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30+ Best Photography Competitions to Elevate Your Craft

best photography contests

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

National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year

Ever dreamed of being published in National Geographic? Wildlife photographers compete in four categories for this honor, as well as cash prizes. The contest has four categories—Aerial, Underwater, Landscapes, and Wildlife.

When to enter: entries accepted until mid-November
Entry fee: $15 per entry
Prize: Grand prize of $7,500 and publication of photo in National Geographic. Category winners receive $2,500.

National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year

Share your best snaps of life around the world in the National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year 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 April to June
Entry fee: $15 per entry
Prize: Grand prize wins a 10-day trip for two to the Galápagos Islands with National Geographic Expeditions. Category winners receive $2,500.

National Wildlife Photo Contest
For over 40 years, the National Wildlife Federation has run this prestigious competition celebrating the glory of nature. The seven categories include Baby Animals,Backyard Habitats, 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: December 2018 to March 2019
Entry fee: FREE
Prize: The 2016 contest awarded €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 December to February
Entry fee: from €15 for 3 images (€10 if under 20 years old)
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 end of March to 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 trip to London for 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 until the end of September
Entry fee: £8 for single images, £15 for portfolios; Youth competition is FREE
Prize: £4,000 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: from £5
Prize: $5,000 voucher to Nauticam for the overall winner. Prize packages for category winners.

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.

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