This post was last updated on December 29, 2020.
Photography contests offer unparalleled opportunities for professionals and amateurs alike. In addition to giving you the chance to monetize your existing portfolio, they're also a wonderful platform to grow your exposure beyond the limits of your photography website and social media profiles. Furthermore, participating in online photo contests can be a great way to fuel your photography inspiration through new themes or genres.
In recent years, the popularization of online photography contests has led to the creation of numerous little-known competitions demanding large participation fees. As a result, it has become significantly harder for photographers to identify which contests are worth their time. In order to ensure you don’t waste your energy on untrustworthy events, we’ve put together a selection of the main photography contests you should keep in mind.
Up for a challenge? Here are the best international photography contests you can enter in 2021:
01. International Photography Awards
Entry deadline: Early deadline is March 14, 2021
Categories: Divided between professional and amateur, with 13 categories for each
Entry fee: Single Image: $35 in Professional Categories, $25 in Non-Professional Categories. Series (2-9 images): $60 in Professional Categories, $50 in Non-Professional Categories. Discounts are available for additional categories and selected countries.
Prizes: $10,000 cash prize for the International Photographer of the Year Award and $5,000 cash prize for the Discovery of the Year Award (top award in the Non-Professional Categories). Category winners receive $1,000 in professional categories and $500 in non-professional categories. All awards include exhibition and publication.
Commonly referred to as IPA, the International Photography Awards are probably the most well-known competition in the industry. While offering the largest cash prize certainly plays a role in their popularity, it’s actually their participation in the Lucie Awards gala which has gained them the nickname of “the Oscars of photography.”
IPA winners also see their works exhibited at the curated Best of Show selection in venues all around the globe, as well as published in the contest’s annual publication, one of the highest-valued photography books.
02. Nikon Small World
Entry deadline: April 30, 2021
Categories: Single category
Entry fee: Free
Prizes: $3,000 First Prize, $2,000 Second Prize, $1,000 Third Prize, $800 - $200 Fourth to Twentieth prize
Nikon Small World is one of the most well known photography contests, and funny enough, it might just be the most niche one. The competition first began in 1975 as a means to recognize media creatives in the world of science, one of the most often overlooked photography careers.
Nikon Small World has since established itself as the leading competition for photos taken through a microscope, commonly known as photomicrographs. But it’s popularity surpasses this niche, as the images submitted have captivated the general public with the unique, beautiful look they offer into microworlds beyond our wildest imagination.
While it’s not a must to capture your submissions with a Nikon camera, only photos taken with a light microscope are valid. That is, you cannot submit macro photos or images captured with an electron microscope.
03. iPhone Photography Awards
Entry deadline: March 31, 2021
Categories: 18 categories
Entry fee: 1 image: $3.50, 3 images: $9.50, 5 images: $15.50, 10 images: $29.50, 15 images: $45.50, 20 images: $57.00, 25 images: $65.50. No limit on submissions.
Prizes: IPPA Photographer of the Year Award title for the overall winner, and unannounced prizes for the top 3 winners. The top winners of each category will also receive a gold or platinum bar.
As more and more people gravitate towards the world of smartphone photography, it should not come as a surprise that one of the best photography contests of the year is dedicated to images captured with a mobile device.
iPhone or iPad users all over the world have the chance to launch their career by submitting their work to one of the following categories: Abstract, Animals, Architecture, Children, Floral, Landscape, Lifestyle, Nature, News and Events, Panorama, People, Portrait, Series (3 images), Still Life, Sunset, Travel, Trees, Other.
In addition to being shot using an iPhone or iPad, submitted works can only be edited using photography apps.
04. ND Awards
Entry deadline: Early deadline is April 25, 2021, final deadline is September 19, 2021
Categories: Divided between professional and amateur, with 6 and 5 categories respectively.
Entry fee: Single image: $20 Non-Professional, $25 Professional. Series: $25 Non-Professional, $30 Professional. Cheaper fees for the early deadline apply.
Prizes: $2,500 Professional Grand Prize, $1,300 Non-Professional Grand Prize, $500 professional category winners, $300 non-professional category winners. All winners are featured in ND Magazine.
Contrary to what its name might lead you to think, you don’t have to expand your camera accessories’ collection with a neutral density filter, even though it would be a great addition. Presented by ND Magazine, the highly acclaimed ND Awards offer professional and amateur photographers all over the world a chance to win monetary prizes and have their work published in the magazine.
In order to even out the contestants’ chances, professional and amateur photographers compete separately. Both sections include categories focused on architecture, nature, fine art, and portrait photography, as well as a special award englobing a wide range of themes. Furthermore, professional photographers can also submit editorial work as a sixth category not available for amateurs.
05. Sony World Photography Awards
Entry deadline: January 14, 2021
Categories: Divided between Professional (for a body of work), Open (for a single image), Student (for academic institutions) and Youth (for 12-19 year-olds)
Entry fee: Free
Prizes: $25,000 worth of Sony equipment Professional Photographer of the Year and $5,000 worth of Sony equipment for the Open Photographer of the Year Prize.
The Sony World Photography Awards is split into four different paths, based on the photographers’ level and age. They are as follows: Professional (for a body of work), Open (for a single image), Student (for academic institutions) and Youth (for 12-19 year-olds). The Professional and Open categories have ten different themes to enter, the student category revolves around a set brief and Youth operates on a monthly basis.
While most photography contests offer monetary prizes, the winners of the Sony World Photography Awards receive a selection of Sony camera equipment valued at thousands of dollars. Furthermore, a selection of images are displayed on the Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition, which debuts in London and later tours through Europe, Asia, and the Americas.
06. The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards
Entry deadline: Open date is March 1, 2021
Categories: Single category
Entry fee: Free
Prizes: TBA - Usually includes safari experience, gear, and more
The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards are widely considered the funniest photography contest there is. In a world where every breaking news announced seems to be more heart wrenching than the one before, the type of images celebrated by this contest is more important than ever. From dancing kangaroos and surprised seals to laughing owls and smiling frogs, The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards are an ode to the hilariously magical moments wildlife photography offers to those who wait hours on end in search of the perfect shot.
But as important as having a good laugh is, the goal of this competition is much more crucial. The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards is also using photography to raise awareness about conservation through its support to Born Free Foundation, a UK-based charity advocating on behalf of wildlife.
07. Monochrome Photography Award
Entry deadline: Open date to be announced
Categories: Divided between professional and amateur, with 13 categories each
Entry fee: $25 for professionals, $20 for amateurs. Cheaper fee until early deadline.
Prizes: $2,000 cash prize for the overall professional winner and $1,000 cash prize for overall amateur winner. Category winners will be included in the Monochrome Photography Awards Annual Book with the overall winners.
The Monochrome Photography Award is one of the largest photography contests revolving around black and white imagery. With 13 themed categories and two main sections dedicated to professional and amateur photographers, the opportunities offered to monochrome creatives are unparalleled. The competition allows for both digital and film photography submissions, including toned images such as selenium or sepia.
By including non-traditional categories such photomanipulation, the contest aims to break with misconceptions about the purity of black and white photography and encourage the exploration of photo editing software capabilities.
In addition to the cash prizes, the three main winners also have the chance to be published in the Monochrome Photography Awards annual book, together with additional entries that the judges feel worthy of Honorable Mentions.
08. Istanbul Photo Awards
Entry deadline: March 18, 2021
Categories: 4 categories
Entry fee: Free
Prizes: $8,000 for Photo of the Year, $5,000 for category winners, $3,000 for second place, $1,500 for third place
First celebrated in 2015, the Istanbul Photo Awards are relatively young in comparison to other renowned photography contests. However, the quality and visual impact of their winning images have rapidly put their name among the most respected competitions in the industry.
The contest is organized by the Anadolu Agency, a news organization based in Turkey, and was created in hopes to strengthen the news photography area in four main categories: single news, story news (photo series), single sports, and story sports (photo series). The winning image from the single news category is named Photo of the Year.
09. All About Photo Awards
Entry deadline: January 31, 2021
Categories: Open theme
Entry fee: $30 for three photos; $5 for each additional submission
Prizes: $5,000 for grand-prize winner, $2,000 for second place, $1,500 for third place, $1,000 for fourth place, and $500 for fifth place. All winners will have their work published and showcased in diverse magazines and exhibitions.
Unlike most photography contests, All About Photo Awards does not offer diverse categories or themes for submission. Instead, the topic of competition is drawn from one of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s most famous photography quotes: "To take photographs means to recognize - simultaneously and within a fraction of a second - both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning. It is putting one's head, one's eye and one's heart on the same axis."
All About Photo Awards offers a series of cash prizes as well as a chance for photographers all over the world to have their images published and showcased on both printed and digital outlets, as well as a Daylighted's traveling exhibition.
10. BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition
Entry deadline: March 1, 2021
Categories: 7 categories
Entry fee: $25 for up to 10 single photos, $10 for each photo series
Prizes: $5,000 cash prize for grand-prize winner, $1,000 cash prize for category winners
The BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition, most commonly known as Big Picture, aims to celebrate the rich diversity of the sauna and flora of our planet. The beautiful nature photos submitted to the contest also serve as powerful calls to action to protect and preserve life on Earth as we know it.
In order to offer the big picture of natural life, BigPicture has seven categories revolving around different habitats and species: art of nature, aquatic life, winged life, terrestrial wildlife, human/nature, coexistence (photo story) and landscapes, waterscapes, and flora. Winners receive a cash prize, as well as the opportunity to have their work displayed at the California Academy of Sciences.
11. MonoVisions Photography Awards
Entry deadline: Early deadline is January 17, 2021
Categories: Divided between Single Photo and Photo Series, each with 12 categories
Entry fee: $25 for single photo, $30 for each photo series
Prizes: $3,000 for ‘Black and White Series of the Year’ winner and $2,000 for ‘Black and White Photo of the Year’ winner
As the leading black and white photography magazine, MonoVision celebrates the best monochrome works of the year with two major prizes: the Back and White Series of the Year (up to 8 images) and Black and White Photo of the Year. Each of these sections has 12 different themed categories, for which an overall winner is chosen.
In addition to the cash prize offered to the two overall winners, all category winners and honorable mentions are awarded digital, downloadable badges and certificates of achievement. Moreover, all winning submissions are published on the contest’s website.
12. Fine Art Photography Awards
Entry deadline: February 7, 2021
Categories: Divided between professional and amateur, with 20 categories each
Entry fee: $25 single entry professional, $20 single entry amateur, $30 series professional, $25 series amateur - plus $10 for additional category
Prizes: $3,000 for Professional Fine Art Photographer of the Year and $2,000 for Amateur Fine Art Photographer of the Year.
With over 20 different categories, the Fine Art Photography Awards celebrate the full spectrum of artistic freedom in one of the most misunderstood types of photography. With themes ranging from abstract to wildlife photography, this photography contest allows visual creators to reinvent the meaning of fine art photography and how its values are applied to the different genres.
Two grand-prize winners are selected among all categories to be recognized as Professional Fine Art Photographer of the Year and Amateur Fine Art Photographer of the Year. Additionally, professional and amateur category winners receive downloadable badges and certificates.
13. Wix Photography contests
Entry deadline: TBA
Entry fee: Free
Prizes: TBA - Usually sponsored photography projects
Wix's commitment to empowering visual creators goes beyond providing them with all of the tools they need to create their own professional photographer website. Every so often, Wix announces photography contests aimed at users of the platform. Rather than focusing on specific themes or categories, Wix values the overall look and feel of photographer’s existing portfolios, as well as their future project ideas. Furthermore, instead of offering monetary compensation, Wix provides real-life photography experiences to enable photographers to further grow their skills and knowledge.
The two most notable Wix photography contests to date are Your Dream Shot, where a talented photographer saw her zero-gravity photoshoot idea come to life, and the Ultimate Photography Adventure, where three skilled media creators received a week-long masterclass on wildlife, urban, and travel photography.
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