How to win our photo contest!
Despite being limited to only one entry per day per person we still have more than 1,000 entries per month
to our photo contest (2006 figures) - making us the World #1 underwater
Our contest is definitely the one to win – but HOW do you win?
Get the right Attitude
Don’t be put off by the sheer numbers of other entries. You can stand
out from the crowd. I was an active contest photographer and, now I’m sitting on the other
side of the judging fence, I can tell you there are some tricks guaranteed to get noticed. I'll share them below...
Get the right gear
Don’t be put off
entering by the quality of the competition. The great thing about U/W photography is that
it is a great leveler. Camera technology is so far advanced that
you don’t need great technical expertise anymore. The complete beginner can beat the pro’s
and get the winning shot simply by being in the right place at the right
The more you spend on kit, the better your chances. Don’t forget, we can help
you with the right camera…
Gain the Knowledge
You can increase your chances by employing a bit of strategy.
course gives you more detailed advice about strategies (and it’s
free when you buy gear from us).
The #1 secret to winning is ‘Know your contest’. Get a feel for what the
judges are looking for and exploit the contest structure.
We have three main groups of people to impress and you should tailor your
Winning our Monthly Contest
Firstly, you must impress me! I judge the monthly 'hotshots'
and I employ some unusual criteria.
The process involves me looking at the 1,000+ images entered last month
very quickly, picking out those that catch my eye for whatever reason
(humor, class, unusual subject and other whims I don't even consciously
understand!). I pick images on their photographic merits alone (I don’t
have time to read captions or notice the photographer’s name – no
I like to see a varied bag in the hotshots - a wreck, a nudibranch, a shot we haven’t seen before. No, that's too structured -
I have no real rules, just great shots.
I rarely choose overall monthly winner straight away. I
shortlist all hotshot images then look at them next day. This is an old trick to give
you a bit more objectivity when assessing images.
I view the hotshot shortlist as both thumbnails and previews (using the combo by the search panel on the contest
page). Why? The winner must work at both resolutions
it is displayed at so
check your entries before entering. Of course, when you zoom the winning image must
knock your socks off!
Can I be bribed? No one has tried yet but I do have a numbered Swiss Bank
The Annual Contest
This is the tough one!
To win one of our medals an image must stand out from tens of thousands of
other images. So who are the judges and how do you impress them?
The annual awards are judged by the previous World Champions, trusted
members, and industry professionals (anyone we can rope
in!). They select gold, silver, and bronze medals in each of the
I have as much idea as you do as to how they select images. They could
conceivably vote for their buddies but I doubt it. To understand their motivation
you must do your research. There may be a pattern to emerge over time. Then try
and enter shots that have been winners before.
take a look at previous winners
Getting into the hotshots is important because not all the judges will look
at all 12,000+ entries in a given year. They don’t get paid so why should they!
They will probably use the ‘pre-judged’ hotshots as their starting point and
only delve deeper on a random basis. Having said that, many follow the contest
Another trick to getting a medal in the annual awards is to enter in the
least subscribed categories. You may be up against 5,000 other images in the
macro categories, compared to 500 in the over/under category!
This is the pinnacle of underwater photography.
The World Champion is awarded annually to the individual who has the most
consistent entry over the year. As such it is a portfolio award. Great portfolios are simple. A great image to start, a great image to finish,
and great images in between!
A good balance of entries across all categories is requisite. Then throw in
some X factor!
The winner will have the almost unanimous acclamation of their peers. They
will almost certainly have been a hotshot and their names will probably have
been extensively mentioned in our forums.
My opinion is that it doesn't matter how long you've been a member it's image
quality that counts. It's not just about posting good shots but also
about not posting bad ones either. Nothing casts doubt more than
a weak shot. Consistency is everything.
Quantity is also a factor. Theoretically you could post one per
day in November and December and have enough entries to win - but previous
winners have posted 100+ spread out over the whole year. It takes that
long to get noticed by your peers (who ultimately decide the winner).
The Grand Master award doesn't have quite the same parameters. You can become a
GM for a speciality - if you dominate e.g. Manfred Bail's photoshop work.
So, think you’re tough enough?
It may take a couple of years of entries to get to this level. The good news
is, if you’re not crowned World champion this year you can be next.
- Play by the Rules
- Don’t shoot yourself in the foot: If hi rez images are not available at time of
judging the entries will be disqualified. If we can’t contact you, you
won’t win so keep your email address up to date.
- Uploading: images get resized by our server (using
Persits JPEG resize) using an algorithm that sometimes makes images
soft. We have been told by many entrants that sharpening before upload
helps. You need to try a few entries to get your formula right. Also
note that images are resized to 450 pixels so try to upload a version at