Want to boost employee morale while improving your staff’s ability to take pictures on the go? Try a photography contest.

Peace River Electric Cooperative in Wauchula, Florida, challenges staff to be better photographers every summer.

“We do this strictly as a diversion and morale booster,” says Mark Sellers, communications coordinator for the utility. “I’ll hang onto the images in case I run across a use for them in print.

“As a bonus, I—and the employees themselves—began to see a marked improvement in staff photography skills. As employees became more familiar with their cell phone camera and more accustomed to composing shots, the photos I received improved.”

Focus on Engagement

28 Peace River Electric Cooperative employees entered 66 images in the cell phone photography contest. The high participation was a record for Mark, who has organized staff photography contests for the past 5 years.

Mark streamlined the competition this year. Switching from a traditional photography contest to a cell phone photography contest doubled participation. Moving from multiple categories to one clear theme also helped.

The 2016 contest challenged staff to capture a sunrise or sunset shot. The picture could be taken anywhere.

“I chose a sunrise/sunset theme because everybody recognizes a beautiful one when they see it,” Mark explains. “No worries with composition, grouping people into herds, etc. Just see it and snap it. This took a lot of stress out of the process for staff.”

Mark received pictures from Florida, Cancun, the North Carolina mountains, and even Hawaii. He did not set a file size minimum.

“When I received very small pictures (less than 100 Kb), I asked the employee to send a larger version,” he says. “The small photos usually resulted from an email program shrinking the image in order to send it more quickly. I would tell them I wanted their image to compare well against other participants’ images. That was enough to get them to send a larger version.”

Picture-Perfect Results

Ruralite Assistant Editor Mike Teegarden judged the contest for the utility. First place went to Louise Blackman, vice president of Member Services and Business Technology, for a black-and-white beach scene.

“I love the framing and composition used,” says Mike. “It was a bold choice to go black and white on a sunset photo; it brings attention to the silhouettes rather than the sky.”

Second place went to Lead Work Order Clerk Crystal Harrison for a picture of a tire swing at sunset.

“This photo makes me think back to my own childhood and the tire swing I used to play in,” Mike says. “Great use of light. I love those long shadows.”

Third place went to Diana Ganey, work order clerk, for a shot of a sailboat.

“Who doesn’t enjoy a sailboat at sunset?” Mike asks. “The sun is in the perfect spot makes this photo stand out.”

Winners received a gift card of their choice: $60 for first place, $25 for second place, and $15 for third place.

Staff Photo Contest Tips

Want to try a staff photography contest at your utility? Here are four tips from Mark Sellers to make the contest easy and fun.

  • Entries must be cell phone pictures only.
  • Pick an easy-to-understand theme.
  • Location limits: For more entries, do not restrict where pictures can be taken. But location limits can be helpful if you want to use the pictures for local marketing efforts.
  • Limit entries to 1 daily per employee. This keeps entries manageable and forces staff to pick their best shot.

Do you run a similar contest? Share your tips for success!