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5 Photography Challenge Sites and Apps to Hone Your Skills and Compete in Contests

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Like any artistic skill, you need to practice your photography repeatedly to actually get better at it. Of course, practice can get boring, and you also need feedback on what you’re doing. That’s why several amateur and experienced photographers regularly take up photography challenges to hone their skills.

There are several free online photography challenges you can participate in. Some have active competitions, while others are like following a syllabus and comparing notes with past students. You’ll also find thriving communities to give you feedback on your submissions in the photography challenges. And yes, you can do these skill challenges with a professional camera or even a good phone camera.

Expert Photography is one of the best sites to learn photography on the internet. So it’s natural that its 30-Day Photo Challenge Project has become the first recommendation for amateur shutterbugs seeking a photography challenge in which they’ll also learn about the craft.

This is decidedly aimed at beginners, or those who are looking to refresh their basic photography skills. Each day of the challenge has a new objective, like a self-portrait, frame within a frame, lens flare, street photography, etc. It’s a good idea to read Expert Photography’s full article on the subject before you take up your camera, as it will give you several insights into the techniques and tips to achieve the objective.

You can choose to complete the challenge by yourself, posting to your social media and asking for feedback from your friends. But there’s also the option to post to the Expert Photography Facebook group, where an active community will comment on your progress.

Once you’re done with the 30-Day photo challenge and if you’re still hankering for more, try the Expert Photography 365 day photo calendar. Each day has a new objective much like the 30-day challenge, but it’s a lot more creatively challenging.

2. GuruShots (Web, Android, iOS): Instagram-Like App With Daily Photo Challenges

GuruShots is the one photography challenge app that comes close to feeling like a contest-based version of Instagram. Every day, you will find different photo challenges that you can participate in for free. Each challenge has multiple winners: the top photo, the top photographer, and an expert photography guru’s top pick.

A lot of the contests let you submit multiple photos, which is why the top photographer can differ from the top photo. Those two categories are chosen by community votes, which happens in real-time and doesn’t wait till the contest ends. Early birds do get the worm here. And yes, the active community will comment on pictures, giving you valuable feedback.

You don’t need to use your phone’s camera, but it feels quite natural to do it with GuruShot the app. You can also submit via the website, and use a professional camera for it. But the Instagram-like experience of browsing multiple galleries and photos gets addictive, and you’ll soon find yourself using your phone’s camera to submit to GuruShots. There’s no harm in that, of course, as phone cameras today are fantastic, and there have been past contest winners who used them.

GuruShots adds a lot of gamification on top of all this to keep you hooked and clicking photos everyday. You’ll earn points to level-up your status, for instance, and you’ll also be able to join friends and participate in team contests. But even if you don’t want the social elements, the base photo challenges are perfect for regular practice to level-up your skills.

Download: GuruShots for Android | iOS (Free)

3. Pexels Photo Challenges (Web): Photo Contests for Prizes and Online Clout

Pexels is famous as one of the best sites for copyright-free images, and has thousands of users uploading photos daily. Still, in an effort to boost its collection with quality images, it regularly hosts photo challenges for all users, and includes cool prizes too.

Usually, you’ll find one or two challenges running simultaneously. A constant is the Homepage Challenge, which features contests like colors, seasons or timely trends, with the prize being the top 10 entries (as judged by Pexels team) will be featured on the site’s homepage. The other challenges are often universally thematic (around the world, festivals, emotions), and can even carry cash prizes or gifts.

There are some universal rules. You can submit unlimited photos during the competition, but it must be the first time you are uploading the picture to Pexels. Needless to say, it has to be original. You’ll also be encouraged to add tags and location to the photo while submitting, and past winners say that is a critical step in boosting your chances. Plus, it’ll eventually aid in helping your photo be discovered in Pexels, and thus make you climb the leaderboard.

4. 52Frames (Web): Best Weekly Photo Challenge Competition

52 Frames is a weekly photo challenge competition with an active community of enthusiastic shutterbugs. It’s exactly what you expect. There is a weekly theme or topic announced on Monday, and you have to submit a photo about it by the end of Sunday. A committee of 52 Frames members and experienced photographers then picks the top three submissions, which are posted along with all entries on Tuesday.

The photo must be taken during the week, you can’t use past pictures. Each challenge also comes with its own tips and tutorials, which you might want to peruse before you start shooting. There are some excellent pointers in there.

The Tuesday album is where the community really kicks in. Even though there are over 2,000 submissions every week, you’ll find people commenting on nearly all the photos. If you’re new to 52 Frames, it’s a good idea to participate in these discussions and air your views, because that makes it more likely for someone to click on your profile to check your work.

If the weekly photo challenge is not enough, 52 Frames also has a weekly Extra Challenge to test your skills. Think of this as a fun exercise rather than taking it too seriously, especially since it’s not mandatory to submit any image here. 52 Frames is the kind of project to make you love photography, not to make it feel like a burden.

5. ViewBug (Web, Android, iOS): Multiple Photo Contests With Great Prizes

ViewBug is fast gaining a reputation among online photographers for its photo contests, especially because of the prizes it offers. From gadgets like drones, cameras, and speakers to cash prizes and celebrity shoutouts on social media, these prizes are drawing quality photographers, making it a great place to learn and compare your work to advanced users.

As a free member, you are restricted from participating in all contests. Nonetheless, at any time, you will still have 10+ contests that you can submit a photo in. Of course, you can also vote on submissions by others to whittle it down to the top 100, out of which a winner is chosen by an expert panel.

With a variety of contests (and most with a long deadline), you’ll find enough challenges for photography inspiration. However, there isn’t much community participation in terms of discussions, feedback, and comments. So while ViewBug is great for regular photography assignments and the chance to earn prizes, you’ll need to rely on observation and self-learning to improve your skills.

Download: ViewBug for Android | iOS (Free)

Don’t Get Caught Up in Competition

Once you participate in online photography challenges, it’s easy to get sucked into the community and the world. You might find yourself getting obsessed with the votes, with why someone else won instead of you, and trying to figure out what the expert judges are looking for.

But it’s important to take a step back, and remember you’re not doing this to be crowned the champion or win some prizes. The objective of these challenges is to hone your photography skills and get better at painting with your lens.

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