Think beyond local camera club contests and consider some of the premier nature photography competitions in the world
Text And Photography By Dave Welling
Photo contests can be a successful way to get your images published, and some of the premier nature photography contests are monitored by publications, making them ideal for working your images into print as well.
There are photo contests of every shape, form and subject so you have a wide range of choices. But to truly test your abilities, consider the bigger national and international contests produced by organizations such as the BBC, Nature’s Best and the Valley Land Fund. These contests draw some of the top pros in the world of nature and wildlife photography. Each contest is somewhat unique in its structure so you need to study the entry rules, review winning images of past contests and decide on the commitment level necessary to improve your chances of winning.
The BBC Wildlife Photographer Of The Year Contest Probably the most internationally recognized contest is the annual BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest, produced by the BBC in England since the early 1980s. There are several classes of entry subjects, including a variety of species subjects, from insects to endangered species, as well as scenic-based subjects, but all images must include wildlife as part of the image, except the plant class.
Each entry class is limited to a maximum of three images. Images of captive animals are allowed, but they must be identified as such and you must certify that no animal was harassed in any way to capture the image. There's also a contest section for younger photographers. Even if you're in your teens or younger, you still have a forum for your work.
To submit images for this contest, you must be ruthless in your selections. Choose only those images that are stunning in composition, show some type of action or expression, are perfectly exposed and, if possible, have some unique feature about them. You may only submit images that were taken within the last three years of the date of the contest and you must certify this. The competition is fierce; you're competing against the best and the annual selections prove this. Past winners include photographers such as Frans Lanting and Tom Mangelsen.
The contest leans toward action and dynamic images rather than portraiture. The BBC also is one of the few contests that often will showcase predator-prey attack or kill images. That activity is part of nature and many of the images are striking with great impact on the viewer.