Now Is The Time To Start Preparing For A Year Of Excellent Photo Contests

Ever daydream about getting your photos into a prestigious magazine or winning a grand prize for your excellent composition?

Whether you’re a budding photographer or a seasoned professional, photo contests are a great way to display your talents and even pick up a little cash or fame along the way!

For 2017 and 2018, you’ll find photo contests are open throughout the year, and most of them you’ll want to start preparing for well in advance. Looking at the winning photos from previous years will give you a good idea of your competition and what constitutes an excellent image in the eyes of judges.

There are also plenty of free photography competitions on this list that you can enter. The majority of photo contests cost less than $50 to enter, and for the potential upsides – recognition for your work, credit for your resume, cash in your pocket, or a trip around the world – the expense is well worth it.

Depending on your niche or expertise, you’ll want to choose photo contests that suit your work and your strengths as a photographer. If you’re stellar at star photography (pun very much intended), then entering in a night sky or star photography-specific competition is the way to go. Whether you shoot wildlife, portraits, landscapes, weddings, even macros – you can bet there’s a photo contest out there to suit your needs.

So with all the choice out there, how do you go about choosing the contests that are worth your while? Pay attention to “contests” that offer little to no value in exchange for your money. You should be aiming for contests that offer a significant prize or recognition, and those which you feel you have very strong work to submit. If you can find local photo contest in your area, those are a good place to start.

Below you’ll find our curated list of some of the best photography contests for 2017 – 2018. You’ll find a description of the contest and what it’s about, as well as an overview of the cost of entry, deadlines, and prizes offered.

So without further ado, here are the best photography contests and prizes for 2017 and 2018:

1: World Press Photo 

Laurent Van der Stockt | 1st Place in General News

Laurent Van der Stockt | 1st Place in General News

Deadline: January 2018

Entry fee: None

Prize: €10,000

The World Press Photo contest is one of the world’s most highly regarded photojournalism contests. No entry fee and a significant prize make this a competition to try if you do any photojournalistic work.

Along with a cash prize, the World Press Photo competition winners (including “Photo of The Year” along with 1st – 3rd place in all categories) have their photos placed in an exhibition that tours over 40 different countries and printed in their international publication.

Worth it?

Absolutely. With a chance to have your photos seen by literally millions of people around the world, and an all-inclusive invitation to the World Press Photo Festival in Amsterdam, few other contests offer the same level of prestige and exposure.

2: Feature Shoot Emerging Photography Awards

Mary Shannon Johnstone | Feature Shoot Overall Winner

Mary Shannon Johnstone | Feature Shoot Overall Winner

Deadline: January 2018

Entry fee: $20

Prize: $750

Emerging photographers will love this contest that offers a decent cash prize and some enviable exposure. Feature Shoot is an established outlet for photographers breaking through to the next level in their careers.

The winners also receive spots in group and solo exhibitions on the East Coast of the U.S. as well as a special selection for an exhibition in Sydney, Australia. Selected photographers will also receive contact information for photo editors and book publishers.

Worth it?

Yes. Especially for budding professionals looking to give their careers a huge boost, Feature Shoot offers a competition where new talent can shine.

3: Pictures of the Year International

Casper Dalhoff | Community Awareness Award

Casper Dalhoff | Community Awareness Award

Deadline: December 2018

Entry fee: $50

Prize: $1000

Pictures of the Year International (POYi) stands as one of the oldest and most respected photography competitions out there.

POYi gives out awards related to photojournalism and has since 1944. Their stated purpose, in the beginning, was “to pay tribute to those press photographers and newspapers which, despite tremendous war-time difficulties, are doing a splendid job; to provide an opportunity for photographers of the nation to meet in open competition; and to compile and preserve…a collection of the best in current, home-front press pictures.”

As POYi grew, the mission of the organization expanded as well. Currently, POYi holds seminars and workshops, and each year’s contest is commemorated with exhibits, a book, and online. POYi also invites the public to participate in voting for the “Best Picture of the Year.”

Worth it?

Absolutely. Despite the photojournalism focus, there are over 20 separate categories within the competition, so you can find your niche. And while the prize money isn’t as substantial as other contests out there, the exposure is enough to propel your career into the international spotlight.

4: iPhone Photography Awards 

Kuanglong Zhang | 3rd Place Photographer of the Year

Kuanglong Zhang | 3rd Place Photographer of the Year

Deadline: March 2018

Entry fee: $3.50 (per image)

Prize: IPPA Photographer of the Year Award, Gold/Palladium Bars (yes, really)

The iPhone Photography Awards might be one of those photography contests to enter just for fun. The prize is essentially the title: “IPPA Photographer of the Year Award,” and any photos taken with an iPhone qualify for entry (clip-on lenses and image editing apps are allowed as well). The grand prize hasn’t been slated for 2018, but all 1st place winners in each category receive a Gold Bar from “the most recognizable private gold mint in the world.” Second and Third place winners receive Palladium Bars. Which is certainly more interesting than cash.

For photographers just starting out, this is a great inexpensive contest to “get your feet wet” and maybe get some bragging rights for yourself and your resume.

Categories: Abstract, Animals, Architecture, Children, Floral, Landscape, Lifestyle, Nature, News and Events, Panorama, People, Portrait, Series (3 images), Still Life, Sunset, Travel,
Trees, Others

Worth it?

The entry fees are nominal, but so is the prize. This one you’ll want to enter just for fun, not your career.

5: Sony World Photography Awards

Katelyn Wang | Youth Photographer of the Year

Katelyn Wang | Youth Photographer of the Year

Deadline: December – January 2018

Entry fee: None

Prize: $5000

The Sony World Photography Awards offers a significant cash prize, and the winners will have their work exhibited in London’s Somerset House, a published book, and in an exhibition that travels around the world.

Even if you don’t make the winning cut, this contest still generates lots of interest for honorable mentions and for those on the shortlist.

Andrea Gjestvang, a photographer from Norway and the overall winner in 2013, says:

“Winning the L’Iris d’Or/ Photographer of the Year 2013 was a great recognition and it made my work reach out to a worldwide audience. Both editors, collectors, potential collaborators in the business, but most important the normal readers that were moved and engaged by the images. It opened up new opportunities for me, and was a huge motivation to continue following the stories that I believe in.”

Worth it?

Of course! There’s no entry fee, so it’s low-risk for potentially high rewards. If not for the cash, this is a competition definitely worth entering for the international prestige.

6: Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards

Angela Bohlke | Winner of Nikon Creature of the Land Category

Angela Bohlke | Winner of Nikon Creature of the Land Category

Deadline: 30th September 2017

Entry fee: None

Prize: A Nikon D801 Kit and an inclusive week-long photography safari in Africa

The Comedy Wildlife PHotography Awards won’t propel you to international photography stardom or land you a huge cash prize. Compared to some of the more pretentious contests out there, this one is light-hearted and completely free to enter.

Of course, there isn’t much exposure from this contest, but it supports a good cause (Born Free) – and you may find yourself on an exciting wildlife safari in Africa (a wildlife photographer’s dream!).

Worth it?

It’s definitely worth entering if you photograph wildlife and would like to enter your funnier shots just for kicks.

7: Kuala Lumpur International Photo Awards 

Deborah Roffel | KLPA Photoawards Finalist

Deborah Roffel | KLPA Photoawards Finalist

Deadline: April 2018

Entry fee: $15 (per image)

Prize: $4,000

The Kuala Lumpur International Photo Awards centers on portraiture and offers a hefty cash prize along with a low-cost entry fee. This contest is prestigious for portrait photographers around the world, though exposure is more limited compared to others with a single exhibition in KL, Malaysia.

Worth it?

If you work in portraiture, then this is definitely worth an entry or two – for the substantial monetary prize and a recognizable achievement in the world of portrait photography.

8: PDN Photo Annual

Marcus Palmqvist | Stock Photography Finalist

Marcus Palmqvist | Stock Photography Finalist

Deadline: February 2018

Entry fee: $45 (single entry), $55 (series), $25 (student rate)

Prize: $15,000 Arnold Newman Prize (portraiture), $100 Epson Creativity Award + Epson printer, $1,500 PDN Publisher’s Choice Award + one-page promo in PDN (Photo District News)

The Photo District News (PDN) contest is as diverse as it is lucrative to win. There are 10 categories that accept submissions: Advertising/Corporate Work, Magazine/Editorial, Photo Books, Photojournalism/Documentary, Sports, Self-Promo/Websites, Personal Work, Stock Photography, Video/Multimedia, Student Work.

Worth it?

In addition to a large cash prize, PDN winners will have their photos printed in their official magazine and displayed on their website. With a large audience full of photo editors and potential buyers, this kind of distribution is worth entering for.

9: National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Sergio Tapiro Velasco | Grand Prize Winner

Sergio Tapiro Velasco | Grand Prize Winner

Deadline: May 2018

Entry fee: $15 per entry

Prize: $2,500, plus an all-expenses paid photo expedition and some nice swag in the form of cameras

National Geographic is easily one of the world’s most recognized names in the world of photography, and it’s contest are some of the most popular and prestigious to win. The entry fee here is low, but competition can be fierce for such a contest, because of the potential recognition from a strong photography community.

Worth it?

Maybe. While the competition is fierce and some photographers have voiced their concerns over the rights NatGeo retains over submissions (they can use it for their print publications as well as a free wallpaper) – you will still want to consider entering for the incredible reach you’ll receive if you’re chosen as a winner.

10: WPPI 16X20 Print, Album, and Filmmaking Competition

Soon Rex | Engagement Photo First Place

Soon Rex | Engagement Photo First Place

Deadline: May 2017

Entry fee: $45 (members), $65 (non-members)

Prize: $2,000

WPPI has a great competition that gives entrants the opportunity to receive feedback directly from the panel of judges present and is one of the few contests out there that still recognizes prints.

Worth it?

The entry fee is steeper than others, but for portraiture and wedding photographers especially, it’s worthy of entry for the high-profile accolades.

11: International Photography Award

Marinka Masséus | 1st Place in People

Marinka Masséus | 1st Place in People

Deadline: August 2017

Entry fee: $35 per image (professional), $25 per image (non-professional), $15 per image (student)

Prize: $10,000 (International Photographer of the Year), $5,000 (Discovery of the Year), $5,000 (Deeper Perspective of the Year), $2,500 (Moving Image Photographer of the Year)

The International Photography Award is another high-level photography contest for photographers of all levels that offers worldwide exposure, not to mention a large cash prize.

You’ll find a good variety of different categories to enter here, along with different groupings for experienced professionals, amateurs, and student photographers. Winners receive a cash prize along with a place in a touring photo exhibition that goes all around the world, and a feature in IPA’s annual Book of Photography.

Worth it?

Yes, this contest is well worth the cost to enter for photographers of varying niches in any stage of their careers.

12: Nikon Small World Photomicrography Contest

Douglas L. Moore | 2nd Place

Douglas L. Moore | 2nd Place

Deadline: April 2018

Entry fee: None

Prize: $3,000 to use for Nikon gear

If you’re, by chance, into light microscope photography, then you may be aware of the Nikon Small World Photomicrography contest. In addition to winning a nice cash prize that you can use for Nikon gear – if you win you’ll receive a spot in a touring exhibition that travels to various science centers and museums across North America.

Worth it?

If you’ve done any photomicrography, then it’s definitely worth a go.

13: Leica Oskar Barnack Award 

Terje Abusdal | Overall Winner

Terje Abusdal | Overall Winner

Deadline: April 2018

Entry fee: None

Prize: €2500, a Leica M camera and a lens worth €10,000

Established in 1979 on the 100th anniversary of Oskar Barnack’s (inventor of the Leica) birth, this contest is for anyone serious about their work and photographic abilities. You can submit work from virtually any genre to be judged by an international panel, and there’s no entry fee.

Worth it?

Yes. The Leica Oskar Barnack Award is recognized around the world as a prestigious achievement. Along with no entry fee, the valuable prizes offer plenty of incentive to submit your best work.

14: I Shot It: The Best Photo Competition

Alicja Zmyslowska | Cat Competition Winner

Alicja Zmyslowska | Cat Competition Winner

Deadline: Varies

Entry fee: Varies

Prize: Either cash or gear prizes

I Shot It offers a continual series of contests that vary by concept, judges, and prizes awarded. Recent contests include Landscapes, Street Photography, and Cats.

The prizes and competition levels really vary here depending on the contest, but you can likely find something that corresponds to your niche that either has a monetary prize or free gear as an incentive to enter. I Shot It also announces updates on the current contests they are running via social media.

Worth it?

It really depends on the contest you choose. You may want to consider the prize amount or incentive, how competitive it is, and your level of skill in the subject matter when deciding to enter, as exposure isn’t so much a factor here.

15: Big Picture Natural World Photography Competition

Denise Ippolito | Winner, Winged Life Category

Denise Ippolito | Winner, Winged Life Category

Deadline: March 2018

Entry fee: $25 (up to 10 photos), $15 (photo series category)

Prize: $5,000 (grand prize), $5,000 (category prizes)

Created and hosted by the California Academy of Sciences, this competition continues to get bigger and bigger.

This competition was created to honor the world’s best nature, wildlife & conservation photographers and inspire action to preserve and protect the Earth through their imagery. Winners receive a substantial cash prize and have their work exhibited at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

Worth it?

If you’re a nature photographer, this photography contest is a must, and you’ll likely find a category for submission that suits your talents.

16: PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris 

Jonathan Bachman | Photographer of the Year

Jonathan Bachman | Photographer of the Year

Deadline: March 2018

Entry fee: Professionals: $30 (photo), $50 (series) / Amateurs: $20 (photo), $40 (series)

Prize: $5,000 (Photographer of the Year), $2000 (Best New Talent)

Founded in 2004 in Paris, the Px3 Photography competition is a highly regarded photo competition in Europe that holds a popular exhibition of the winning images.

“The “Prix de la Photographie, Paris” (P×3) strives to promote the appreciation of photography, to discover emerging talent, and to introduce photographers from around the world to the artistic community of Paris.”

Worth it?

If you’re based in Europe, this photo competition is definitely worth a look. For photographers based elsewhere, this may not offer the level of exposure you’d want outside of Europe.

17: Alexia Foundation Grants

Paolo Marchetti | Photo Story: The Price of Vanity: Worldwide Skin Market

Paolo Marchetti | Photo Story – The Price of Vanity: Worldwide Skin Market

Deadline: January 2018

Entry fee: None

Prize: $20,000

The Alexia Foundation offers grants to professional and student photographers to further their careers by funding meaningful and impactful photography projects. Unlike a photography contest, grants are given out to fund work that has yet to be created.

“The Alexia Foundation promotes the power of photojournalism to give voice to social injustice, to respect history lest we forget it and to understand cultural difference as our strength – not our weakness. Through grants, scholarships and special projects, The Alexia Foundation supports photographers as agents for change.”

Worth it?

The grants offered by the Alexia Foundation have made a pivotal difference in many photographer’s careers. If you have a project, story, or idea in mind that you want to bring to life, you’ll want to consider submitting a proposal.

18: GDT European Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Audun Rikardsen | Overall Winner

Audun Rikardsen | Overall Winner

Deadline: March 2018

Entry fee: €30

Prize: €3,000 + Travel and accommodations for awards show

The GDT Photographer of the Year is a prestigious wildlife photography award for anyone who loves shooting in nature. With a decent selection of categories, including Birds, Mammals, Man and Nature, and Landscapes, you can easily find the niche to suit your expertise. Young photographers between 14 – 18 are also granted a special category and competition.

“The competition aims to illustrate the high quality and specific style of European wildlife photography through excellent pictures from Europe and all over the world. It also seeks to promote awareness for nature conservation through the means of photography.”

Worth it?

If you’re an avid wildlife photographer, particularly if you’re based in Europe, this photography contest is definitely worth a nominal entry fee.

19: Foam Talent Call

Juno Calypso | Foam Talent Call Winner

Juno Calypso | Foam Talent Call Winner

Deadline: March 2018

Entry fee: €35

Prize: Published in Foam Magazine, featured in the Foam Talent Exhibition

Based in Amsterdam, Foam is an internationally operating photography organization that hosts one of the most prestigious open calls for photographers between 18 – 35. The Foam Talent Call has helped to launch many aspiring photographer’s careers over the years since its inception in 2007.

“Foam stands for talent. We scout, follow and present young, talented photographers in order to discover and stimulate exceptional quality.”

Worth it?

The exposure this competition provides competition winners is hard to beat. If you’re within the age range then this is a great opportunity to make a name for yourself as a serious photographer.

20: On the Move International Award

Andrea Frazzetta | Danakil: Land of Salt and Fire

Andrea Frazzetta | Danakil: Land of Salt and Fire

Deadline: May 2018

Entry fee: None

Prize: €4,000 for use towards Nikon equipment

This contest is a part of the Cortona On the Move International Photography Festival, which takes place in Cortona, Italy and attracts thousands of visitors every year. Every year, the organization announces a theme to be used for its contest, and submissions must be images or projects based around this theme.

Worth it?

The award is a substantial cash prize to be used towards Nikon gear, and you can travel to Tuscany to see the exhibition in person (though you need to pay your way). Why not?

Conclusion

In conclusion, no matter what area of photography you’ve chosen to focus on, there’s a contest out there for you. Remember to play to your strengths. Because it’s easy to rack up entry fees, be mindful of where you’re at in your career. If you’re just starting out, it’s probably not worth spending money on contests with a substantial fee and overwhelming competition. However, most of these contests are low-risk, can be great tools for career building, and many offer prizes that are quite lucrative. Good luck!