want to learn more about photo contests? NANPA has a handbook about that, too, Contest Secrets: What to Know Before You Enter a Photo. And there are dozens of blog articles on topics from photographing lichens to shooting with Lensbaby lenses and from advice on avoiding messy backgrounds in your photos to the creative use of negative space. We’ve also asked some photographers who have had winning images in multiple Showcase competitions to share some of their tips, thought processes, and advice. Look for them in the coming weeks.
You have to play to win
It can be intimidating to put your work up against the pros but, as Karen Schunemann wrote, if you don’t attempt something “you already have no.” That motivated her to start entering photo contests. What will motivate you?
Many NANPA members look forward all year to Showcase as a chance to have their best images evaluated by exceptional judges and see how their work measures up against others. Photo contests like Showcase can put your photos in front of a large audience. Your images can move them, influence them, inspire them. Some Showcase winners have been contacted about licensing their photos; others have gotten assignments. Who knows what the future holds for you, if you win?
But to win, you have to enter. Good luck!
Frank Gallagher is a landscape and nature photographer based in the Washington, DC, area who specializes in providing a wide range of photography services to nonprofit organizations. He manages NANPA’s blog.