Anne Darling Photography

Photography Competitions 2

Find Out How to Enter and How to Win

Photography competitions: advice on how to enter and how to win, in an interview with 15-years-old Eleanor Leonne Bennet who has already won first prize in 17 competitions!

Me: Thank you for giving your time for this interview Eleanor, I am sure your experiences will be very helpful to other people who would like to enter competitions. First of all, let me ask you how long have you been making photographs? And how did you first become interested in photography?

Eleanor: I've loved photos for years but have only been taking photos for about three and a half. Before that I won competitions for mixed media art.

I've always loved really old looking photos and the feel you get from images from 30 years ago. I believe the technology we have with digital cameras is wonderful but it can rid images of a quality that I really strive to get. You can see what I mean in some of my landscapes , "Sour Limes at Lyme", "Do You Feel White Frost?" and "Brackets of Ice".

Me: What was your first camera? What camera do you use now?

Eleanor: My first camera was a Kodak Easyshare. A point and shoot that was around £55. The camera I use today for portraiture and action is my Nikon D5000 that I won in the UK National Geographic Kids Photography competition. My "everything" camera is my Lumix DMC FZ38 as I feel very in control and it works well across a lot of different genres. Its strong point is working well in strong sunlight on macro shots. Excellent for close up photography without spending on additional lenses, extension tubes and the like. It is a bridge camera.

Me: How do you like to work and which genres interest you most?

Eleanor: When it comes to the shots, I'm open minded to all genres. When it comes to the promotion of my work I like to work under the cover of darkness. I often wake up very early as it helps to escape the question of my young age and people asking a common question: do your parents help you? They probably don't know I'm awake! I prefer most to take images of life, images that have some honesty. My two favourite images that I've taken this year are my portrait of the National Geographic photographer Reza Deghati which appeared on the front cover of the Willows Wept review (Issue 12) and my portrait of my friend Alan Arnfield who was suffering from lung cancer at the time the photo was taken.

photo by eleanor leonne bennett

Me: Do you find photography competitions and then see if you have a photograph suitable or do you do go out and make some pictures and then look to see if there are photography competitions which would be suitable for you pictures?

Eleanor: Most often I have already taken the photo that is most suitable for entering. Recently for one of the first times in my life I specifically took a photo to win a contest. I took an image of a post office in my village for the postal heritage competition, with only a few days till the deadline. I won the under 16s category which means I'll finally be able to afford a nice telephoto lens for my Nikon. I've wanted one for ages as I am increasingly more and more interested in music photography and landscape photography.

Me: How many photography competitions have you won?

Eleanor: 17 first places within three years - I hope there are a lot more to come!

  • The Nature Detectives art competition three times since the age of 11 (2007, 2008, 2010)
  • Wrexham Science Festival's Photography Competition (12 - 17 age category)
  • The Big Issue In The North's monthly photography contest twice
  • First and second place with UK Butterflies 2009 photography contest
  • The World Photography Organisation's hotomonth Youth Award 2010
  • National Geographic's UK kids photography competition 2010 (I was also the only person from the UK to be placed in their See The Bigger Picture photography contest 2009).
  • Fennel and Fern Winner December
  • Natures Best Photography Monthly Winner February
  • Papworth Trust 2011 competition: Under 16s - 1st, 2nd and 3rd place
  • Mencap SNAP! Fujifilm award 2010
  • Winston’s Wish Amateur Photography Competition 2011
  • Caerphilly Gardens Photography contest 2011 Wildlife WinnerHigh Peak Radio, secondary age category
  • A Clear View competition
  • Postal Heritage Competition - Under 16s
photo by eleanor leonne bennett

Me: Are all the prizes cash prizes? What is the biggest amount of money you have won? What is the best non-cash prize you have ever won?

Eleanor: Mainly the prizes are cameras or photography equipment. If I want to earn pocket money I send my work to galleries or magazines. The best non cash prize I have won was my pass to the London Photography Festival. I could only stay for a day and it was the most amazing experience of my life. It reminded me why I love taking photos and the reason why I am doing this. I have a long way to go and I am really looking forward doing so. Photography is one of those things , a form of art that I can be doing when I am 70 and still learning.

Me: Do you think it is better to enter photography competitions where you have to pay to enter or competitions which are free?

Eleanor: Always free. By paying entry fees you are just paying for hype and advertising. You should never had to pay to be published or included in a gallery. There are so many opportunities out there available to artists for free. You just need to talk to people and become hands on.

photo by eleanor leonne bennett

You should always be polite and help people where you can. A magazine who recently wanted around eight of my works in their journal can now only afford to place two. There are no hard feelings and I told them all about Kickstarter that a friend of mine used to raise funds for her magazine that I was also published in. Things open up to you if you just communicate. It's not about about entry fees and commissions it is about what you are contributing to art.

Me: What is the importance of photography competitions other than the prizes? Do you think they will help you in the long term?

Eleanor: Good competitions are hard to win because they have good judges. The more I can add to my CV the better. Often they are judged by photographers accomplished in their field whether it be photojournalism, wildlife, scenery or fashion. I love those competitions because if you lose you know its completely your fault and you really learn from those competitions.

Even though I'm competitive its important for me to lose at this age, and the rejections are essential. I see other young people around me who find it hard to overcome losing after a winning streak who maybe take it very personally when they get a harsh rejection. One magazine that my art didn't fit the aesthetic for, my poetry fits perfectly. You have no reason to cry or give up. Sometimes I have a break from entering competitions for a few weeks to tackle magazines and university journals or maybe a few galleries.

One of the most important things I've learnt is that everyone is different and just because one magazine may adore my work and another may detest it doesn't say anything about me. It doesn't mean I’m good or bad it just means I should adapt. In a world where the majority of people have camera phones, point-and-shoots, SLRS and Super Zooms, for me to be able to win a 3k holiday when thousand and thousands of other children enter that same competition probably tells me I'm more of an artist than a photographer. Creativity wins out overall.

photo by eleanor leonne bennett

Me: Are there any competitions that you wish you hadn't entered? If so, why?

Eleanor: No regrets to speak of, I am very happy with my choices to date.

Me: What advice would you give to other people who are thinking of entering competitions?

Eleanor: Try to enter juried competitions that are anonymously judged. There are a large amount of photography contests with public votes and because there isn't enough of a press release for voting on finalist photos it becomes a popularity contest of whose family and friends are most likely to vote.

When entering contests you should only be judged on your photo and the background story of said photo not on how you promote yourself to get votes towards that end. Also don't ever cheat and beware of the T&Cs on your rights of your photo after the period of judging. If you are lucky enough to become the overall winner, category winner, runner up, highly commended, say so and be specific! I know a few people who claim to have 'won' when I know they were a runner up or highly commended. It never hurts to keep an eye out :) Ignore all malicious backstabbers and always take on board creative criticism.

Visit Eleonor's website to see more of her photographs or follow these links to get the latest news on competitions in the UK and competitions in the US.

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