How To Run A Photo Contest

Learn how to run a successful Photo Contest with this helpful guide.

Running photo contests is a brilliant way to engage your fans, build awareness, strengthen your community and collect a ton of highly valuable user-generated content that will help you promote your offering in a highly relatable, engaging and trustworthy way.

With Gleam you can easily create and customise your own powerful photo contests. You'll be able to directly accept or automatically import submissions from a wide selection of sources, capture valuable user data, showcase submissions in stylish galleries and easily pick winners through random draws, manual selection and even fan voting.

Forget about having to manually record entries, track submissions and struggle to contact entrants for permission to share their content. Gleam handles all the nitty-gritty for you so you can focus on spreading the word about your contest and showcasing all the awesome content you generate.

In this guide we'll walk you through how you can run your own photo contest with Gleam.

We'll cover:

The best way to run your photo contest is by setting up a photo contest widget with Gleam which directly accepts image submissions from a wide selection of sources.

This type of contest allows you to build excitement and drive traffic to your contest through all your channels and maximise participation.

Plus, when you directly accept photo submissions you'll be able to require entrants to sign in to your contest and agree to your contest's terms and conditions. This will help you open up direct communication with contestants and easily get explicit permission to share and use their content in your own marketing efforts.

Take a look at this demo we put together to get a feel for how you could run your own photo contest with Gleam:

Gleam gives you a bunch of powerful actions that you can use to accept image submissions from an array of sources. You may want to limit submissions from a single source, or cast a wide net and let users enter from anywhere.

Here are some of the ways you can allow users to directly submit photos:

When you collect photo contest submissions with Gleam you'll be able to choose how often you want to allow users to submit entries.

Configure 'Entry interval' for your Gleam campaign

By default this setting will be set to single which allows each participant to submit a single entry, but you can also choose to allow users to submit hourly, daily or unlimited photos. We check the uniqueness of images, so if you allow users to submit multiple entries they won't be able to submit the same image twice.

Directly accepting image submissions into your photo contests has a number of highly advantageous features that will help you get the most out of your campaign:

One of the biggest advantages of directly accepting submissions using a photo contest widget is the ability to require users to sign in to your campaign with their email address before entering.

User details form on the Gleam campaign widget

This opens up a direct line of communication with entrants and makes it easy to contact winners and other entrants without having to rely on social media. Plus, you'll be able to fill your mailing list with avid fans which will give your future promotional efforts a meaningful boost.

When you run a photo contest with Gleam, you'll also be able to easily require users to agree to your terms and conditions via a checkbox before entering your photo contest.

Consent checkbox in the User Details form

Making sure entrants are aware of your terms and conditions and agree to them is important for a number of reasons, with one of the most crucial being getting permission to use the content you collect.

One of the biggest upsides of running photos contests is being able to collect valuable user-generated content, but if you want to share the photos you collect and harness them in your own marketing efforts you'll need to obtain explicit permission from users to do so.

If you run your photo contests directly on social media you'll often have to reach out to individual entrants and comment on their images asking for permission to them, but with Gleam you can automatically get instant permission from every entrant.

Another advantage of directly accepting photo contest submissions via the Gleam widget is the ability to award extra entries to users who complete additional actions.

This is a fantastic way to drive extra engagement and maximise the value you're getting from your campaign.

With Gleam you'll be able to drive:

You can even lock your additional entry options until users have submitted a photo to ensure you're receiving as much high-quality user-generated content as possible.

Run Your Own Photo Contests
Run Your Own Photo Contests

Check out the Gleam app and start running your own powerful photo contests today.

One of the most important aspects of running a photo contest is actively promoting it and driving participation.

When you use the Gleam widget to collect photo contest entries you won't be limited by the need to keep things on a specific social platform. This opens the door to a wide array of promotional opportunities which will help you reach users through all your channels and maximise participation.

You can easily install your Gleam campaign on your own website or you can keep things simple and run it from our free, stylish and customisable hosted landing pages.

Custom hosted landing page for a Gleam campaign

Whichever option you choose you'll be able to spread the word about your contest through all of your channels and drive users to your photo contest's landing page where they can easily enter.

When you run a photo contest it'd important to spread the word through all of your social media channels. When you promote your campaign via social media you should announce the contest and share regular reminders. Make sure you give users clear instructions on how they can enter and provide them with a link to your landing page where they can submit their entry.

If you're promoting your contest on Instagram this will involve providing a link to your contest in your bio and directing users to it from your promotional posts.

A great way to get people excited about your campaign and give potential entrants a bit of inspiration is to showcase exemplary submissions you have already received. This is a great way to engage fans, utilise the awesome content you've got and encourage more entries.

Your email list is likely to be made up of customers and other highly-engaged users who make for perfect photo contest entrants, which is why it's so important to reach out to these users and make sure they know about your photo contest.

With Gleam's powerful Viral Share action you can award bonus entries to participants who successfully get their friends to submit a photo and enter your contest.

Viral Share action for a Gleam campaign

This is a brilliant way to expose your contest to users you would have otherwise struggled to reach and maximise participation.

Another powerful way to reach new users is with the use of paid ads or sponsors.

You can use paid ads on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter or you can reach out to relevant influencers in your niche and ask them to promote your photo contest in exchange for some product or monetary compensation.

If you're a business physical locations such as a retail store, and restaurant or a cafe then it's a great idea to directly promote your contest at your location. This is a particularly good idea if you want visitors to take a photo on the spot, which is a brilliant tactic for restaurants to utilise.

This is a tactic Australian burger chain YOMG has used to great effect:

YOMG's photo contest prompt on a coaster-shaped restaurant buzzer

If you're on Gleam's Business or Premium plans you'll have another option for running powerful, engaging photo contests.

With our awesome Import Actions you can import photos and videos directly into your photo contest without entrants ever having to leave social media.

Import photos and videos externally from social media

You can automatically import entries from:

When you run this type of contest all you'll need to do is promote it through the relevant social media channels and let users know exactly how they can enter.

Your Gleam campaign will then automatically import submissions for you to collect, moderate, display and choose winners from.

Instagram is a platform that is singularly focused on the sharing of images and videos, which makes it the ideal platform for running photo contests.

With Gleam you can automatically import submissions from Instagram using #hashtags and @mentions.

When you run an Instagram photo contest we recommend that you encourage entrants to tag their submissions with both a #hashtag and a @mention. You can then collect submissions by using the Instagram @mention import action with a hashtag filter.

Admin view for Instagram @mentions import action

When you use @mentions to collect submissions you will be able to take clear ownership over the campaign and expose your Instagram profile to everyone who sees user submissions.

Plus, when you import submissions from @mentions you will be able to capture additional user data from entrants including @usernames and timestamps without having to click through to Instagram.

When you use @mention imports you can still add #hashtag filters to ensure users are still using your contest #hashtag which will help you make your contest clearly identifiable and help it gain traction, trend, and reach wider audiences.

Automatically importing entries from social media has some undeniable advantages when it comes to convenience and ease of entry, but there are also some limitations when compared to directly accepting entries into your widget which are worth noting.

When you automatically import submissions with Gleam you will be able to run truly frictionless contests where users can instantly enter your campaign without ever having to leave social media. Instead of sharing a photo, going back to your post, following your link and submitting their entry all they'll need to do is properly upload and tag their photo.

Making entry this easy is a great way to maximise participation and collect a lot of awesome user-generated content.

When you collect photo contest submissions via automatic imports you won't be able to require users to sign in with their email. This means that you'll miss out on the chance to grow your mailing list and will have to contact winners directly through social media once your contest has wrapped up.

When you get users to directly sign in to your campaign you can get them to agree to your terms and conditions before entering, which is a great way to get explicit permission to use the user-generated content you collect in your own marketing.

If you automatically import entries this becomes a little trickier. You can include your terms and conditions in your contest posts. However, there's still the possibility of people tagging their posts for entry without properly understanding your contest, so the safe option is commenting on photos you want to use and asking for permission to use them.

Asking for permission to reuse entrant's photos in Instagram caption

While highly reliable, this approach takes a lot more effort than simply getting entrants to tick a box.

Photo contests are an outstanding way to collect highly-valuable user-generated content, and once you've started collecting it you'll need to put it all on full display to engage your audience and enjoy the benefits of UGC.

You can this by sharing particularly valuable photos across your social feeds, but you should also be showcasing the content you collect in a dedicated contest Gallery with Gleam where users can look at submissions and vote for their favourites.

If you have a Competitions Plan you can create a Gallery from the Install Options tab inside your photo contest. Simply give your Gallery a name and a Gallery will automatically be created and linked to your campaign.

Once your campaign starts receiving media from users or imports you'll start to see it populate in the Gallery.

Add a Gallery to your Competitions campaign

If you have a Package or a Gallery Plan can use the Gallery App which offers more flexibility and features.

When you're creating and customising your Gallery you can easily link it to your photo contest under the import tab.

Pick a Gleam campaign to import photos from

You can even set up your Gallery to showcase submissions from multiple campaigns. This is perfect if you regularly run photo contests and want to keep a Gallery of all your submissions.

Showcase submissions from multiple Gleam campaigns in one Gallery

One of the best reasons to showcase user photos in a Gallery is the ability to get your fans to vote for their favourite submissions to determine a winner. This is a brilliant way to add an extra layer of engagement to your photo contest and put the awesome content you've generated in front of an engaged audience.

All you need to do to allow voting in your Gallery is click enable voting in your Gallery's Setup tab.

Enable Voting from Gleam Gallery setup

Your voting settings can then be customised in the Voting tab of your Gallery. Here you can decide if users can vote anonymously or if a social login is required, if you want vote counts to be public, how you want to sort your Gallery and more.

Configure Voting options for your Gleam Gallery

Another great thing about using a popular vote to determine winners is that it will incentivise entrant to share their submission around to get as many votes as possible, which in turn will put your engaging branded content in front of a brand new audience.

All you need to do is enable sharing in your Gallery's Setup tab. Users will then be able to share individual gallery items through an array of platforms simply by clicking on the share icon in the bottom left corner of each item.

Sharing options on an individual Gallery item

Users can even embed individual Gallery items on any page that supports HTML. This allows bloggers and influencers to publicise and promote their submissions which can get a lot of new eyes on your campaign.

With Gleam's powerful Capture app you can create and customise stylish discount popups and trigger them as soon as a user votes on a Gallery item. This is an awesome way to give out discount code to voters which can help you incentivise more votes and drive sales.

The promise of a discount can help you drive heaps of traffic to your Gallery and maximise voting.

Plus, your user-generated content will be able to engage users and get them excited about your products, so when you give them a valuable discount code they'll be in the right mindset and ready to make a purchase.

When a Competition is linked to a Gallery you can show a button that allows users to upload their images and enter your campaign from inside your Gallery.

All you need to do is turn the campaign button on under the header tab of your Gallery setup.

Just like your photo contest widget, when you create a Gallery with Gleam you can install it in a page on your website, or you can use our hosted landing pages.

  Check Out A Hosted Gallery

Once your photo contest has wrapped up you'll need to pick a winner. There's a few different ways that you can pick winners for your photo contests with Gleam:

With Gleam you can easily pick random winners for your contests. All you have to do is go to the Winners tab of your campaign and click Draw Winners.

Winners tab for a Gleam Competitions campaign

If the random winner doesn't meet your eligibility requirements you can easily redraw pick another one.

If you're judging submissions based on skill or merit you can also manually pick winners from within the Action tab of your Competition. You just need to select Make Winner under Status.

Select 'Make winner' to manually pick a winner for your Gleam campaign

If you're running a photo voting contest then you can easily draw winners by sorting your contest Gallery by Most Popular, finding the most popular submission in the Actions tab of your contest and making them the winner.

If you're picking winners for your photo contest through manual selection or popular vote you might want to consider giving away some runner-up prizes. These will help encourage more users to enter and add to the excitement of your campaign.

You can easily set up and administer runner-up prizes through Gleam's multiple prizes feature.

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Ahron Burstin

Ahron is a Growth Marketer at Gleam. Shoot him a Tweet if you got something out of this post ☺