Every once in a while, a photo contest comes along that catches my eye. The current Olympus International Photo Competition is one such contest. It not only promotes the art of photography, but helps a good cause as well.

The contest, open to amateurs and professionals alike, draws the recognition and participation of photo enthusiasts from around the world. By holding an international competition, Olympus is trying to illustrate its worldwide dedication to the visual industry. But what I especially like about this contest is that for each entry the camera company receives, it will donate $1 to the World Wide Fund for Nature.You can enter a single picture in any of three categories: Category 1, General Photography; Category II, Nature Photography; or Category III, My best Shot. Color slides, color prints and black-and-white prints are all acceptable. Prizes include Olympus 35mm SLRs and lens-shutter cameras. In addition, Categories I and II each have a $3,000 first prize, and Category III has a $600 first prize.

You'll need an official entry form, which you can get by calling the Public Relations Department of Olympus at (516) 364-3000. Last year, the contest drew more than 45,000 entries from 88 countries. The deadline for submitting entries is Oct. 31, so if you plan to participate, get your entry form soon and load up your camera!

* Helpful Photo Publications: If you need some inspiration for your contest entry - or if you just want some advice that may help you take better pictures - several new publications, available at your local camera store, may help you expand your photographic horizons.

They include:

- "Take Your Best Shot," a series of booklets from Fuji Film that cover a variety of picture-taking subjects, including sports and travel. The booklets are free.

- "Turn Your Snapshots Into Great Shots," a free pamphlet from Minolta that offers advice on improving your basic photo techniques.

- "How to Choose the Right Film" a newly revised, comprehensive book by Kodak that helps you select films for different photo opportunities. There's plenty of information on selecting slide and print films in this 161-page softcover volume. It lists for $10.95.

- "Photographing People," another colorful book from Kodak. This 80-page guide covers all the basics on how to capture the human spirit, at home and while traveling. It lists for $5.95.

Good luck in the contest, and in all your photographic endeavors.