5 Best Photography Contests and Prizes

Photography contests are the best way in which your photographic skill and talent can receive widespread recognition, especially if you haven’t yet build a name for yourself. Any photographic contest which has at least some media coverage would do in this case.  Photography contests thus allow you to share your photos with a much wider public, and also fellow photography lovers.

In addition to gaining credit and recognition for your work, photography contests also allow you to strengthen your self-confidence and dive deeper into the world of expert photography. Registering is easy, and can often be done online.

Participation in such contests might entail some entry costs for the photographer, but there are many photography contests where the entrance is entirely free. However, in order to have a chance of winning a prize, you will need state of the art cameras and auxiliary equipment, including, but not limited to, specialized lens, tripods and stabilizers and lighting tools. These might significantly increase the costs of participating in such a competition but will ensure that your chances to win are now solely related to your skill and ideas, rather than a lack of technical capabilities.

That being said, we have selected the 5 best photography contests, alongside some pictures from the 2014 and 2015 editions, which can decisively influence your career in photography for the better. Finally, note that prizes can also be very appealing, with both cash and top photography equipment usually being offered to the winners. So, let’s get started!

1. Pictures of the Year International

Pictures of the Year International is a prestigious photography competition, which was first organized during the Second World War, thus placing it at the forefront of the most respected photography events around the world. It has a wide set of subjects and categories in which it gives out awards.

This competition can be the crown jewel of any photographer’s career. Performance here basically amounts to worldwide recognition in the circles of photography. As you can suspect, winning is not easy, with only the most topic-relevant and artistically impressive photographs getting in the finals. The winners will have their work exhibited at various top-end locations. Getting exposure in top art museums, in Washington DC or New York, is the Valhalla of photographic achievement.

The entry fee is $50, with prizes exceeding $1000. However, the true prize is the recognition and fame you gain should you win.

2. Smithsonian Photo Contest

With the famous Smithsonian Museum playing host, the Smithsonian photography contest is among the most prestigious in the US. A large number of skilled photographers are vying for the top spot each year. However, this competition somewhat lacks the universalism of similar competitions, like that of the National Geographic, for instance. Some would characterize it as slightly elitist. Also, the fact that, as a general rule, the rights to the winning photo then belong to the organizers (the museum) doesn’t help.

Photography Contests
Copyright – Albert Ivan Damanik

Notwithstanding, the Smithsonian photo contest is still amongst the best US photography contests due to its rigorous standards and top exposure that winning photographers get. Moreover, participation is free and both national and international participants are welcome.

3.  National Geographic Photography Contest

Through sheer reputation and unbroken content quality throughout the years, the National Geographic Photography Contest is the fulcrum on which the world of expert photography balances. The photos appearing in the National Geographic magazine are amongst the best out there from the nature-wildlife theme. So, if you think about participating, make sure you’ve got what it takes.

Photography Contests
Copyright – Ning Mosberger Tang

A win in this contest would most likely represent the apogee of years of hard work and complete dedication to capturing the very best images of the surrounding world. Great technical skill in photography would certainly not be enough, and you will also most definitely need great artistic skill and a good dose of inspiration (and luck) to capture that awe-inspiring winner photo.  Registration costs are $15 per photo, but prizes are highly attractive, to say the least.

4. Word Press Photo

The Word Press photography contest ranks the highest in the world of photojournalism and focuses on global, humanitarian and environmental issues. However, themes like a wedding in a remote part of the world, an endangered animal etc. are also acceptable.

The organizers select the photographs by relevance for the topic, and by artistic value. Only the best photojournalists make it so far as to ever win a prize here. This is due to the very strong level of competition, as well as the ever-increasing quality standards.

photography contests
Copyright – Daniel Berehulak

A win, however, would ensure exposure in more than 40 countries and widespread recognition in the word of photojournalism. Before signing up, make sure you have some experience as a photojournalist first, regardless of whether it’s as an amateur or a professional.

5. Sony World Photography Awards

Another landmark in the world of photography contests, the Sony World Photography Awards is an  around the world famous competition. It attracts top-level photographers, both beginners, and veterans, all eager to make a name for themselves.

photography contests
Copyright – Mohamed Yousef

The best photos can make their way into London’s famous Somerset House. There, they might capture the attention and imagination of both renowned figures in the world of art and the general public. The best part of this competition is the relatively good chance you have of becoming a familiar name. This stands even if you have just taken up photography. If you’re part of a group of students just starting to build a career in this direction, don’t lose courage. You can make great things come only by taking as many chances as possible.

Photography Contests – Tips and Suggestions

It’s important to plan your participation very well and decide whether you are up for the task before signing up. For kids, teens and younger participants benefiting from the unique creativity of youth, there are a number of online local photography contests in a wide range of themes, including portrait photography, fashion, food, sports, landscape, and many others.

So, regardless of whether you’re in NYC or in Texas, there are always opportunities for young photographers to become popular. In such early stages, platforms like Facebook and Instagram should be your main choice for maximizing exposure. Using your cell phone camera might seem like a good idea in the moment. Still, a professional digital device is what you should be aiming for.

If you don’t have any ideas, start with the small things like a flower, your cat or dog. A bird or simply what happens on the street every day are also nice picks.

Photography Contests – Conclusions

Before deciding which photography contest to participate in, ask yourself a few key questions, to make sure that your effort is worthwhile. For instance, determine whether you have the necessary equipment for you to be able to achieve the standard level of photo quality. Make sure that you are able to travel to places which can help you pull off the winning shot. Also, always think about whether you should wait and gain more experience rather than rushing in. Some of these competitions are highly prestigious, and beginners lack real chances for a win.

However, in the end, it doesn’t really matter if you’re a high school student, a college student, an amateur or an all-around expert. As long as you’ve got the skill, tech, and will, you should totally try to submit an entry. The first thing you need to do is start practicing, though. So, don’t waste any more time, grab your Canon or Nikon and go out there!

Also, it’s very important to remember that the sign-up period for most photography contests is in the last quarter of the year, with registrations usually closing in late January. Though this may vary from competition to competition, it’s always best to check registration dates and conditions well in advance.

In any case, photography contests are a wonderful way to gain experience. You will also connect better to the world of photography and, ultimately, have a great deal of fun.

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