Picking Photos for a Contest – tips and suggestions

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When deciding what pictures to enter in a contest, any contest, I first look through my images and pick out what I consider my favorites. They could be my favorite just because one of the kids are the main focus, or it could be a favorite because of the lighting or the angle at which it was taken. What ever the reason, start with your favorites.

Next, I look for if the image tells a story or not. This is where you begin to really look at the images you have taken and ask yourself if someone else looked at this, would they, #1 know what was happening, #2 be able to make a connection to it, and #3 appreciate the feeling that it gave them. Example: A pair of rain boots running through a mud puddle brings back memories and happy feelings for most individuals. What the image lacks is context to why the puddle is there and who is wearing the rain boots. A little girl in rain boots, running though puddles in a muddy driveway, with rain clouds in the distance, towards her daddy who is shutting a gate or getting off of a tractor, tells you more of a story and you can gather from the picture what has happened. (I wish I had an image just like this!) The individual looking at it will, #1 know that the rain had just come through by seeing the clouds in the distance, #2 make a connection in that they used to run through puddles or they still do, #3 leave with a feeling they will appreciate, be it the joy of childhood or the love between a father and daughter.

After you have determined if the image tells a story, look and see what the image NEEDS. Does it need to be cropped down a little so that you no longer see an old pile of rusty junk? Maybe the cat’s tail is seen in the bottom corner? What ever the case, crop and crop with a purpose! Some pictures can have too much sky or too much ground. Start by finding a balance and then come in closer to your focal area if you need to.

Original

Cropped Original

Most contests for amateurs ask that only minimal edits be done. Besides cropping, I suggest sticking to contrast, color, saturation and highlights. All these can be done with using basic online programs like Picasa, Pixlr or PicMonkey. (Picasa is my favorite to use.) Any one of these basic edits only enhance what you have already captured in your image. Changing the scale for contrast can deepen the colors and add more depth to your picture. Increasing highlights can lighten certain areas just enough to give the photo more light, which can lead to more detail being seen.

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The picture on the left is the cropped untouched/out of the camera photo. Using the Highlights, Shadows and Color Temperature scales, I was able to make slight changes so that the colors stand out a little more and the temperature of the picture is warmer. Can you tell there is a difference?

When it comes to what pictures to put in what contest categories, then I suggest this; adhere to what the description say. If the category is “Faces of the Farm”, have a face in the photo. Be it a face of a new-born baby calf, faces of a young farm family or the faces of a grandfather and grandson working side by side, make sure you can see their faces. Now there is room for interpretation in all instances. Just be mindful of what they are looking for and if your image fits that. On occasion I have had a photo that I feel fits more than one category. In that case I just go with my “gut” and put it where I feel it fits the best for me. (Or you can ask family and friends for their suggestions.)

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*Using this picture as an example, here is how I determine what the story of the photo is and where it would fit into a photo contest. Context: It is fall harvest time. Connection: The truck, the standing corn in the background and the shelled corn stalks in the foreground. Feeling: Joy in the fact that the older generation is teaching the younger generation. Category: Farmer’s Life

The last tip I am going to give you deals with naming your photos. I find this the hardest part of picking and submitting photos! (I really do!) What help I can offer is to keep them short and sweet and to the point. For the above photo I have titled it, “Teaching the Next Generation”. Simple, yes. Very imaginative, not really. Does it do the trick and help to bring the story of the picture full circle, you bet ya!

I do hope this helps those of you who are going to be entering photo contests. There are several contests out there and I encourage everyone who reads this to submit a photo or two. What better way to show-case not only your talent, but your passions as well. Agriculture happens to be a passion of mine and it is my goal that who ever sees my photographs knows that above all else.

If you have any questions or if you want me to cover something else, please let me know by leaving a comment below. I always like hearing from readers and hope that you can make a connection to the things that you read here.

Blessings to you and best of luck,

Laurie – Country Link

*Disclaimer time: Let’s face it, I am just one person who happens to have an opinion on this subject. I am sure you can find others with a different opinion and they would be just as right or wrong as I am.

Focus on Missouri Agriculture – Photo Contest

Here it is the end of May and we are in the season of MUD. Mud is everywhere here in north Missouri. Our road is muddy, the fields are muddy, the pig pen is muddy and the spot where my garden should be is muddy. What do you do when things are this muddy? Focus on what you can do, not what you can not change.

This photo not only depicts what today’s cattle drive looks like, but also brings back the days of long ago when cattle drives were happening all across our country. This photo tells a story.

So focus we will! Today I want to focus on photos and how they tell the story of agriculture. All year-long as we tend the fields, care for the livestock and harvest the crops, I have a camera with me to capture it all. Why, you ask? The images I take not only serve as a reminder of what we have done through the year, but also serve as a connection to the land, the animals and each other. The stages of growth are captured. The compassion for life is captured and the beauty of what is all around us is captured. My camera connects others to this life and helps to tell the story of agriculture.

Are you a shutterbug like me? Do you have pictures upon pictures of farm life and work happening on the farm? Have you been to a you-pick berry patch lately and photographed your harvest? Maybe you love to photograph the diverse landscape of rural Missouri and have pictures of a beautiful sunset or a scenic farm stead? Do your photos tell the story of agriculture? If so, enter your photos in the Focus on Missouri Agriculture photo contest. The annual contest put on by the Missouri Department of Agriculture to promote and showcase Missouri’s No. 1 industry.

In its sixth year, this contest has yielded thousands of photographs capturing the diversity that is agriculture in the Show-Me state. The deadline is June 15th, (that gives you 15 days to get your pictures submitted!) and is open to any amateur photographer who is a resident of Missouri. Kids ages 12 and under are also eligible to enter pictures! They have a special category, “Children’s Barnyard“, for the youngest shutterbugs.

“Dad making bales” – This is Wyatt’s entry in the Children’s Barnyard category in 2014. The Children’s Barnyard winner and honorable mentions all receive a canvas print of their photos. 

Having entered the contest for the past four years, I encourage anyone I can to enter a photo or two or even 12, (the maximum number you can enter). To me, entering is a different way to get my pictures to a greater audience. Maybe someone will see my picture and feel connected to it or recall a happy memory. If I place as a category winner or even an honorable mention, than great! If I don’t, that’s okay too. Just entering pictures ensures that others will see them as the Department of Agriculture not only uses the winning photos, but others entered for promotion, social media campaigns and for educational purposes.

Now, you know all about the contest and I provided the link, so what are you waiting for? Don’t let a thing like an astronomical amount of pictures slow you down. (Trust me! I know the feeling!) Don’t think for a moment that yours are not good enough. All types of amateur photographers have entered and you can too! Would it help if I give a few tips? Come back on Wednesday and I will have tips and suggestions on how to pick, edit and name your photos for contests. Then you won’t have any excuse for not getting your pictures submitted!

Until Wednesday, blessings to you and all who have a passion for telling the story of agriculture,

Laurie – Country Link

*Disclaimer time: I was not asked by anyone to do this post. I have enjoyed entering the contest the past four years. I feel blessed to have had photos be category winners and honorable mentions. I want others to participate in this contest as well so that Missouri Agriculture really can be show-cased for all to see.