Photography-based Contests


Salon of the Year

If you gave your space a makeover or built a brand new one, you might be eligible for the Salon of the Year award from  our sister publication, Salon Today. Since this contest is all about photographing interiors, editor-in-chief Stacey Soble recommends using a professional photographer who has interior-specific experience. Soble’s other tips include: avoid clutter; schedule shoots early so you have time to review and edit; tell your design story in writing; remove distractions; and format your images properly.

Deadline: January 31, 2018

Nails Cover Tech Contest

Every August, NAILS announces its Cover Tech Contest. Entrants submit their take on a NAILS cover concept in hopes of being featured on the January cover. This year’s winner, Celine Cumming, says staffing is everything. “Getting a good photographer and model is absolutely key. If you plan to have your model’s face in the image and not just her hands with a prop, then you should also source a good hair and makeup artist. You can be the greatest nail artist in the world, but if you don’t have a good team to work with, your final image will be lacking major qualities. You really have to source people who can complement your work with theirs.” Cumming also suggests allowing time to brainstorm and sharing those ideas with other collaborators. Deadline: October 3, 2017


The Professional Beauty Association allows entries from nail, hair, and makeup professionals from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to enter the North American Hairstyling Awards. To win Nail Professional of the Year, nail techs must submit photos that showcase the harmony between hair and nails. Entrants can demonstrate their talent for nail art, embellishments, or salon-style nails. 2015 winner Reiko Omae says that in addition to planning and brainstorming, testing is also key. “Sometimes an idea in your mind doesn’t translate well on the nail; it’s worth knowing before it’s too late to correct the design,” says Omae. Another helpful tip from Omae is to step away then come back to the look later. By doing this, you can see what can be pushed in terms of design. Deadline: December 1, 2017


The online and social media-based contest pits top techs from all over the world against one another for an elimination-style competition. In the end, three techs are left standing, going on to compete at a major trade show. Prizes include a NAILS cover, a trip to New York Fashion Week, cash, a trophy, and a position on the masthead as NAILS guest editor.

Season 3 champion Winnie Huang advises potential competitors to prepare for a long-term commitment, as the contest can run from May (preliminary rounds) through the fall (regular play), and bleed into early 2018 (the final rounds). “Compete, but with yourself! Value personal growth and remember why you entered in the first place,” says Huang. She also urges techs to read the rules carefully for each weekly challenge, be flexible, and make good use of time. 

Season 1 winner and veteran nail competitor Ryoko Garcia emphasizes the sacrifices that must be made for such a lengthy competition. “I spent every minute of my free time working on NTNA. Family and friends will fall to a lesser priority for six months,” she says. Sacrifice pays off in terms of improving salon work and learning to think outside of the box. “Be prepared to get criticized. Listen to other opinions, especially those of the judges. Judges are always looking for something they’ve never seen before. No one starts off competing as a champion,” says Garcia. Deadline: May 1, 2017

NAILS Mural Contest, Mini Masterpiece, and Celebrity Face-Off

Trisha Johnson of Shelby Township, Mich., has entered many of NAILS’ competitions and won the 2017 Mural contest. “My best advice to consider before entering any competition is to be ready to dig deep, remember who you are artistically, and stick true to your own style.” Johnson also advises to not take things so seriously, “It’s really supposed to be fun, so don’t forget your sense of humor!”

Mini Masterpiece Deadline: May 9, 2017

Celebrity Face-Off Deadline: July 10, 2017

Mural Contest Deadline: December 8, 2017 


Held in the U.K., Sydney, and now Houston, this non-biased, non product-related competition accepts techs at all skill levels. “All techs are judged by the same criteria, but are placed through scores in the correct ranking in their correct division,” explains organizer and Scratch editor-in-chief Alex Fox. “Come with an open mind, enthusiasm, self-belief, and fire in your belly. Come with the desire to experience something different, life-changing, and challenging,” says Fox.

Head judge Elaine Watson says it’s all about the rules when it comes to competing. For a novice, rules are obviously important, but they’re equally as important for a veteran who has competed in another contest with vastly different rules. Watson also advises looking at how rules are interpreted. “With a global competition like Nailympia, the language barrier comes into play. The rules are in English. We put the responsibility of understanding them on the competitor. If English is your second language, you may want to hire an interpreter to be sure  you are fully understanding the rules,” says Watson. She reminds competitors, “The rules are in place for us to keep a fair competition, but they also are there to guide the competitor into using their skills to create their best possible work.“ Deadlines:  August 1 (Sydney), September 15 (London)

In It To Win It: If you’re considering entering a nail competition, here are some general rules of thumb.

> Start small if it’s your first time competing. Trying your hand at the NAILS Mural Contest before jumping into something like NTNA can give you an idea of what skills need improving. Likewise, entering a competition at a smaller show as opposed to an international one can get your feet wet.

> Invest in winning tools. Make sure you have the right equipment from nail art brushes to a good camera to ensure success from conception to completion.

> Talk to fellow techs. Reach out to others who have competed before to get honest answers and advice.

> Train. Much like running a marathon, you can train for a competition on your own in the salon or with a group. Joining online groups such as 3-D Fanatics on Facebook can provide the support and training you need for game day.

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