How to Run an Eye-Catching Photo Contest on Your Blog

A photo contest is an eye-catching way to attract new visitors to your blog and deepen connections with your existing audience. And if your blog is oriented around the promotion of a service or product you provide, this is a fabulous way to strengthen your brand message and boost sales.

Everybody secretly believes they’re a great photographer, or at least that they have one good photograph inside them (or on their phone!). With a photo competition, you’ll invite the public to submit one or more images on a given theme (like “my pet is my family” or “blissfully yours”) or with a formal concept, such as “black and white” or “portrait”.

A photo contest is great because everybody understands it and it’s easy to get involved. Even those who choose not to participate will appreciate the visual impact of your campaign (because a photo contest is a campaign). Hopefully, they’ll share your call for entries and your winning images far and wide.

The flipside of all this is that running a competition is hard work. Goodwill and long hours alone won’t make it a success: just as important is to identify a clear goal for the campaign and to create a strategy to achieve it. You can simplify the work by using a third-party application to handle the everyday maintenance of running the contest.

What are the best ways to run Photo Contests on your blog?

So the first thing to do is identify for yourself and your colleagues why you’re running the photo contest. It can be helpful to capture this in one guiding phrase (such as “Let’s let people know our holiday cottage is a dream place to rent”) and you can also make a list of more specific goals (such as “get 500 new mailing list sign-ups.”)

Here are some of the best reasons to run a competition:

  • To increase engagement with your audience.
  • To reach new audiences and increase follower numbers.
  • To promote a product or news about your brand.
  • To strengthen or redefine your brand image.
  • To generate leads or boost sales.

Whenever you make a decision about your contest, refer to your list of goals and the way ahead should seem clearer. Working this way will help you to keep the message of your contest bold and memorable.

Setting the rules

It’s important to be clear from the outset what are the parameters of your contest. If you end up disqualifying dozens of entrants for ineligible entries or giving the prize to someone who doesn’t appear to have followed the rules, you will end up creating a bad feeling among your audience. You could even end up facing legal action.

The rules will take the form of a ‘brief’ (a few words describing the theme, spirit, and prize) and of an official rule list. You’ll want to be clear about the entry date and process, when the winner(s) will be announced, and what the judges will be looking for in each photograph.

So how do you choose the theme of your contest? It will depend on the nature of your blog, your chosen aims, and the prize or sponsorship tie-in that you’ve arranged. Try to make it appropriate to the audience that you hope to reach. For example, you don’t want to create a drone photography contest for children, or a selfie contest if you’re promoting a professional line of camera equipment.

If your target audience is quite general, choose a theme that doesn’t require too much in the way of resources but instead puts the emphasis on coming up with an original idea. You’ll also want to define the equipment entrants should use. Is it a DSLR contest, or are you looking for the best smartphone snaps – or is it ‘anything goes’? Again, think about your audience and choose something that will be a fun challenge without being too much like hard work.

Here is a resource listing some more specific rules that you might like to include.

With the rules established, you’ll need to find a prize, too. This will likely come from one of two sources: your business, or a sponsor.

Providing your own prize, such as one of your products or a special experience that is related to your service or industry, is a great way to promote what you do. It immediately adds a veneer of glamour to what you sell and gets readers thinking about what it would be like to have it. Hopefully, others on your blogging network will share details of your contest including images of the prize, which is great free publicity and engagement.

Getting a high-profile sponsor to donate a prize adds credibility to your contest. Working with a sponsor is a good choice if your goal is to increase your reach and audience since you can harness the power of their brand and existing followers. That’s why it’s important to find a sponsor who complements the subject of your blog.

For example, if you run a gardening blog to promote your own services as a local gardener, you could try asking a firm that sells outdoor furniture to donate a prize. They will be pleased to get some coverage on your blog, and they will have a different but relevant followership for you to reach.

Launching your contest

Now the nuts and bolts of your competition are in place, it’s time to launch it on your blog and share it on the world wide web.

Writing a blog entry or creating a landing page for your blog requires a different approach to your regular posts. Getting a balance between introducing new readers to your blog (and product if applicable), stating what the contest is about/how to enter it, and promoting your sponsors, is a delicate art.

Your copy should be fun and upbeat, and make the benefits of participating as clear as possible. Don’t get carried away with exaggerating the amazingness of your prize: try to describe in a couple of sentences what value the reward will give the winner and why it is important right now. Use images to tell the rest. A contest is a long game, and you’ll follow up with more blog posts and updates, so don’t treat your launch as the only opportunity to tout your wares.

In addition to the ‘small print’ of the rules, establish a clear guide on how to enter. Think about what information you might collect from participants on the entry form – it can be a great way to build your mailing list. But keep it simple. Don’t ask for more information than you need.

Remember to put the focus on the contest. What is the challenge? When is the deadline? Why is it exciting? How is it unique? Choose a lead image that captures the feeling of the contest, and write an enticing tagline. These are tools that you will use again and again as word of your contest spreads.

Spreading the word

Use your social media channels to keep folk updated about how the process is going, and encourage your followers to share your call for entries. Create a unique hashtag that expresses the spirit of the competition. If you’re comfortable in front of a camera, schedule a couple of events on Facebook Live or Periscope to create a sense of urgency and relevance.

It can be especially beneficial to run a ‘public’ photo contest whereby people enter by publishing their entries on social media and tagging your brand. If you’d rather keep things on your blog, you could instead try sharing the images as they come in (make sure you’ve asked for the appropriate permissions on your entry form!) This way every entry is a potential bit of publicity for your blog. Anyway, you should be using your blog and email list to regularly remind your readers what’s going on.

And don’t forget the blogger community. Ask them to write about your contest in return for a link, or with a promise to return the favor at a later date.

Guidelines for Judging a Photography Contest

What makes an award-winning photograph? There can be dozens of different factors, and in the end, each one will be judged according to taste. The most important thing is to choose a method of judging that suits your campaign and to be clear from the beginning the elements you’ll be assessing.

Will you judge each photo on composition, lighting, and focus? Or will you choose the one that makes you laugh the most? Perhaps your theme is to do with capturing a unique moment, in which case the photographer’s eye will be more important than their technical craft.

You might also consider this one last opportunity to collaborate by asking somebody else to be the ‘guest judge’. This could be another blogger, an industry or photography expert, or even a celebrity if you happen to have the connections! A guest judge is a great way to build a buzz around your contest and to utilize another network of fans.

Or perhaps you’ll let your followers be the judge. Woobox makes it easy to assess which images got the most Likes or to choose winning photos randomly.

After prize day

So you’ve chosen a winning photo, shared the image across the internet, delivered your prize, and had a lot of fun. It’s not over yet!

Now it’s important to assess the success of your campaign, and figure out what you’d do differently next time. Did you get the hits you needed? Did you increase your followers? How many new leads did you make? Does your audience now have a clearer idea of what it is you do? Great, let’s do it again – maybe your blog will even become known for its inspiring photo contests!

Ready to start? Remember these points:

  • Define the purpose of your contest and design a strategy around this.
  • Create a brief that captures your blogging voice but also set formal rules.
  • Utilize social media to draw contestants to your blog.
  • Collaborate with sponsors and other bloggers to improve your reach.
  • Choose an eye-catching winner and use it to further your publicity.

Ready to build a photo contest on your blog? Create a free Woobox account and create a contest today. Free Woobox accounts cost nothing until you decide to launch and complete a campaign.