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Calling all photographers! Enter our Cover Shot competition and your photograph could be on the cover of Africa Geographic’s January 2013 issue!

Have you ever looked at the cover of Africa Geographic and thought, ‘I could do better than that?’ Well, now’s your chance! From 13 July to 31 October 2012, you can enter our competition to find the best possible cover photograph for our January 2013 issue.

Africa Geographic magazine cover
Cover shot! © Africa Geographic

How does it work?

  • You send your photograph to our social media coordinator Cindy Armstrong via cindy@africageographic.com, (in jpg format no bigger than 6MB) dropbox, yousendit or mailbigfile (see below for more information on delivery options).
  • Each Monday, Cindy posts all the entries in the Cover Star album on the Africa Geographic Facebook page.
  • You like, your friends like, everyone likes.
  • Each week, the five photographs with the most ‘likes’ will be selected as ‘Your Best of the Week’ and posted on the Africa Geographic blog. The judges (see below) will also post ‘Our Best of the Week’ selection.
  • On 31 October, we post the last of the weekly finalists.
  • On 30 November: The Finalists. We announce the 21 finalists that will battle it out for Cover Shot honours on the Africa Geographic blog.
  • 24- 27 December 2012: The Big Reveal! The January issue goes on sale, with the winner’s photograph on the cover PLUS a stunning portfolio of ‘Your Best 10’, the most popular pics on Facebook, as well as ‘Our Best 10’, the judges’ pick of the crop.

Speaking of the judges…

The final cover decision rests with Africa Geographic’s editorial and design team. Led by editor Sarah Borchert, these are the experienced people you’ll need to impress.

Africa Geographic team
The judges you’ll need to impress (from left): Sarah, Judy, Leni, Peter, Cindy and Tammi © Africa Geographic

Sarah and Tammi’s Cover Shot cheat sheet:

[slickr-flickr tag =”agcovers” captions=”on” descriptions=”on” orientation=”portrait”]

If there were a point-and-shoot, surefire way of getting a cover photograph, we wouldn’t spend hours (days?) every month looking for the ‘right’ picture for our cover. There is no recognised formula and our choices vary widely from month to month (as you can see). But here are a few basic guidelines that may improve your chances of winning.

  1. It must be a good photograph. Yes, let’s start with the blindingly obvious. You’d be amazed at what Photoshop can’t do. It can’t bring a blurry photograph into focus. It can’t magically fix poor light. So, make sure your photograph is a good one. Of an animal (but more about that later).
  2. Format. Africa Geographic’s cover is vertical (210 x 280 mm to be exact), so most of the photographs that we choose are portrait. That doesn’t mean that we can’t crop a landscape image to fit, but we’re more likely to choose a portrait format.
  3. Subject. Oh, this is a tricky one. We’ve have been accused of neglecting the smaller, less obvious animals for the ‘big and hairies’ or ‘cute and cuddlies’. For the most part this is true. Your cover shot will sit on a shelf, where it will share space with 50 other titles. It has to stand out from that crowd, be instantly recognisable and catch the eyes of busy shoppers. It’s called ‘Shelf Shout’ and we need it in spades. Sadly, this does give the big, iconic animals – and their babies – an edge. It means that your close-up of a male lion in glorious sunset colours will stand a better chance than the once-in-a-lifetime shot of an African python. (But send in the python anyway – you never know!)
  4. ‘Clean’ space. Besides attracting prospective buyers with a magnificent photograph, we need to entice them with clever cover lines that describe the contents of the magazine. So, we also look for space around the subject – we need some at the top of the photograph to showcase the all-important masthead (the Africa Geographic logo) and we need some more for those cover lines, which usually (but not always), run down the left-hand side. Type works best on a uniform background – sky is good; grass, tree bark, zebra skin tend to present problems. (We’ve often rejected beautiful photographs simply because the background was too ‘busy’ and we couldn’t get the cover lines to ‘read’.) Some of the very best covers have a strong contrast between subject and background, as this can really help the animal ‘pop’.
  5. Eye contact. This is usually very important and most of our animal cover stars make eye contact with you. The exception to this is the Action Shot. A good action shot is gold for a cover, but it is very rare. The action has to fill the frame, not be too out of focus (remember that instant recognisability thing?) and still leave clean space for cover lines.
  6. Light. Generally light covers work better than dark ones. You might think that a dramatic silhouette would work, but it actually recedes on a shelf. So, we tend to steer clear of photographs with very dark subjects (think carefully about that beautiful mountain gorilla) or a very dark background.

As we said in the beginning though, these are just guidelines and there is no easy formula. Who knows, the winning cover could break all these ‘rules’!

Terms & conditions

  1. You may only enter photographs that you have taken yourself.
  2. You may enter as many photographs as you wish, although Africa Geographic reserves the right to post only those that meet the basic criteria.
  3. Africa Geographic will not pay for photographs entered into the competition, selected as finalists and published in the magazine.
  4. Copyright remains with the photographer, but by entering your photograph(s), you give Africa Geographic permission to use that photograph in the Cover Shot Competition album on Facebook as well as to promote the competition via the blog, social media and in print. If you photograph is ‘liked’ into ‘Your Best 10’ or chosen as one of ‘Our Best 10’ by the judges, it will appear in the Cover Shot portfolio, published in the January 2013 issue of Africa Geographic.
  5. There will be no payment for the use as stated in point 4.
  6. Any other use of the photographs submitted for the competition will be negotiated on a case-by-case basis directly with the photographer. So, if we want to use your photographs for anything over and above the competition, we’ll ask your permission and negotiate terms first.
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