Photography competitions

Submitting images for photographic competitions isn’t everyone’s idea of fun. It can be a nervous time submitting what you believe is your very best work to be critiqued and rated by others. It can either build or dent your confidence. Photography competitions however, do have some distinct benefits beyond the prizes offered.


Photographic Competitions are usually quite public affairs, whether they are voted on by the public or a judging panel, and almost always involve an exhibition. They may be internet based, with a potential audience of millions, or housed in a public space such as an art gallery. Either way is an outlet to show your work to a brand new audience.


It is a very difficult thing to critique your own work. You are automatically biased by the experience of creating the image yourself which makes is hard to determine the quality of the finished image itself. Friends and family also tend to be more fans than critics. Someone who has not been involved with either you or the creative process however does not have this barrier. The only opinion they can draw is that of the end product. While it can be difficult to hear others’ point out technical flaws in your images, provided you listen with an open mind you may become aware of some areas to work on to improve your images.

There are so many photography competitions run around the world each year that it can be hard to decide which to enter. From prestigious international contests with huge prizes and recognition to the winners, to locally held exhibitions fought for pride only. Which ones to choose depend on your reason for entering. If you are looking to gain recognition and credibility as a professional, National Geographic Photo Contest would be a consideration, however if your primary reason is to learn and improve your photography, a smaller competition where you have face to face feedback from judges as well as the public may be of more benefit.


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Melbourne tram
 Melbourne tram, 2010.

Panning is a great way to convey motion or speed in a photo, but it’s not the easiest technique to master. I’ve been at it for years and I still feel like I need a lot more practice, but it’s a lot of fun to try. Like other techniques, everyone will find his or her own way, but there are a few basics that I have been taught that I think are a solid starting point:

Shutter speed: Generally, you need to use a slightly slower shutter speed than you would normally, but this will vary depending on how fast your subject is moving,  how much you want to blur the backround and the amount of ambient light in the scene. As a general rule, I usually start with a speed of around 1/15th of a second for slower moving subjects such as bycicles and 1/30th for faster subjects such as cars.

London Black Cab
London black cab, 2007. Who says the subject needs to be dead centre?

Position and tracking: You will need to position yourself in a spot that allows you to get an unobstructed view of the subject so that you can track it’s path. Usually this will be parallel to the direction the subject (lets say it’s a car) is heading. As it approaches, track the car with your camera holding it as steady and level as possible.  I find that if I start facing in the direction the tracking shot will finish so that I’m twisting at the start of the shot rather than the end, this allows me to track more smoothly.

Hong Kong taxi
Hong Kong taxis, 2012. Position yourself so that you have an uninterrupted view of the subject as it heads towards you.

Focus and apeture: This is one type of shot where apeture is not so important since your background is going to be blurred anyway. For panning shots, you can use apeture to control the amount of light coming in. For example if you are shooting during the middle of the day and find that you are having trouble getting the shutter speed down to a suitable setting, you can close down the apeture to help. Focus on the other hand, is what will seperate the car from the chaos that will be the background. Ideally you camera’s autofocus will be up to the task of tracking a fast moving object (most are these days), but if not it’s better to switch to manual focus rather than trying to wrestle with it. Pre focus on a spot that will be somewhare in the middle of your pan.

Other tips for smoother panning: It is important to start tracking before you press the shutter and follow through after you have released it. This will help you keep the camera steady and keep the motion blur in your backround straight. When pressing and releasing the shutter, do it as gently as possible so as not to jolt the camera off it’s level when panning.

Hong Kong tram
Hong Kong tram, 2012. Practice techniques to make panning shots smoother.

When done well, panning can create images with impact. It takes a lot of work to become proficient, but I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun trying as I have.

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Shutha web resource for photographers

Newly launched, The Shutha website is a free resource put together by some folks from some pretty prestigeous groups, including the American Society of Media Photographers and World Press Photo. The site focuses on providing aspiring professional photographers with an insight into photography markets and avenues to earning a living from photography. It is directed largely at photographers living in developing countries but contains a lot of solid advice that would be beneficial to any photographer looking to make the leap to photography as a vocation.

Shutha includes a range of educational videos that range from exploring various photography markets such as stock, publishing and assignment, to workflow and technical tutorials on Adobe Lightroom and digital asset management. It’s a great resource for understanding how to choose the types of markets that will work for you and market your work to them, and is definately a must read for someone tossing up if they want to become a vocational photographer, or those who might need a little direction with their photography business.

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Photography Links


The photography industry is constantly evolving and keeping up to date with new developments can be difficult when most of your working day consists of shooting images and doing all the bits and pieces needed to run a small business. It can also be a costly exercise to attend classes and seminars. So with this in mind I thought I’d share some of the resources I’ve come to depend on that are either free or inexpensive. Hope you can get something out of these and please feel free to add your own.

Luminous Landscape includes a whole mountain of tutorials, essays and product reviews. I especially find the articles on photo locations great for both inspiration and researching an upcoming trip.

Craft & Vision is a collection of ebooks from many well known photographers covering a whole range of photography subjects. They tend to lean towards the philisophical and theory, but there is also some great practical information on both photography and business. Great value at only a fiver per ebook.

Digital Photo School offers gear reviews and post production advice as well as information on marketing and the business side of photography.

Latest post production news, reviews and tutorials can be found at Photoshop Daily.

Pro Photo Coalition is a collection of articles and blogs from a range of working photographers.

Strobist– Everything you ever wanted to know about off camera flash.

Photofocus includes inspirations and tutorials for improving your images as well as industry news and product reviews.

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Nick Onken is a commercial and travel photographer based in New York. I stumbled across his website and blog some time ago and was taken with his creative style and use of natural light. So when I heard that he had produced a book targeted towards travelling photographers, I thought I’d take a look.

At 160 pages, the book goes broad rather than deep. Choosing to cover off a little on a wide range of topics such as preparing for a shoot, including gear considerations and pre planning and scouting, issues to consider on the ground, post production both on location and back home and the many business/marketing issues that need to be considered to successfully market your images. It is a beautifully laid out book, with images serving as inspiration and the content arranged into easy to grab “bites” of information that makes it a good quick reference and means that the book does not necessarily need to be read from cover to cover to be informative.

Photo Trekking feels like it is aimed more at those starting out in travel photography or weighing up whether to dive in the deep end and make this their profession. Onken includes an overview of the state of the photography industry today and includes pro’s and con’s of doing this vocationally, which I found honest and refreshing compared to many travel photography books that insist success is only a matter of picking up a camera and buying a plane ticket. The inclusion of a chapter focusing on tips for travel photographs covers some time honoured techniques such as the rule of thirds and the placement of lines and colour, as well as sharing some of the techniques that give Nick’s images their own distinctive style and provoke us to think more deeply and photograph more intentionally. It gives food for thought and can be applied, like much of the topics discussed in this book, to any genre of professional photography, not just travel photography.

The content is not ground breaking, but it is good meaty stuff that provokes the reader to consider all the aspects of this industry rather than just the pointing and shooting bit. Especially useful was the chapter on building your photography business which focuses on branding and marketing, developing a style and creating a portfolio and a web presence.

In short, Photo Trekking by Nick Onken is not a definitive guide, but a good introduction to travel photography and professional photography in general by a talented photographer and communicator. Nick’s website and blog can be found at

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