Since September 2018, we've had monthly photo competitions on this meta site.

However, in recent months, after a year of them being very popular with over a dozen submissions each, the ones held this year haven't been so popular. The January 2023 competition represented a one-year low in submissions, so after a chat with a moderator we decided to host a combined two-month competition for February and March, and despite not resetting the submissions at the end of February, this competition seems to have just as low of a submission rate (even lower if you count it by month). (That's assuming we don't get any additional submissions this month, which could happen as that contest hasn't concluded yet.)

What can we do to increase participation in our photo competitions? If you've participated in a photo competition in the past, what's your reason for not wanting to participate today?

  • Should we attempt to post next month's contest early? I know that in the past we'd post them as much as a week before the beginning of a new month, but lately we've been a bit late in posting them.
  • Should we have more discussion regarding themes here on this meta site? We've generally discussed themes in chat in the past, but in more recent times this discussion has been overlooked entirely due to an urgency to post the competition quickly due to running late.
  • Should we host them on the main site? Photography moved to hosting their competitions on the main site as engagement in their meta site competition had waned (mainly because they had a single large post for competition submissions rather than one that'd reset every month - which didn't make sense after a decade of running).
  • Any other ideas?

Alternatively, is it time to retire the photo competition series, as interest has waned? This idea has been brought up by the moderator responsible for running many of our past contests, but given that the contests in late 2022 were quite popular (the December 2022 contest got 18 submissions), I still think they're salvageable.

4 Answers 4


Personally, as a new member and not with much experience on this matter I would think that the themes you choose are quite important.

When people need to 'think' about a theme for picture contests they might be already 'gone from the contest'. 'Renovated' for instance is quite complex to catch compared to 'lighthouse'.

With Lighthouse for instance you immediately jump to "have I made a picture of a lighthouse recently?".You will already be scrolling through your photo's in your mind. Those contests might work better.

Just my 2 cents =)

  • Any fountains photos in your collection?
    – Willeke Mod
    Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 19:45
  • Couldn't find one!
    – Jochem
    Commented Apr 12, 2023 at 7:34

I agree with Jochem's answer. A lot of the recent themes are somewhat abstract, 'renovated', 'new', and 'borders' are concepts which require some additional thought.

When I've posted to the contests it's mostly in one of two ways. Upon reading the contest topic I either

  • have some picture in mind. Then I try to find that picture and post it. Or,

  • do a search of the topic theme or related terms in my photo library. The photos have previously tagged by image recognition software.

The latter works well with descriptive themes such as 'mountain', 'farm', or 'animal' but not with conceptual terms such as the ones we've had recently. I guess borders was quite successful because many users had a good picture in mind. The photo tags on the other hand didn't prove very useful for me.

In general, I would say that few submissions doesn't necessarily imply that there's a decline in interest in the photo contest.

  • Yes, I'm well aware that a decline in submissions doesn't mean that interest has waned - given that there have been decreases in one month followed by increases in the next month. It's really only after talk came up of retiring the series that I asked this.
    – gparyani
    Commented Mar 30, 2023 at 18:11
  • I thought New was a really easy theme, in the new year, spring almost coming and so on.
    – Willeke Mod
    Commented Mar 30, 2023 at 18:28
  • @Willeke I tried at the time but I couldn't really come up with a picture that fits. I get the different interpretations but it's still hard to find pictures for those related tags using the tagging system. It was the middle of winter where I was, so no good opportunities for taking a new picture in this theme. A new year's celebration might have worked (fireworks or a party) but I didn't get the chance. So yeah, overall I think it's a good theme because you can take in many directions but it's hard to find old pictures that fit the theme if they're hidden besides loads of other pictures. :P
    – JJJ
    Commented Mar 31, 2023 at 6:23
  • Do you have a tag 'fountains' or 'waterfeatures'?
    – Willeke Mod
    Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 19:48
  • @Willeke yes :)
    – JJJ
    Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 19:50

They should not be retired: they get far more views than some other SE threads.

One thing that put me off posting an answer for a while was how loosely some people interpret the theme, and get votes à la social media. Here is one example of 'small'.

I am still not sure how much the technical quality of the photo is relevant (as in other photo competitions), or how well it portrays the theme.


Increasing participation requires more participants. Moving the competition from the meta to main site could generate more interest.

Prizes are also great motivators for generating interest. Simply emphasizing the virtual honors or multiple categories of virtual prizes could generate more interest.

Lastly, to get more participants the categories should be easy, focusing on commonly taken photos. Some recent categories have been a little daunting, abstract or difficult to associate with a photo. If more people can quickly think of / find / create an appropriate photo, they'll be more likely to join the game.

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