Photo Contest Boosts Staff Spirit, Skills

Posted on Oct 12, 2016

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

Twenty-eight 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 the past five 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.

Beach at sunset

A beach scene by first place winner Louise Blackman.

Tire swing at sunset

A tire swing at sunset by second place winner Crystal Harrison.


Third place, a sailboat at sunset, was by Diana Ganey.

 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.

  1. Entries must be cell phone pictures only.
  2. Pick an easy-to-understand theme.
  3. 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.
  4. Limit entries to one 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 below!


  1. I really like the employee photo contest idea. As an individual contributor at my utility having Ruralite send me ideas like these are priceless because I don’t have anyone to “bounce ideas off of”. Simple, easy to implement activities like these are welcomed! thank you.l

    Post a Reply
    • Catherine, that’s wonderful to hear! We love finding great best practices to share. If there’s something fun you’re doing at Vera Water & Power that you think other folks might like to learn from, be sure to let us know. Have a picture-perfect week!

      Post a Reply
  2. WOW – Great results from the entrants. Gorgeous! You *almost* had me believing that Florida is as beautiful as Idaho ; )

    Post a Reply

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