Whether you are a professional photographer looking to gain more exposure or an amateur who wants to know how your work stacks up against your peers, photography competitions are a fantastic way to stretch yourself and grow your craft. From free photo contests to paid photography awards, it’s possible to invest as little—or as much—as you’d like. And sometimes, the rewards can be life-changing.
From cash prizes to traveling exhibitions at renowned institutions, the best photography contests give their participants the opportunity to show their best work to a wider audience. Most contests have separate professional and amateur divisions, as well as youth competitions for young photographers—and you don’t always have to pay. Contests like the EyeEm Awards and the Smithsonian Photo Contest are free of charge, while others charge nominal fees to enter multiple photographs.
With such a wide variety of photography competitions, you can decide whether you want to try your hand at one of the larger contests with a range of categories for all types of photography, such as the International Photo Awards, or go more niche. Underwater photography, architectural photography, astrophotography, wedding photography, and pet photography are just some competitions that let you hone in on specific aspects of the craft.
To help you find what photo contest meets your needs, we’ve pulled together a list of the best photography competitions—in alphabetical order—that you’ll want to consider entering. Over the years we’ve featured all of these contests, many times publishing early entries and finalists, in addition to winners—proving that you can gain valuable press coverage whether you win or not.
Our list of the best photography contests covers a wide range of photography from wildlife to fine art.
Architectural photographers compete in six categories—Exterior, Interior, Sense of Place, Portfolio, Mobile Architecture Photography, and Buildings in Use—for a chance at cash prizes and having their work exhibited at the World Architecture Festival.
When to enter: Annually from March to July
Entry fee: One-time registration of £55 allows entrants to submit up to 3 images to each category
Prize: $3,000 and exhibition at the World Architecture Festival.
Combine your love of birds and photography by competing in the Audubon Photography Awards. Participants must be legal residents of the U.S. or Canada and at least 13 years of age. Winning photos will be published in the Audubon and Nature’s Best Photography magazines, as well as go on exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
When to enter: Annually from early January to early April
Entry fee: $15 per image; Youth competition is FREE
Prize: Cash prizes up to $5,000.
Celebrate the beauty of childhood across the world by submitting your most stunning black and white images of children. Photographers compete in four categories—Portrait, Fine Art, Lifestyle, and Documentary & Street. The contest accepts international entries and there is no limit on the number of submissions per photographer. It has two submission periods per year; the 1st half at the beginning and the 2nd half at the latter part of the year.
When to enter: 1st half at the beginning of the year until July; 2nd half from August to the end of the year
Entry fee: €10 for a single image, €20 for 3 images, €30 for 5 images
Prize: €1,000 each for two Grand Prize winners, €100 for category winners.
Wedding photographers are encouraged to show off their best wedding images in annual contests run by Junebug Weddings. The theme for the contest changes with each competition.
When to enter: Varies depending on the contest
Entry fee: $28 for up to 15 images for non-members. Members can submit up to 3 photos for free or up to 15 images for $18
Prize: 50 winning entries are featured on the website, with a link to their blog.
Run by the California Academy of Sciences, this international photo contest celebrates the “the rich diversity of life on Earth and inspire action to protect and conserve it through the power of imagery.” Photographers can submit work across seven different categories such as the art of nature, aquatic life, terrestrial wildlife, and winged life.
When to enter: Annually from December to March of the next year
Entry fee: $25 for up to 10 single image submissions in any category, $15 for 1 photo series (3-5 images)
Prize: $5,000 to overall winner, $1,000 for category winners. Participation in an annual exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences.
This global competition asks wildlife photographers to submit their best bird photography across 9 categories, including best youth photographer. There are also two special prizes up for grabs—best portfolio and crowd choice. Participants can submit single photos or an entire portfolio.
When to enter: Annually from mid-August to the end of November
Entry fee: From £6, participants can enter up to 8 images per category
Prize: £5,000 for grand prize winner, camera equipment for portfolio prize winner (a £3,500 retail value), and a pair of Swarovski CL Companion 8×30 binoculars for category winners. All winners receive a portfolio review from Director of Photography at Alamy.
Created to focus on the glory of British wildlife, photographers of all nationalities are encouraged to enter the contest, but their images must be taken in the United Kingdom. The 15 separate categories also include a prize for wildlife in HD video, and two separate prizes are awarded to young photographers. The top entries are included in a traveling exhibition across Britain, as well as a coffee table book.
When to enter: Annually from November to April of the next year
Entry fee: From £10; Youth competition (up to 6 images) is FREE
Prize: £5,000 for grand prize winner, while some adult category winners receive a cash prize of £500 and new camera equipment. The Wildlife in HD Video category will receive a new camcorder. The winning pictures and best entries will be included in a touring exhibition across the UK as well as a coffee table book.
If you like to see the humor in the natural world, this photography contest is for you. Founded by the wildlife charity, Born Free Foundation, the awards are a light-hearted way to bring attention to conservation issues. In addition to four categories for adults and a youth competition, videographers are encouraged to enter their funniest video clips. But note, photographs of domestic, captive or enclosed wildlife of any description are not allowed.
When to enter: Entries accepted through the end of September
Entry fee: FREE
Prize: Overall winner receives a trophy and one-week safari in Kenya.
The Kennel Club, the UK’s largest organization focusing on the welfare of dogs, runs this annual, international contest. Photographers can enter in 10 categories, including Dog Portrait, Dogs at Play, Assistance Dogs, and Rescue Dogs. There are also two youth categories for young photographers.
When to enter: Annually from February to April
Entry fee: FREE
Prize: Overall winner receives a SmugMug business account and mentorship day with acclaimed dog photographer. All winners will have their work displayed at the Kennel Club Art Gallery in London, as well as a prize package.
Part of the Art Photo Travel Association, this worldwide competition is open to aerial photography and videos whose platforms also include “fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, balloons, blimps and dirigibles, rockets, kites, and parachutes.”
When to enter: Entries accepted April to June.
Entry fee: FREE
Prize: The Drone Photographer of the Year will be awarded a prize package that includes €500,00 worth of photography equipment and more.
This leading photo community, which also licenses images, runs what they call the largest photo competition for rising photographers. They annually award prizes in 10 categories, including The Street Photographer, The Great Outdoors, The Portraitist, The Photojournalist, and The Architect. Additionally, the Photographer of the Year is selected based on their body of work and potential for growth.
When to enter: Entries accepted until the end of July
Entry fee: FREE
Prize: Photographer of the Year wins a trip to Berlin for Berlin Photo Week, a feature in EyeEm Magazine and Format Magazine, and more.
Seeking “photos born out of passion,” the international contest is open to both amateur and professional photographers. With 20 different categories to select from, there is no shortage of artistic themes that will allow photographers to display their creativity.
When to enter: Annually through mid-February
Entry fee: From $15 per photo
Prize: $3,000 for Professional Photographer of the Year, $2000 for Amateur Photographer of the Year.