5 Tips for Submitting a Winning Calendar Contest Photo

Entering your dog into a pet calendar contest is a fun way to support your local rescue. With the money raised from contest entries and votes going directly to the designated non-profit organization (and biiig grand prizes often up for grabs for entrants), submitting an awww-inducing photo is an important first step toward earning more money for the recipient rescue—and ultimately more votes for your pooch.

Here are five easy tips that will help make your entry stand out from the rest and maximize your chances of winning a pet calendar contest.

1. Keep it simple.

Never underestimate the power of a sharp, focused, and properly exposed photo. Eliminate clutter and distracting backgrounds and puh-lease go easy on the filters or scrap ’em all together. (Let’s be real: Instagram’s Kelvin and Amaro filters aren’t flattering on anyone!) Simple well-lit shots that put your four-legged friend front and center tend to rack up the most votes.

2. Play up your pet’s personality!

Do you have a bed-hogging bulldog? How about a snow-loving northern breed or a charismatic corgi? Rather than trying to set up the perfect portrait, use these distinct quirks and qualities to play up your pup’s personality.

Consider incorporating your pet’s can’t-live-without toy or an adorable accessory, snapping some shots of her snoozing in her snuggliest spot, or capturing him in the middle of a game of tug or fetch. If a particular moment brings a smile to your face, ends in a gut-busting laugh, or just pulls on your heartstrings, it’s likely to evoke the same emotion in others as well.

playful puppy and terrier running though grass during a Pittsburgh pet photography session

If you’re trying to freeze some action shots, be mindful of your shutter speed to prevent motion blur. Generally, you’ll want to keep your shutter speed at a minimum of 1/250s for posed portraits and much faster if you’re photographing, say a playful pittie or a sprinting spaniel, for instance. A shutter speed of 1/2000s or faster will freeze even the wildest game of fetch! (Trust me, I’ve got plenty of shots of Hunter, mid-air, Frisbee in mouth, and slobber-slinging everywhere.)

3. Get on their level.

Pet photos are much more engaging when taken at your dog’s level. Don’t be shy about crouching or contorting yourself into your own version of downward dog in order to get a more unique perspective–that of your furry friend! Your images will appear more inviting and natural (despite how you may have felt at the time you took them).

4. Look for the light.

Eliminate harsh flash for a soft, natural look. A slightly overcast sky or even light from a window or sliding glass door works wonderfully to add sparkle and life to the eyes in the form of catchlights, or the subtle white reflections visible in the corners of a subject’s eyes. Simply position your pet with his face toward the light to create effortless catchlights.

beautiful white cat relaxing during an in-home session in Pittsburgh

5. Remember, the eyes have it.

One look into those pleading puppy peepers and you’ll totally understand that old adage that the eyes are the window to the soul. Animals have some of the most expressive eyes, which is why it’s important to have them in focus.

Encourage eye contact by holding a treat or squeezing a squeaky toy close to your camera’s lens, making an unusual sound to add an irresistible head tilt, or asking an intriguing question. (In our house, that’s “Car ride to Grandma’s, anyone?”)

Don’t Overthink Your Entry.

Ultimately, the best way to choose a contest-winning photo is to go with your gut. If you have multiple photos that fit the criteria above, don’t overthink it—just pick the one that makes you smile the most. And if you’re still stuck, ask your friends or family to help you choose. After all, they’re probably just as biased in favor of your pet as you are!

If you want to stay informed of Bark & Gold Photography’s future pet calendar contests, be sure to join my VIP list. You’ll be the first to know when new contests open so you can have a chance to win amazing prizes (like one of 13 grand prize calendar features and a professional pet photography session with me and hundreds of dollars of weekly mini-contest prizes from some pretty incredible sponsors). Choose your adventure below to begin.

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