Entering photography competitions is a great way to keep up a level of drive and motivation in your photography, as well as winning cash and photo-related equipment. We can all accumulate cameras and lenses, but when it comes to using them we sometimes run out of things to take pictures of. Using the themes and category titles from photo competitions can provide a little bit of the oomph we often need to get shooting. While winning might be seen the ultimate aim we can get just as much personal value from taking part, practicing and growing our skill. Every challenge leads to progress of some sort.
There are thousands of photography competitions open at any one time, from local companies looking to promote their existence to charitable organizations hoping to draw attention to their plights. Local competitions tend to have fewer entries and thus the chances of winning increase, but international competitions tend to have better prizes and get wider coverage for those lucky enough to get shortlisted. It is often worth going for competitions with a very specialist theme or which seem hard to enter, as again they will get fewer entries and your chance of winning is improved. A competition about growing potatoes will get fewer entries than a general open landscape competition, for example, but may have the same prize value – though perhaps not the same kudos!
So we have compiled a list of some of the exciting competitions open right now, which will bring you fame, money and add that zing to your photo enthusiasm.
BUT, before you enter, do keep this in mind.
I know it sounds childish, but you need to read the brief of the categories in the competitions you enter with care and attention. The greatest portrait in the world is never going to win an landscape competition, just as a picture taken last monsoon won’t win a competition that requires pictures taken in summers. Think about what the brief is asking you and what the judges are looking for. Think through what the obvious shots are and avoid them. Try to find a unique view or angle on the subject that still fulfils the competition requirements. Make your picture stand out by being different, astonishing and unlike everyone else’s.
You might be amazed how many pictures are rejected from competitions purely because they don’t fit the brief – color instead of black and white, a flower instead of a portrait, 2 MB Picture instead of 5 MB, manipulated in a no-manipulation category and so on.
Also, be clear on the copyright terms. You should thoroughly read the terms and conditions of any competitions so that you are aware of how the competition organisers intend to use your work. Some will claim copyright over all entries so that they can be used for any purpose, which clearly is just a means to creating a photo bank for free. It is for you to decide what is acceptable, but in general terms it is fair to expect the organiser to be able to use winning entries for a few years to promote the competition in press, in its own adverts, on its website and via an exhibition or book. Be cautious when competitions ask for more than that, especially if it appears that the organiser can earn money from your work outside of the competition atmosphere. Sometimes organisers have royalty for use of winning images too, so make sure you are happy with what that means in real terms and how that might affect you later.
Landscape Photographer of The Year & USA Landscape Photographer of The Year
Take a View, which is better known as Landscape Photographer of the Year, has been on since 2006 and is firmly established as the premier competition for landscape photographs of Britain. Landscape photographer and founder of LPOTY Charlie Waite last year introduced an additional competition called USA Landscape Photographer of the Year which follows the same format.
Entry to both competitions is open to amateur and professional photographers from anywhere in the world, and both culminate in wide-ranging national press coverage, while the UK version also includes a physical exhibition held in London’s Waterloo Station as well as a book.
UK £20,000 cash plus prizes
USA $7500 cash plus prizes
UK from £10 adult/£5 17 or under
USA from $12 adults/$8 under 21
UK: 12th July 2015
USA: 15th August 2015
Check their website for the exact rules of the competition:
Travel Photographer of The Year
Opening at the end of May 13th, the Travel Photographer of the Year competition promises to showcase the best of the genre from across the globe. The competition is extremely popular and attracts very high quality entries, the best of which get plenty of exposure through the media and an exhibition in the Royal Geographic Society’s headquarters in London that the organizer says was seen by 127,000 people last year.
Winning entries & the shortlisted entries also get published in a book, Journey, which goes on sale to public. Prizes include a mixture of cash, camera equipment and a paid-for photo expedition for the ultimate winner.
The competition has 10 categories, including one for Travel Shorts video entries, a Young Travel Photographer of the Year as well as portfolio and single image sections.
Prizes: TBA, but in previous years have included £1000-5000 cash, a trip to India/USA/Morocco and camera equipment
Entry fee: £7.50/£15 for adult single/portfolios, Young TPOTY free
Opening/Closing dates: 28th May/1st October 2015
See their website for the exact rules of the competition:
Global Photographer of The Year
This is the first ever competition, Global Photographer of The Year claims it will offer photography’s richest top prize, with $150,000 going to the winner and a total fund of $200,000 shared between runner-ups. The completion will be open to professional and amateur photographers alike, and will feature seven categories including Advertising, Architecture, Fine Art, Nature, People, Sport and a special category with the theme ‘Cancer’. The organizer says that 10% of all profits will go to cancer research, in addition to 100% of profits from a book comprising entries from the Cancer theme.
Prizes will be awarded at a ceremony in London, and winners will feature in an exhibition.
Prizes: $200,000 cash
Entry fee: $35
Opening/closing dates: 1st July/31st December 2015
Check out their website for more details and rules of the competition:
International Garden Photographer of The Year
A competition for individual plant portraits as well as full blown gardens, International Garden Photographer of The Year is run in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in London. In its ninth year, the competition attracts the best botanic photographers from across the globe and is judged by a collection of photographers, editors and professionals from the horticultural world.
Quite broad in its scope, the competition has nine main categories including those for individual plants, garden wildlife, woodlands and green spaces in the city.
Shortlisted and winning entries go in to a book, as well as an exhibition that starts at Kew Gardens and which tours the UK and some foreign locations. The best portfolio is also awarded a gold medal from the Royal Photographic Society, while all entries are entitled to a free critique via email.
Prizes: £10,000 cash, plus cameras for category winners
Entry fee: £10
Closing date: 31st October 2015
See their website for details and rules of the competition:
Sony World Photo Awards
The Sony World Photography Awards claims to be the world’s biggest photography competition, attracting 173,000 entries from 171 countries last year. The competition certainly gets good coverage in the media, boosted by its association with famous photographers and the festival around the awards that draws high profile speakers.
The competition has 13 professional categories including Current Affairs, Landscape, People, Still Life and Conceptual, as well as an Open category for amateur photographers. Further awards are given for young photographers, the best from a selected number of countries (54 last year), student photographers and those shooting on mobile phones. The Outstanding Contribution award attracts plenty of attention too – this year it was Elliott Erwitt.
Shortlisted entries make up a book, and winners go in to a traveling exhibition.
Prizes: $30,000 cash, plus Sony photographic equipment
Entry fee: Free
Opening/closing date: 1st June 2015/5th January 2016
See their website for the more details and the rules:
National Geographic Traveller Photography Competition
Many of us grew up dreaming of becoming a photographer for the National Geographic Magazine. But, entering the Traveller Photo Contest is probably about as close as most of us are going to get. Obviously this is an extremely popular competition and entries will be up against some of the best in the business. Professionals and amateurs compete against each other as all the categories are open to both, and anyone over the age of majority in their country can enter – unless they live in Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan or Syria.
The contest accepts digital images and scans only, across the four categories Travel Portraits, Outdoor Scenes, Scene of Place and Spontaneous Moments. While perhaps short on cash, the prizes primarily focus on photo experiences and include places on National Geographic Photo Expeditions for the first, second and third placed photographers and being a part of NG is in itself a big prize.
Prizes: Photo expeditions plus B&H vouchers and NG subscriptions
Entry fee: $15
Closing date: 30th June 2015
Here is a link to their website:
Urban Photographer of The Year
And here is one for the street photographers. The Urban Photographer of The Year competition is all about shooting in cities and the built surroundings, and is now in its fifth year. As well as the main prize the competition has categories for three global regions and a separate prize for pictures taken during each hour of the day. The overall winner gets a photo safari that can be chosen from a range of destinations, while regional winners get a Canon EOS 70D kit. The section based on the hours of the day awards accessories from sponsors.
The contest is open to professionals and amateurs over the age of 13 years, and entry is via the online submission of a JPEG image. As it is free to enter, the competition is well subscribed, and has attracted some excellent quality in the past.
Prizes: Photo safari worth in the region of £5000/$8300 plus Canon EOS 70D kits and accessories
Entry fee: Free
Closing date: 31st August 2015
Check out their website for details and rules:
Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum International Photography Award
Established by H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum to promote Dubai as an artistic and cultural force in the world, the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum International Photography Award offers some of the most influential prizes of any photography contest. The total prize fund is a whopping $400,000, with a top prize of $120,000 for the best overall image.
This year there are four categories, Happiness, Wildlife, Father and Son, and General, with additional prizes for invitation-only categories. While the competition is open to all photographers over the age of 18, commercial work is not eligible for entry.
With free entry and an impressive prize fund the competition attracts a good many photographers, and quality tends to be high.
Prizes: Total fund of $400,000
Entry fee: Free
Closing date: 31st December 2015
Here is a link to their website: