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Does Your Cute Kid Have the X-FACTOR?

baby photo contest winner 2012Every mom thinks that their baby is just the cutest thing ever and wants to show them off to the world. I for one, eventually became aware of the overenthusiastic “oohs” and “aahs” of friends and co-workers as I endlessly showed off pictures of my son when he was born.

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But, with the advancements of modern technology, every proud mom now has a platform to brag about their child, with the added incentive of their baby being publicly named “the cutest”. Welcome to the world of online baby photo contests!

gerber baby laughingAbout 30 years ago, baby contests were fairly simple affairs. You sent in a favourite photo of your child to your local newspaper, magazine or shop and if your baby was chosen, you won a small prize like a hamper of baby products for example.

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Competition is Tuff

baby photo contest winner 2012However, today, baby photo contests are highly competitive with huge prizes up for grabs, like cash, scholarships, modelling endorsements and the like. With such a lot at stake, it is not simply about having a cute baby anymore – the judges want to see that X-factor shine through. Fortunately, there are a lot of steps you can take to maximise your chances of winning. Let’s take a look at some of the most important things you need to take into consideration before entering a baby photo contest.

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Do Your Research

Firstly, I cannot stress enough, how important it is to do thorough research. There are literally thousands of cute baby photo competitions online, and unfortunately not all of them are above board. Many promise great prizes as lures to enter, and although no judging ever takes place, you will be told your baby is a winner.

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Then when you try to claim your prize, you are told that you have to pay money in order to receive it. You need to find the contests that have good reputations, are aligned with popular brands or sponsored by well-known companies. Of course, this has the disadvantage of increasing the number of entrants your baby will be up against, but at least you will have peace of mind that you are not being scammed. By doing a bit of online research you will quickly be able to distinguish the con artists from the genuine competitions.

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Are You Willing to Pay to Enter or Are You a Freebie Type?

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There are two types of baby photo contests, ones that are free and ones that you need to pay to enter. There are benefits and drawbacks to both kinds, so you need to carefully weigh up the pros and cons and decide what it is you are wanting to get out of the competition before choosing which one is the best for you.

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Free contests obviously cost nothing, but this also means that the prizes are smaller, if they have a prize at all. Some free competitions merely offer publicity and will feature the winner on their website. Another drawback is that free contests will have a lot more entrants and your baby therefore stands less chance of winning. In contrast, the entrance fee for a paid contest is a deterrent for some people and your baby then has less competition. However, a big bonus to baby photo contests that you pay to enter is that the prizes are usually much bigger.

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Baby photo contestCash  – Scholarships – Modelling Contracts

In these competitions, your baby can win anything from cash, to scholarships, to toys, to modelling contracts or television gigs. However, having said this, if the contest requires an exorbitant entry fee, it is also probably not authentic. The paid contests are usually the ones who have a panel of expert judges who use an objective set of criteria to determine the winners due to the nature of the tremendous prizes up for grabs. The free contests are sometimes judged by a panel, but also have public voting forums, where you have the advantage of being able to influence the outcome to a degree by getting all your friends and family to go online and vote for your baby’s picture.

Some of the most popular and well known baby photo contests are:

“The BabyGap Contest” http://www.gap.com/browse/subDivision.do?cid=83989

“The Gerber Cute Kid Contest” http://www.TheCuteKid.com/

“The My Star Kids Contest” http://mystarkidcontest.com/Join-Child-Photo-Contest

“Johnsons Baby Photo Contest” http://www.johnsonsbaby.com/

“The Kodak Moments of the Month Contest” http://www.kodakgallery.com/gallery/babies-the-movie.

“The Great American Photo Contest” http://www.sweetestkids.com/

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You Can Make Some Serious Money

Picture 3Every year Gap runs a photo competition to choose a group of babies and children that will model their new clothing lines. The winners are literally seen by millions of people online and in store as the faces of the brand. In addition to this they also receive cash prizes. The My Star Kid Photo Contest has amazing prizes up for grabs including a $100,000 modelling contract, a $25,000 college tuition fund, and $1000 in monthly cash prizes.

Get Some Exposure

This is the competition to enter if you are looking to break into the entertainment industry as it gives you exposure to agents and casting calls. The Gerber Cute Kid Contest is a competition that searches for the face of Gerber. In addition to the publicity from appearing in photo shoots and advertisements, there is $70,000 worth of prizes at stake. This contest has 6 different age categories.

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In addition to the grand prize, the public votes for one winner per category who each win $10,000 in cash. Johnson and Johnson run a number of different baby photo competitions throughout the year. Most of these contests require you to purchase Johnsons products and submit the bar codes with your entry form and photo.

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Taking Great Pictures is Key

gerber baby contestAnother popular contest is the “Kodak Moments of the Month”. This contest isn’t specifically for babies, but rather you enter pictures around a chosen theme. Your baby’s picture might very well fit in with the month’s theme and this is a competition definitely worth looking into. Parents.com http://www.parents.com/ also sponsor quite a few free baby photo contests online, so keep checking this site.

These are just a few examples of the more popular baby contests out there. There really are so many to choose from. The best approach is to decide if you looking for cash prizes, fame, talent scouts or just the pride and satisfaction of having your baby win a contest, and then to search for one that is specifically tailored to your personal needs.

Insider Secrets to Increase Your Chances of Selection

gerber baby contest online 2012The very first and most important thing to do when considering entering a baby photo contest is to make sure you read the judging criteria and competition rules and requirements through carefully. The last thing you want is to go to all the effort of getting the perfect picture and entering, only to be disqualified due to a technicality.

Not All Rules Are the Same

Each contest is looking for something different and they all have different rules. Some have age restrictions, some are looking for specific types or sizes of photos, some have strict criteria regarding who is allowed to take the picture (some do not allow professional pictures at all), and still others have regulations regarding the use of photo enhancement software like Photoshop to edit pictures.

Don’t be Late!

baby contest 2012It goes without saying that the entry deadline must be met on time so that your photo is accepted into the competition. It is very important to familiarize yourself with the competition rules and guidelines before entering.

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Get some Insight – Look Back

It is also a good idea to spend some time researching past winners of your chosen contest. Most of the websites will have a gallery of past winners that you can look through.

This exercise often provides you with valuable insights regarding what the judges are looking for in a winning picture. Your job then is not to recreate it, but to try put your own unique and individual spin on it. Judges are not looking for exact replicas of the same thing every year. You need to be creative and make your photo stand out.

Cover All Bases

Sometimes contests allow you to send electronic submissions of photos as well as entries by regular mail. It is a good idea when given this option, to send both. Sometimes things get lost in cyberspace, and sometimes there are bugs in the system that prevent the file being opened.

By backing up with a hard copy you ensure that you don’t miss out on the chance of winning because of some unforeseen circumstance. When entering your photo via regular mail, you will be required to label the back of it with your child’s particulars.

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Before inserting the picture into the envelope, please ensure that the ink is completely dry so it doesn’t smudge. If the judges cannot read the information, you will be disqualified.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

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Keep Your Kids Happy and Relaxed During Shooting

It goes without saying that the most important factor when entering a baby photo contest is the actual picture you submit. So how do you go about taking that perfect prize winning photo? Preparation and forward planning are key! Once you have done your research and chosen the contest that is right for you and your child, you need to make sure you have allowed enough time to capture that perfect shot.

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Be a Snap-a-Holic

Let’s face it, most parents do not need much encouragement to take a multitude of photos of their pride and joy, so embrace having a legitimate “excuse” to become a shutterbug! Keep your camera with you at all times in the weeks or even months leading up to the competition photo submission deadline and snap away.

Often times the best pictures are ones that are natural and spontaneous, as they seem to truly capture the essence of the baby’s personality. Try avoid choosing a photo that is too posed. Choosing the best picture out of a batch of hundreds or even thousands can be a challenging task – after all, it is only natural for parents to think that every photo of their sprog is adorable.

Be Objective or Get Someones Opinion

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In choosing the best picture to submit, you need to take a step back from your role as a parent and try to be objective. Just because a particular photo is your favourite, does not mean that it meets contest standards. Remember, a judge is not going to have any sentimental attachment to the photo and is going to be judging them on a different set of criteria altogether.

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If you are battling to choose, a good idea is to ask a few trusted friends or co-workers to give you their opinions on the pictures. They will be slightly more objective than you and may give valuable insights that will help you pick the right picture to enter.

Keep it Relevant

Further guidelines for choosing the right picture are the following: the picture you choose has to be relevant to the competition category that you are entering – the category will change with every competition, so make sure you meet the criteria. Try to find a picture where your baby’s face is the focal point as this will help to showcase your child’s true personality to the judges.

Keep it Real!

Avoid big hats and sunglasses or any other props that obscure your baby’s features. If the competition you enter does not allow pictures to be photo shopped, cropped or altered in any way, then you need to take this into consideration when you are actually taking the pictures and make use of the zoom function on your camera to close in on your baby’s face.

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Avoid the Clutter

Try not to have too much background in the photo as this can detract attention from your baby if not done properly. Let your bundle of joy be the highlight of the picture!

Quality Counts

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Make sure you choose a good quality photo. Even the most beautiful baby doesn’t look good in a poor quality photograph. Judges won’t consider grainy, blurred photos or pictures where your baby has red eyes. If the contest does not allow professional photos, then you need to familiarize yourself with your camera and all the functions and settings that enable you to take the best quality photos.

Know Your Camera

You cannot produce a great photograph if you are not using the camera at its full potential. You need to read the manual and play around until you are comfortable with using all the features your camera has to offer. If a contest allows you to submit photos of different sizes ALWAYS send the biggest one!

One of the most important golden rules to follow is to never submit photos that have been taken on your cell phone for baby photo contests as the quality is far inferior to that of a proper digital camera.

Keep Them Smiling

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There are a number of tips and tricks that can help you to get the best out of your baby thereby ensuring a prize-winning shot. The very first thing judges look for is a happy, smiling baby. However, anyone who has kids knows that babies do not always co-operate when you need them to!

The most important thing to remember when trying to get your baby to smile for the camera is that they can sense your mood. A baby will not respond if you are anxious, stressed, or uncomfortable. That’s why allowing time is important – if you don’t get the shot one day, you have time to try again. Forget all notions of being an adult and leave your shyness behind. Really get down and silly with your baby. Play, laugh, tickle, make silly noises, sing songs, dance around, pull faces – do whatever it takes to get your little one laughing.

Babies respond to genuine people – if you are enjoying yourself and having fun, it is likely your baby will too. This is especially important if you are having a professional who is a stranger to your baby take the photos – it will be up to you to get your baby to relax and feel at ease. Your baby is the priority – do whatever it takes to keep them comfortable and happy.

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Sometimes it is helpful to have an older sibling or cousin along to the shoot – children don’t have the same inhibitions that adults do and are often very good at making babies laugh and smile. It is also a good idea to have some favourite toys as props for the photo. A baby who is bored will be cranky.

The toys will help to hold the baby’s attention, keep them entertained and often will be effective in eliciting that star quality smile. Brightly coloured toys that make interesting sounds are good choices. Another thing to remember is that babies get tired and overwhelmed very easily. This is also why it is a good idea to try capture that perfect picture over time. It takes the pressure off of you as well as your baby.

To further minimize any undue grumpiness, make sure your baby has had a good night’s sleep and their tummies are full. When your baby is in a good mood, it naturally seems to bring out their best personality traits and thus gives you a greater chance of capturing them on camera.

Co-ordinate Their Clothing Please

Another extremely important consideration is the clothing you choose. You need to pick your colour schemes carefully and co-ordinate them properly otherwise your photo will not be chosen. Choose colours that highlight and enhance your baby’s best features and make them stand out. Do not overdress or over accessories your baby.

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Less is more! Too many accessories or an overly complicated outfit will only take attention away from your baby’s natural innocence and personality, which is essentially what you are trying to capture. Judges also prefer your baby to look as natural as possible, so please no make-up!

Pay Attention to Lighting

0504230402441dec28th2004kadendz500Another very important aspect of the actual photo itself is to have enough of the correct kind of light. No matter how your baby smiles and laughs, it will not translate well onto camera if you do not have the proper lighting. Poor lighting can make your baby look lifeless, but the right kind of lighting highlights all your baby’s best features and can really bring out that twinkle in his eye.

Good lighting makes the photo warm and inviting to look at. If you are taking the pictures outside, try to schedule the shoot for just after sunrise or just before sunset, as this is when the natural light is most even. The midday sun is very bright and will produce shadows across your baby’s face. Furthermore, in very bright light it is highly likely that your baby will squint or try to cover their face which will ruin any shots.

If a middle of the day shoot is unavoidable try to provide some shade for your child’s face, like a big umbrella or sit them under a tree. If you are taking pictures inside, try to avoid using a flash. Babies don’t like bright flashes of light and this might upset them. Furthermore, the flash is likely to result in red eyes.

If using a flash cannot be avoided then you need to be sure you know how to operate the red eye reduction settings on your camera. A much better idea is to rather try position them near a window or to take the pictures in a room that has plenty of natural light instead. Another important thing to remember is to not take a photo into the light (for example: a lamp or the sun behind your baby). This will cause shadows over your baby’s face and will obscure his or her features.

Getting the lighting right for photos is incredibly difficult, so be patient with yourself and remember practice makes perfect – the more you do it, the better you will become. Even professional photographers sometimes struggle to get the balance right so don’t be scared of experimenting with different techniques until you master it.

Armed with this arsenal of information, the only thing that can truly stop you from winning is if you don’t enter! If you don’t win a particular contest, don’t get discouraged. These contests literally receive thousands of entries and not winning a prize does not reflect badly on your photography skills or on your beautiful baby. Remember that baby photo contests are supposed to be fun for you and your baby. Keep taking photos and entering contests and eventually your perseverance will pay off. Good luck!
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