9 Tips for Awesome Photo Contests

by Emily Thousand Second Street

Ask for photos people already have on their phones.

When you are deciding what type of photo contest to run, start by thinking of the kinds of photos that your audience will already have saved on their computers and mobile devices. After all, it’s easier to share photos that are already easily accessible. Kids and pet-themed contests are always appealing and accessible, while an 80’s Prom Photo Contest that requires people to scan an older photo would not be as accessible (nor would it have such broad appeal).


Be very clear about rules and expectations.

You want to be very clear from the beginning about who is eligible to enter your contest, how to enter (including cut-off dates and times), and any additional requirements. Here are some common questions that you should be sure to address:

  • Who can enter?
  • How many photos can you submit?
  • Can photos be submitted any way other than by uploading to the contest?
  • Is there a file size limit?
  • Which file formats will be accepted?
  • Are there any recommended file sizes or formats?
  • Are there any specific requirements for the photo content?
  • Are there prizes? What are the prizes?

Have a fantastic prize.

When you are selecting a prize for your photo contest, you want to make sure that it is valuable enough to warrant participation. While a pair of movie tickets might make a great prize for a simple enter-to-win sweepstakes, your photo contest prize should reflect level of engagement it takes for your audience to enter your contest. It should also match what you are asking your entrants to submit. Front row tickets to a wrestling match probably isn’t a good fit for your cutest kids photo contest, but a pair of matching watches is the perfect prize for a Mother/Daughter Lookalike Contest sponsored by a jeweler.


Keep your registration form simple.

You should require registration in order to enter your contest so you can collect valuable data about your contests entrants. However, a long and cumbersome registration process can deter people from entering. Avoid this by keeping your registration form clean and simple. You probably don’t need much more than name, email address, and zip code. Learn more about how to craft the optimal registration page.

Collect email opt-ins.

Your email database is the key to activation and has the power to drive instant traffic to your contests or other engagement campaigns, so you should include an email opt-in on every single registration page or entry form you create. Don’t let a single contest be a missed opportunity to collect an opt-in! Pick up some tips for writing the perfect email opt-in in this article.


Optimize your contest for multiple platforms.

Since everyone’s photos are on their phones (and it’s possible to instantly upload photos from iOS and Android devices), it’s more important than ever to make sure that your contest is optimized more mobile and tablet as well as desktop.

Make sure your entry and voting periods are long enough.

When designing your contest, make the entry and voting periods long enough that everyone who wants to enter will have the chance (but not so long that your audience starts to lose interest). I suggest a 2-4 week submission period followed immediately by a voting period lasting at least 2 weeks.


Send email messages inviting people to submit photos and vote.

Before each stage of your contest, send out an email message to your promotional database inviting them to participate. You could also take the opportunity to include a message or coupon from your sponsor(s), a link back to your website or Facebook Page, information about an upcoming event, and so on.


As with any contest, you want to promote your photo contest heavily. Leverage every available asset, including both traditional and digital media. You should also be taking advantage of email and social media. Send a contest announcement out to your promotional database, post the contest link to Facebook, send out links on Twitter, pin a promotional image to Pinterest, and so on. For even more ideas, take a look at this comprehensive checklist for promoting contests.

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