ISLANDS Photo Contest: Quick Tips

What makes a great photo? In the 20th Annual ISLANDS Photo Contest, that's the big "win dream prizes" question. ISLANDS photo editor Lori Barbely has reviewed thousands of reader photo submissions in previous years to help judge contest winners. Here she offers her to-the-point insight, based on recent prize-wining photos, of some things we look for in great photos. Call this our two-minute crash course in island photography.

Engage your subjects
Photo by Douglas Nason of Culver City, California
There's a lot that's right about this photo of a woman on Madagascar's Nosy Komba ("Island of the Lemur"). What's most noticeable -- besides her face painted with sunblocking sandalwood powder -- is the strong eye contact. That and the straightforward composition capture the woman's personality wonderfully. Also notice the beautiful use of light to showcase the color and texture of the woman's face.This photo was taken with a Canon EOS Elan 7e with an EF 24-70 mm lens. Nason won the grand prize in the 17th Annual ISLANDS Photo Contest.

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Add an unexpected element to your photos**
Photo by Ellen Hess of Suffolk Park, N.S.W., Australia
In this photo from Indonesia's Rote Island, see the great use of selective focus here for a shallow depth of field that draws your attention to the grasshopper's head and the surprising element: the ant on top. Hess earned an honorable mention in the 17th annual contest.

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Don't just snap and go -- wait for it**
Photo by Wilson Tsoi of Mukiteo, Washington
Without the woman walking along the sidewalk here in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, this would still be a good photo. The light on the street and buildings is beautiful, as is the reflection in the puddle of water. But timing this shot just as the woman comes into the picture increases the interest of the entire frame.This photo was taken with a Canon PowerShot A620 using the built-in zoom lens at the widest focal length. The exposure was f/8 at 1/30. Tsoi substituted his tripod for two quarters stacked underneath his camera. Tsoi won the grand prize in the 18th annual contest.

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Experiment with camera settings**
Photo by Amy Campbell of Rockport, Maine
You don't see a typical photo of sunset on Martha's Vineyard here. Instead, the use of a slow shutter speed blurs the motion of the water to create an abstract work of art.Taken with a Nikon D80 fitted with a 28-70 mm lens. The exposure is 1/2 second at f/22. The camera was panned while the shutter was open. Campbell earned an artistic-merit prize in the 19th annual contest.

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Look for patterns**
Photo by Catherine Flynn of Springfield, Illinois
Many travelers have seen the site of San Felipe del Morro in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but not like this. Here the repetition of form in these connecting chambers adds interest and depth to create a rich yet simple photograph.Taken with a Canon PowerShot A80. The exposure is 1/60 second at f/2.8. Flynn earned an artistic-merit prize in the 19th annual contest.

Note: If you want to be a part of the ISLANDS 22nd Annual Photo Contest, click here.