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30+ Best Photography Competitions to Elevate Your Craft

More Photography Competitions

best photography contests

Danny Yen Sin Wong, 1st prize Open Color, Siena International Photography Awards 2016. (Photo: Danny Yen Sin Wong)

National Geographic Travel Photo Contest

Share your best snaps of life around the world in the National Geographic Travel Photo Contest. Three categories—Nature, People, and Cities—allow photographers to show how their travel imagery is revealing, transporting, and exciting.

When to enter: Annually from mid-March to the end of April
Entry fee: Starts at $10 per entry
Prize: Grand prize of $7,500. First place winners receive $2,500, second place $1,500, third place $750.


National Wildlife Photo Contest

For over 40 years, the National Wildlife Federation has run this prestigious competition celebrating the glory of nature. The eight categories include Birds, Reptiles and Amphibians, Mammals, and People in Nature.

When to enter: Annually from January to March
Entry fee: $20 for 10 photos
Prize: Grand prize of $5,000. First place category winners receive $500, second place category winners receive $250.


Nikon Small World Contest

This contest, which has been going for over 40 years, recognizes photography taken through the light microscope. It’s a leading showcase for photomicrographers from a variety of science disciplines. While participants aren’t required to use Nikon equipment, as images must be taken using a light microscope.

When to enter: Entries accepted until late-April
Entry fee: FREE
Prize: First prize $3,000. 2nd to 20th place winners receive cash prizes ranging from $200 to $2,000.


Red Bull Illume

Red Bull runs this international photography contest dedicated to action and adventure sports, which is also sponsored by Sony. The competition has been running every three years since 2007, with the next contest taking place in 2019. All finalist images participate in an international traveling exhibition.

When to enter: Entries accepted until late July
Entry fee: FREE
Prize: €100,000 in consumer goods and photography equipment to the overall winner and category winners.


Siena International Photo Awards

This international photo contest receives over 50,000 images from amateur and professional photographers. Whether Sports in Action or Story-telling, the categories allow photographers to show the best in their portfolio. Winners are announced at an annual ceremony in Siena, Italy.

When to enter: Annually from October to January
Entry fee: Professionals can enter one image for free and have to pay beyond that point.
Prize: €1,500 for Photo of the Year, €500 for Storyboard Winner. Photo of the Year, Storyboard Winner, and Category Winners receive stays in Siena, Italy during award ceremony weekend.


wildlife photography contest

Sergey Gorshkov, Finalist, Animal Portraits, Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017. (Photo: Sergey Gorshkov / Wildlife Photographer of the Year)


Smithsonian Photo Contest

Smithsonian.com has run their international photo contest for 15 years, asking photographers to submit their best photographs across six categories, including one for Mobile photography. Photo entries will be judged based on creativity, quality, originality, responsiveness to the prompt, and overall impact.

When to enter: Annually from early April to the end of November
Entry fee: FREE
Prize: $2,500 Grand Prize, $500 for Category Winners and Readers’ Choice award.


Sony World Photography Awards

For over a decade, Sony and the World Photography Organisation have run this competition, which unfolds in four sections—professional, open, youth, and student. Professional photographers are judged on a body of work, while the open competition awards single images. One of the world’s leading photo contests, the total prize fund is $30,000. All shortlisted photos participated in an exhibition at Somerset House in London and will be published in Sony World Photography Awards book.

When to enter: Entry deadline between December and January depending on competition section
Entry fee: FREE
Prize: $25,000 Photographer of the Year, category winners receive a trip to London for the awards ceremony.


Travel Photographer of the Year

Also known as TPOTY, this photographer founded contest celebrates travel photography. The international competition culminates in an exhibition in London, selected from the 9 competition categories. These include Earth & Climate, Food, and Tales of Adventure.

When to enter: Entries accepted from April to October
Entry fee: Starts at £8 for single images; Youth competition is FREE
Prize: £5,000 and prize package for Overall Winner. Category and portfolios winners receive prize packages.


Underwater Photographer of the Year

Across 10 categories, underwater photography is heralded as an art form in this long-running competition. This is an international contest, though several categories are only open to images taken in the waters of the UK. The 2017 contest saw a new category—Underwater Photography Book.

When to enter: Annually from November to January
Entry fee: Starts at £12 for three images
Prize: The Underwater Photographer of the Year gets first to pick something from the prize-pool featuring a variety of incredible awards.


Wildlife Photographer of the Year

The Natural History Museum in London runs this prestigious competition focusing on wildlife photography. Photographers are invited to submit their best work in 16 categories, such as Animals in their Environment, Urban Wildlife, and Behavior. There is also a separate youth competition.

When to enter: Annually from late-October to mid-December
Entry fee: £30
Prize: £10,000 Wildlife Photographer of the Year, £2,500 for Portfolio winner and Photojournalism Awards. Cash prizes for category winners.


This article has been edited and updated.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.

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