How to Run an Online Contest as a Photographer

photographer contest

As a photographer, visuals are everything. You probably know that.

But sometimes it can seem hard to engage with your clients or potential customers. Sure, they like and share the photos you post and add the odd comment, but is that maximizing your potential interaction?

You need to be engaging with leads and fans constantly to encourage them to spread the word about your business and return to you for business in the future.

Running a contest is the perfect way to engage your fans through visual content. Let’s dive in and find out how you can run a successful online promotion for photography.

What Type of Contest Do You Want to Run?

First off why should you be running a contest?

An online social contest allows you to generate new leads and social fans, spreading the awareness of your brand and services while also engaging existing leads. You get to remind them who you are, show them you’re unique and get them interacting with your business.

And as a photographer, there’s not just one type of contest you can run. You have a few choices to make.

Photo Contest: I know this is probably the first thing you thought of when a contest first popped into your mind. A photo contest requires your participants to submit a photo relating to a certain topic of your choice.

Your business gets to gain the personal information of entrants (meaning new leads for you) as well as user-generated content in the form of photos. A photo contest is a great way to get current and potential customers engaging directly with your business and the services you offer.

Instagram Hashtag Contest: An Instagram Hashtag Contest lets your fans simply upload photos to their own Instagram account, tagging them with a specific hashtag of your choice in order to be entered to win a prize.

Once they have uploaded the photo, it will appear in a gallery on your business’ Facebook page, or website where they can be voted on and shared with friends and family. If you run a campaign with a topic targeted at the needs or interests of your audience, it will be easy for them to participate. For example wedding photos, baby photos, vacation photos, you can choose a topic relevant and interesting to your target audience.

Vote Contest: A vote contest requires you to display your own business’ photos and have them voted on by participants. All participants have to do is vote on their favorite in order to be entered for a chance to win. It is a great contest style for photographers to get their clients’ opinions on their recent projects and find out what image styles they favor most.

For a photographer or a business that revolves around photography, these 3 types of contests are our recommendations. They are the best contest styles for displaying visual content and we have seen many photography businesses find success with each of them.

Photographer Contest: Prizes

As a photographer, don’t be fooled into thinking that there is a shortage of prizes you can offer in your contest. I guarantee you have more options that you think you do. Your prizes can also range dramatically in price and value depending on the level of effort required from participants for your contest.

The most important thing to consider when deciding on your contest prize is that it is relevant, valuable and desired by your target audience. You want the prize to encourage future purchase and be in line with your business’ products and services. A stack of cash or the latest gadget is awesome, but if you want quality leads for the future think of something that will draw leads back to you when they’re in need of a photographer.

Your prize also needs to be proportionate to the type of contest you run. This means that your vote contest prize should be lower in value than a photo contest that requires user-generated content.

So what could you offer? Let’s see here…

  • A free photo sitting for a family
  • A free engagement/wedding/baby photo session
  • A framed photograph or photo package
  • A camera
  • A photographer starter kit – lens, editing software etc
  • The opportunity to have their photo in a magazine or in a photo display, etc

Photographer Contest: Headlines and Images


Once you have created the theme of your contest and decided on a relevant and appropriate prize the headline is the next important step.

Your headline has to grab the attention of all potential entrants and make the contest sound too good to resist. It is what’s going to convince participants to enter when they see your contest on social media, on your website, or in their email inbox.

But what would a good headline look like?

It needs to excite and entice the potential participant to want to learn more. This means no spelling errors, no grammar errors – your headline needs to be perfect. Include the prize in the headline or the value of the prize if it is not obviously apparent. This makes it more appealing to people scrolling by, stopping them in their tracks and getting them to consider your contest.

Here are some examples of headlines you could use for your photography contest:

  • Win a Free Engagement Photoshoot Valued at $400
  • Upload Your Favorite Newborn Photo and Win A Photoshoot
  • Want your photo to be the July cover of ________ Magazine?
  • Submit your favorite captured summer moment and win a photographer starter kit!

As a photographer you know more than anyone how emotions can be conveyed through images. Pictures speak far louder than 1000 words.

For this reason you should make your contest visually appealing with photos and graphics. Its going to be the first thing participants notice and can communicate a lot about the legitimacy and value behind your contest.

You want your contest’s design to exude professionalism, excitement and desire.

Photographer Contest: Examples

Now that we’ve had a quick rundown of how you can run a social contest for your business it’s time to dive into some comment-worthy campaign examples.

Magenta Photo Studio: Smiling For Mommy Contest
  • They’ve stuck to a simple design using their signature orange coloring and logo. To existing clients it’s clear that it’s Magenta’s contest and the design doesn’t overwhelm with too much text or graphics.
  • The image exudes excitement, is straight up adorable and conveys the theme of the contest.
  • They’ve mentioned the value of the prize in the headline, which would grab the attention of any participant scrolling by (especially since it is of high value).
Foto Classes: Enter For a Chance to Win a Free Course of Your Choice. A $149 Value.
  • The image is large, eye-catching and visually appealing. Anyone interested in photography would be inclined to check out the contest due to this contest design.
  • The prize is variable based on the winner and their photography skills and knowledge.
  • They have mentioned the value of the prize and highlighted it in orange making it more apparent to those considering entering the contest.
Katie Gundersen Photography: May Cutest Kid Contest
  • This vote contest has a bold headline that stands out in bright, childish blue. It’s easy to see the theme of the contest the second you land on the page.
  • A vote contest like this encourages social sharing as all of the family and friends want to share the contest and have their child voted on as the winner. It clearly bode well for Katie Gundersen as she ended up with over 5,100 views and a conversion rate of 54.79%.


As a photographer, you get to create emotional connections with clients through images each and every day. You get to capture the most important and beautiful moments in people’s lives.

A successful contest that is specifically suited to your target audience allows them to relate to your business and build an emotional relationship. Whether you’re running a contest for newlyweds, babies, or even pets, you get the opportunity to engage with people about something or someone that they love.

Rather than running a contest based on your products and revolving around your service, it revolves around them. And that’s why if you’re not already running social contests you should be as it is the perfect marketing strategy for your industry.

Have you run a social contest in the past? What was your experience like?

– Written by Claire Grayston

Claire is a digital content marketer at Wishpond. When not racking her brain for new content, you’ll find her hiking or snowboarding the local mountains.

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