Photo contests are one of the best ways for businesses to connect with people in their target market. They’re awesome for driving social engagement, increasing brand reach, and generating leads for businesses to market to prospective customers.
In this article, I’ll go over 25 creative ideas you can use for your next photo contest. I’ll cover ways to increase contest engagement, ideas for your prizes, and some awesome ideas for seasonal photo contests.
Let’s get started!
Photo Contest Idea #1: Use a Hashtag
Using a hashtag to run your contest is a great way to link your entries and measure engagement. Using a photo contest app like Wishpond’s allows you to automatically grab photos from platforms like Instagram that are tagged with your chosen photo contest hashtag.
When you’re choosing your hashtag, make sure it’s something unique – you don’t want to choose a hashtag like “#friends” only to have a flood of photos from random people populating your photo contest feed. Hashtags work best when they’re connected to a specific topic or season – something like #WishpondSummer2017 works well.
Photo Contest Idea #2: Share Prompt
One thing we stumbled upon that’s a gold mine for engagement is what we call a “share incentive”. Basically, this asks people who enter your contest to share it once they’ve entered. We find we get the highest engagement in a popup that appears immediately when a participant has entered your contest.
Though having share buttons right on your contest page is a great ideas as well, we find a popup is more engaging (it’s a direct ask). The timing of the prompt is optimal – someone who’s already entered your contest is more likely to be open to sharing, increasing the likelihood that they’ll tell their friends and family about it on social media.
Photo Contest Idea #3: Coupon for entering
If your brand doesn’t have a huge reach, it can be hard to get a significant number of people to enter your photo contest, even if you’re spending money running ads to your contest page. Compared to a sweepstakes, photo contests take a bit more investment from the entrant – taking (and sometimes editing) a photo is a lot more time-consuming than entering an email address.
We can help overcome this obstacle by incentivizing entry beyond the prize itself. Mention to contest page visitors that they’ll receive a coupon off their next purchase just for entering, and you’ll see entry rates jump.
Photo Contest Idea #4: Vote contest
One way to help your contest reach as many people as possible is to add a vote component to it. By awarding your prize to the entrant that gets the most votes on your photo contest, you can drastically increase engagement and reach.
Why? Well, everyone wants to win – that’s why they’ve entered. To get more votes, they’ll need to inform their family and friends of the contest. This drives brand awareness – and the people who vote on the contest might be tempted to enter as well.
Photo Contest Idea #5: Countdown timer
This is a CRO best practice that we use all the time in our landing pages and contests. It’s simple to add a countdown timer, and it can do wonders for your conversion rates. There’s some science behind it – countdown timers make page visitors distinctly aware of your contest’s end date and time.
This creates urgency, a phenomenon that’s incredibly successful in getting people to act. Without this reminder that your photo contest is only running for a limited time, people are likely to say “maybe later” – don’t let that happen.
Photo Contest Idea #6: Highlight entrants
Your photo contest can’t be successful without participation and engagement from your entrants, fans and followers. Show your entrants you appreciate the work they’ve put into entering your photo contest by highlighting some choice entries as the contest goes on.
Post these on places like your website and on social – in addition to showing off awesome entries, it helps to push your contest to your existing followers. As a note, make sure you don’t do this for vote contests – you don’t want to show bias towards a certain entry.
Photo Contest Idea #7: “Design your own” contest
One cool type of contest I’ve seen a couple times is a “design your own [product]” contest. This can be one of your products (as you can see in the example below, really anything goes). This is an engaging way to run a photo contest, and it’s also great for getting ideas about what your customers might be looking for.
If you can manage it, a potential prize idea is to make the winner’s design an official one, or to get one made specifically for your winner. It’s awesome and totally unique.
Photo Contest Idea #8: Show us how you use your product
Another type of photo contest you can run is to ask your entrants to show you how they use (or would use) your product. It’s an easy-to-take photo, and it ensures that the people who are entering are directly interested in your product.
These photos also double as awesome user-generated content that you can use in your future marketing campaigns, showing fans and followers on your social platforms how your existing customers enjoy your products.
Photo Contest Idea #9: Tell a story
One more idea for your photo contest “prompt” is “tell us a story about…” Your users will upload a photo of something relevant to the story, and tell the story in the description. I like this type of contest because it helps build an emotional connection with your brand.
As you can see in the example, the story doesn’t need to directly address your product – only the themes relevant to it. This way, even people who don’t currently use your products can enter.
Photo Contest Idea #10: Event photos
A great time to host a photo contest is right after your company has hosted an event (or had a presence at another event). Encourage entrants to take photos with your brand ambassadors, at your booth, or at your event, and host a photo contest asking people to upload their photos.
This helps you collect a library of photos from your events (because your photographer won’t be able to capture everything!), which you can use to promote your next event. The leads you generate from this will be warm – they’ve already had some sort of contact with your business, making them the perfect people to turn into customers.
Photo Contest Idea #11: Win a free year of [product]!
Let’s get into a few prize ideas for your next photo contest. The first of these is a free year of whatever your product is (or something relevant to it). A free year of your product doesn’t necessarily mean an unlimited supply of it – usually it’s a free product every week or so. It’s an incredibly engaging idea – a free year of anything sounds like huge value, increasing the chances they’ll enter your contest.
Obviously, this isn’t the best idea if your product is particularly costly to manufacture or ship – so make sure it’s the right prize idea for your business before you commit to it.
Photo Contest Idea #12: Partner with another brand
We love partnered contests here at Wishpond (as you’ll see in the example). Why? First of all, they’re an incredible avenue to reaching more members within your target market. By partnering with another influential brand in your industry, you’ll have access (through their email and social media marketing efforts) to a largely untapped segment of people who are likely to be interested in your products.
Run a photo contest with a prompt that’s relevant to both of your brands, offering both of your products as a prize – it’s a mutually beneficial relationship, and if things go well, you’ve found yourself a great partner for future promotions.
Photo Contest Idea #13: Gift card
A gift card is one of the best prize ideas for your photo contest. They’re great because they ensure every single person who enters the contest is at least somewhat interested in your products or your business – otherwise they wouldn’t be looking to get a gift card for them!
This is also great because you can give away multiple gift cards in smaller denominations. Increasing the number of chances to win makes a contest more engaging to potential entrants.
Photo Contest Idea #14: Getaway
Okay, this isn’t the best prize idea for everyone, but it sure is effective at garnering conversions. Offering a grand prize of a getaway to, well, anywhere, really, can get you a huge number of entrants. This is a great strategy for your photo contest if you’re confident in your ability to turn leads (even those that aren’t that interested) into sales.
Though this might seem like a frivolous prize, it’s possible even for smaller local businesses. Your getaway doesn’t have to be to somewhere exotic – even a local getaway can be engaging for potential customers.
Photo Contest Idea #15: Prize package
One is the loneliest number, right? Offering a prize package instead of a simply a single product as your prize can help boost the number of people who enter your contest. When it comes down to it, a lot of people are going to measure the value of your prize when deciding if they want to enter.
Putting together a prize package will increase this value; having a wider variety of prizes also helps to increase the number of people who will be interested in entering your contest.
Seasonal Photo Contest Ideas
The following photo contest ideas will give you inspiration regarding the best times to run your contest. We find contests are most engaging when they’re connected to a season or occasion – you can build your contest around these times, giving it a cohesive theme that has been proven to help you maximize your contest’s reach and success.
Photo Contest Idea #16: Back to school
The first seasonal idea is back to school season. Back to school is a prime time for shopping – summer’s ending and people of all ages take this time to purchase important things they need. If your product fits the bill, running a back to school contest can be awesome for your business. Best of all? Once your contest ends, you’ve still got the chance to market to them before they’re back to hitting the books.
Photo Contest Idea #17: St. Patrick’s Day
You’d be surprised how many people enter contests around St. Patty’s – Americans spend billions of dollars every year around that time. Maybe it’s the pot of gold, or the color green… whatever it is, St. Patrick’s can be a big day for your business if you market correctly. It’s one of the best times to run a photo contest because of its celebratory nature.
Photo Contest Idea #18: Easter
Running a photo contest around this time can make you the honorary Easter Bunny within your target market. The Easter holiday can be one of the best times to run your photo contest if you approach it correctly. The Easter contest example below is good because it’s themed, but I don’t think it’s themed adequately – it’s not enough to say “Hey! It’s an Easter contest!” Really look at your visual design to create a full Easter experience.
Photo Contest Idea #19: Christmas
You saw this one coming! Christmas is arguably the best time to run a contest – people are actively thinking about buying gifts (and, as little as they like to admit it, receiving them). Play Santa for your fans and followers by running a Christmas-themed photo contest. You can even have multiple giveaways over the Christmas season, to play on the “12 days of Christmas” theme.
Photo Contest Idea #20: Super Bowl
The Super Bowl is a huge event in the States – you know all about the extravagant commercials and performances that decorate the biggest NFL event of the year. Get entrants to upload a photo showing their love for their favorite team, or upload your own photos (one related to each Super Bowl team) and get fans to vote!
Photo Contest Idea #21: Valentine’s Day
Another prime holiday for giving, Valentine’s is great for businesses that can create a love-themed prize package. Whether that’s a romantic getaway or a Valentine’s-themed prize basket (think candles and chocolate… and your product!), you’re sure to find that people you market to at this time are responsive to your photo contest efforts. Another thing that works well for any type of business is a “show us why you love [product]!” contest.
Photo Contest Idea #22: Halloween
Halloween is prime time to run a contest – again, it’s a time of year where people are ready to receive free stuff. Treat (don’t trick!) your target market to a photo contest with a spooky Halloween theme. If you’ve got an engaged following (or your prize is really appealing), a photo contest idea you can try is getting entrants to carve a pumpkin related to your brand.
Photo Contest Idea #23: Summer
The sun’s shining, school’s over and parents are on vacation – summer is a joyous occasion and the perfect time to run your next photo contest. The contest below is good in that it’s trying to capitalize on the summer theme, but it’s not a knockout winner for me – it’s hard to connect the dots between “summer” and “London Drugs gift card”. Summer’s a great time to run a getaway giveaway, if that’s your prize plan.
Photo Contest Idea #24: Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is a huge holiday, particularly in the States. One simple photo contest idea (as you can see the example below) is to ask entrants what they’re thankful for. Get them to upload a picture of something they’re thankful for – it helps to create an emotional connection with your brand. Themes of family are prevalent during the Thanksgiving season – consider making your prize a bundle of products for the whole family.
Photo Contest Idea #25: Mother’s Day
I think we can all agree: moms are pretty darn awesome. If “moms” are a segment within your target market, you can get people to nominate their moms (with a photo) to be contest winners. This is a great time to ask entrants for a story about their moms, as well. It’s a cool way to connect on a deeper level with your target users, and it’s an awesome time of year for a photo contest.
Wrapping it up
There you have it – 25 creative photo contest ideas that are sure to help you reach contest success. Remember – photo contests are one of the best ways to generate leads for your business. Have you run one? Let me know how it went in the comments below!