How to Run a Photography Contest


Anyone can run a photography contest no matter your niche or brand. That includes you.

Maybe you’re thinking about running a photography contest, but you don’t know where to start or how to start.

In this article, I’ll show you how to run a contest in five simple steps.

Let’s begin.

1. Photography Contest Strategy: Set a Goal

Creating a contest with no end goal won’t give you the results you want to see. Before putting time into creating your contest you need to define what the purpose of this contest. When you set a goal, you allow yourself to see the bigger picture and create the competition to aligns with it.

Goal to increase followers

If your goal is to get more Instagram followers, you can incorporate getting for followers with your contest mechanics like asking followers to follow your Instagram page before they enter the contest.

Brand awareness

If your goal is brand awareness, then you can ask contestants to use your products in the images or incorporate a creative concept that resonates with your brand’s message.

Increase Subscriptions

Allow contestants to give their email address to enter or subscribe to your Youtube channel so you can increase your follower count.

Drive Traffic

If you want to drive traffic and increase conversions on your site then allowing your audience to sign-up on your website or be directed back to your website after signing up might be something you want to implement.

These are just a few of the ways you can get results when you have a goal in mind. Don’t just go off and run a contest, have a contest with a goal in mind.

If having a photographer contest doesn’t align with your goals, don’t worry you can use one of these 25 Creative Photo Contest Ideas instead.

2. Photography Contest Strategy: A Contest for your Audience

Now that you have a goal in mind the next thing on your list is to make sure that your photo contest is created with the right audience in mind.

Ask yourself, who do I want to enter this contest?

Are they people who you want to follow your brand or are they already following you?

If you host a contest that your target audience can’t relate to it only leaves them confused and uninterested which can lead to little to no enters. No one wants that.

For example, if your National Geography hosts an online photography contest, automatically you thought of either nature, animals or current world events. I’m sure you didn’t think about iPhones, jeans, or funny cat videos.

Why because it’s clear that they would only host a contest that aligns with their brand or goals. Your photography contest should do the same.

Take a look at View Bug’s Paint and Makeup Photography Contest with the grand prize of a Leica Camera. View Bug is a Photography is centered around helping fellow creatives and building a community, so they created a contest and prize that reflected their brand and interest their followers.

3. Photography Contest Strategy: Choosing the Right Prize

Choosing the right prize can increase the chances of entries but offering a prize that has nothing do with your brand can attract the wrong people. When you offer prizes aligned with your brand, you can increase the chance of warding off cheaters or people that aren’t apart of your target audience

If a beauty brand had a contest, you wouldn’t expect to win a motorcycle. Now that is a bit of an extreme, but you get the point.

The prize you choose to give your winner should be interesting enough for contestants who are already your customer or who might be in the future. If you’re not sure what to offer customers, you can offer prizes like

  • Discount Bundle
  • Product Prize(s)
  • Shopping spree (offline or online)
  • Giveaway
  • Brand Ambassador Title
  • Early access to products/services
  • Swap services with a compatible brand
  • Free trip or meal
  • Tickets to an events
  • VIP services or access

If you take a look at photo competitions around the world brands offer all kinds of prizes, from magazine subscriptions, product vouchers, all expenses paid holidays and more.

On exception to the rule of great prizes is Time magazine who gathered 31,000 entries via Instagram with no prize, all they promised was recognition on the front of the cover of Time. Except that they placed 288 photos on the same cover!

So if your brand has that level of influence and brand awareness, you can give it a try, but if you’re nowhere near Time Magazine influence, a prize is a must.

You can choose one or a combination of prizes from what’s listed above. Most people don’t enter the contest, not because they don’t want to, but the prize might not seem worth trying to competing toward. Ultimately you want your contestants to have a prize worth entering for.

4. Photography Contest Strategy: Clear Instructions and CTA

No one hates confusion more than contestants.

Should I click here or here?

Wait, I need what?

Those are just a few of the things you don’t want people to say when they try to enter your contest. Unclear instructions or weak call to actions (CTA’s) turn people off which lowers the chance of your contest success.

Clear Contest Instructions

Don’t let visitors guess what they should do, tell them.

If you want them to share your page to enter, say so if you need them to enter then show them where and how. Give them clear, step by step guidelines on what you expect of them. It also makes your job more comfortable because you’ll have fewer people reaching out to you asking how to enter, why because you placed all the information there.

It’s just idiot-proofing your guidelines so anyone from your target audience interested can enter. ND Awards provides guidelines and entry details to educate and help contestants when they enter.

Strong Contest CTA’s

Your photography contest CTA’s are just as important as clear guidelines. CTA’s are what you’ll use to grab people’s attention to enter and how to enter.

Your call-to-action, or CTA, a button is one of the most important elements for your photography contest. It’s the first step to getting a potential customer through that door.

If you had a contest in the past that didn’t work out so well, it could be that you didn’t have strong enough CTA’s.

If you’re not sure how to create strong CTA here are 25 Proven Call-to-Action words to help convert viewers into doers for your upcoming photography contest.

Remember to limit your CTA’s and keep it simple and don’t over complicate it let your contest image speak louder than anything else.

Here’s an example by Not Awake Photography Contest that gave contestants clear guidelines and used simple but effective CTA’s.

5. Photography Contest Strategy: Choose the Right Platform

Choosing the right platform for your contest isn’t as complicated as it’s made out to be.

With social media being the norm your website isn’t the only place to host your photography contest there are a lot of platforms and ways that can pay off with real results.

No matter what platform you choose to use you’ll need a promotion strategy behind it to get things moving, but we’ll get into that later.

I’ve listed a few platforms and ways you can host your photography contest, feel free to use one or multiple platforms, there’s no limit to how many of them you can use just what works for you.

Platform: Website

Using your website to host a contest is a great way to get traffic to your site.

It’s also a great way for viewers to click around to learn about your brand or make online purchases. If you decide to use your website ensure that you have a fast loading speed for your site, so visitors aren’t waiting around for the contest page to load, it can turn people off from entering.

It’s also important that you have a page solely dedicated to your contest, so visitors aren’t distracted or lost on where to go.

Nikon uses its website to host its annual photography contest.

Social Media

Using social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram give you access to over 3 billion active users. That means out of the billions of users your contest can narrow in on your audience.

If you plan to use social media, try using a custom hashtag that relates to your brand or competition. Hashtags help your audience find your brand, and in turn, it helps you to find your audience.

If you think social media is the right fit for you, take a quick look at these Facebook and Instagram contest guides to help.

Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria used their Instagram account to host a Pizza Photo Contest in honor of National Pizza Day.

Landing Page

What if your brand doesn’t have a website, but you’re not interested in hosting it on social media either.

No problem.

You can use a landing page to host your photography contest instead. A landing page is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a page that your visitors “land” on when they click a link you provide, it can be on or outside of your website. You can place this link anywhere for your audience to access. Here’s an example of a Landing page.

So maybe a landing page just might do the trick when it comes to being your photography contest platform, then you can get started with easy to use landing page templates for your contest.

Pro Tip:

Whichever platform you select keep in mind that there will always be cheaters. Try to make your platform or contest as “anti-cheat” as possible. You want your contestants to know that they have a fair chance at winning. In some cases, it can be hard to stop cheating but where you can, try.

6. Photography Contest Strategy: Promote Your Contest

Your photography contest is ready to go so now it’s time to promote and share it.

Promoting your contest may seem like it’s no brainer but there are a lot of brands out there with fantastic photography contest but if no one knows about them.


No contest promotions.

That’s why promotion and sharing are one of the keys to success for any contest. So here are some key ways you can get your contest out and out.

1. Send Emails

It’s not as old school as it sounds, email is still live. The average open rate for email continues to improve year over year, now the email open rate increases by 24.88%.

Send out an email with your upcoming or live contest, so your existing customers know about your amazing photography. Once they’ve subscribed to your email list, it’s a higher possibility that they’d like to enter.

2. Social Media

even if you’re using a social media platform to host your contest you still need to promote the contest itself. That means tweeting about it, adding to your Instagram story or running Facebook ads to it. The whole nine yards. These are the places your follower and potential contestants are going to be. Keep them up-to-date with the start and end date and let them see some of the entries so far.

Just don’t overdo it with the self-promoting, it may annoy some of your current customers.

3. Website Promotion

With your website, you can track and received more traffic with social media. You can also create a website banner or page that viewers can see when they come to your site.

4. Advertising

Facebook isn’t the only place you can advertise your photography contest, you can try google display network, Instagram and even Pinterest. Don’t limit yourself to where you can place your ads as long it’s where your audience is.

5. Repost or Share

Ask your followers or those in your community to repost your competition on their business/personal social media pages, blogs or website to increase the chance of visibility.

Pro Tip:

With Wishpond’s Social Contest Suite you can also get detailed campaign reporting. Use it track your views, entries and bounce rates in real-time. You can update your contest in real-time to improve your contest results.

7. Photography Contest Strategy: Follow-Up After the Contest

So your contest has ended, and you’ve gotten some good responses. You’ve even gained some new followers on social media and steady traffic to your website plus some excellent brand awareness.

So we’re done, right?


Now it’s time to turn all your new followers and audience into loyal customers.

Here are some helpful ways to follow-up after your contest.

Show-off, your Winner

Once you’ve picked, you’re a winner(s), and let them know. Let them know beforehand via email, and you can mention, tag and share their contest entry on your social media platforms. Your winner is apart of your audience how you treat them shows your community how you feel about your audience. So show some love!

National Geography did an entire blog post on the winner of their 2016 photography contest and how it changed his life.

Follow-up email

Send your contestants a follow-up email with a big “Thank You” for entering your contest; you can keep them up to date for the next one and even give a small discount to show your appreciation.

Say Thank You

Don’t just highlight your winners and contestants, let your entire community of customer and followers know that you were happy to share this experience with them. It can be a simple thank you or a heartfelt thank you. You can also say a big thank you on your blog or website as well.

Pro Tip:

Before you pick a contest winner you have to make sure you know how you’re going to pick your winner. Since this is a photography contest, you want your winning image to be something you’d proudly share you can either allow a person to vote for their favorite or make the selection yourself.


Photo contests are one of the best ways to generate leads, increase brand awareness, and boost sales for your business. Now that you’re ready to create a successful contest we can recap the following steps.

  1. Choosing the Right Prize
  2. Clear Instructions and CTA
  3. Choose the Right Platform
  4. Promote Your Contest
  5. Follow-Up After the Contest

Hope these tips helped. Have you ever ran a photography contest? Let me know how it went in the comments below!

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