Participating in photography contests is a great way to stay motivated and improve your skills.
Depending on the competition, you can also gain recognition and press coverage, not to mention a possible cash prize or gear.
You don’t need to be a professional photographer to participate.
There are many photo contests open to amateur photographers as well.
Here you’ll find a selection of the best paid and free photo contests for you to find your next creative breakthrough.
I’ve also included some advice from experienced photo competition judges with tips on how to win photo awards.
Table of Contents
What are the Best Photo Contests to Enter in 2023?
Here are some of the best photography contests to enter in 2023. There’s a fun photography contest for all levels, so be sure to check them all out!
- What it is: A unique contest format where you can enter as many times as you like and get valuable feedback from a huge photography community on your entries.
- When it is: Every day there’s a new photography challenge.
- Prizes: Camera equipment and other bits of gear from global brands.
- Is there an entry fee? If you want to enter an Exhibition Challenge (where photos are printed and viewed in a physical space), there is a small fee of less than $10. Otherwise, entry to the daily challenges is free.
GuruShots is a photography app that mixes social media with photo contests. Within the community, you can showcase your images and vote for other users’ photos.
You can enter the daily competitions to stay motivated and potentially win awards and recognitions. The recognitions help you to level up and become more influential. The awards can be gift cards or photographic gear.
There are daily challenges, speed challenges, and exhibition challenges. These last ones are the only ones with an entry fee. However, the prizes are more valuable because they give you a chance to show your work in upscale galleries.
- What it is: It’s the leading programme of the World Photography Organization. It’s dedicated to celebrating and showcasing the work of established and emerging photographers.
- When it is: The photography competitions open in June. They have different deadlines according to the category.
- Prizes: The winners get cash prizes and digital Sony equipment. They’re also promoted on the website and included in exhibitions and publications.
- Is there an entry fee? The Sony World Photography Awards are free to enter.
The Sony World Photography Awards is divided into four photography contests or categories. It’s been organized by the World Photography Organization for the past 16 years.
This is one of the biggest photography contests 2023 has to offer.
Photo manipulation is allowed, which is rare in photography competitions. However, it needs to be clearly disclosed in the description.
You can submit images taken with any device, including smartphones. It’s not limited to Sony users. The only restriction is that the photo was taken the year before.
So, for the 2023 edition, you can only submit images taken from 01/01/2022 to 31/12/2022.
The winners are announced in April, and the top prize is $25,000. You can enter between 5 and 10 images per category.
The Professional category is the only one with specific rules about publications. Make sure you review these rules before applying.
- What it is: The Istanbul Photo Awards is an “international news photography contest”. It’s open to professional photographers.
- When it is: The applications are usually open from November to January.
- Prizes: The top three photographers in each category win cash prizes.
- Is there an entry fee? The application is entirely free as it aims to support news photographers worldwide.
The Anadolu Agency promotes the Istanbul Photo Awards. The aim is to contribute to the sphere of news photography.
The winning images should engage the viewer against war and conflict. They also need to help people know and understand different cultures.
The contest has run for eight years and is only open to professional photographers. You can apply to five categories with one image or a photo series—for example, Single News or Story News.
You can enter all the categories you want. The images submitted need to be taken the year before. Digital manipulation isn’t allowed.
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- What it is: A photo competition promoting photography taken with iPhones and iPads.
- When it is: The photo contest happens every year. The deadline is usually by the end of March.
- Prizes: The winners get Apple devices, plus Gold and Platinum bars.
- Is there an entry fee? Yes, there are entry fees. The cost depends on the number of submissions. The range goes from $5.50 for a single image to $135.50 for 50 images.
Everyone can participate with photos taken with iPhones and iPads. Images that have been published before can’t be included. Also, manipulating them with Photoshop is prohibited.
This is a perfect beginner photography contest for up-and-coming mobile photographers.
There are many categories, such as Nature, Travel, Still Life, etc. You can enter as many categories as you want. However, each photo can be submitted to only one category.
- Read more: 25 iPhone Photography Tips
- What it is: It’s a photography competition dedicated to drone and aerial photography. It’s an initiative from the Siena Awards.
- When it is: Submissions are open from May to June.
- Prizes: The winners receive a cash prize. They’re also included in an exhibition where they are awarded a statuette.
- Is there an entry fee? You can enter one image for free. After that, the entry fee is 20 euros for three pictures and 20 euros for any additional image. Videos and Storytelling categories have entry fees of 35 euros.
The Siena International Photo Awards is one of the best photography contests in the world. Since 2018, they have organized the Drone Photo Awards. It’s entirely dedicated to aerial photography and video.
The images can be taken from an aeroplane, blimp, and others – not only with drones. There are multiple categories, such as Weddings, Abstract, Nature, People, etc.
All category winners are exhibited in Siena, Italy, during the Siena Awards Festival. They also receive press coverage, a cash price and a statuette.
- Read more: How can I improve my aerial photography?
- What it is: A photo contest dedicated to finding the most talented photographers capturing everyday life.
- When it is: The deadline is around the end of December every year.
- Prizes: A solo show online, a group exhibition in a London gallery, and $10,000 in cash prizes.
- Is there an entry fee? Single entries are free. You’ll have to pay an entry fee if you wish to submit more images. You can also pay for a review even if you don’t win.
LensCulture is a platform dedicated to contemporary photography. They publish a magazine and host multiple photography contests. They aim to find the best photographers around the globe.
LensCulture Street Photography Awards is one of their most important initiatives. It’s open to all photographers regardless of their gear, location, or experience.
You can participate in multiple categories and submit as many images as you want. One of the most valuable things about their photo contests is that you can request feedback on your work. This costs an extra fee, though.
Another great thing is the possibility of exhibiting in a London gallery.
- What it is: A nature photography contest for photographers of all nationalities and skill levels. It supports The Nature Talks Foundation.
- When it is: Submissions happen every year from December to January. The winners are presented during a festival in November.
- Prizes: The overall winner gets a grand prize of €3,000. The category winners get cash prizes and photo equipment.
- Is there an entry fee? The young category (for photographers under 18) is free to enter. The entry fee for standard categories is €29. The Portfolio category has an entry fee of €17.
There are eleven standard categories, one for young photographers and one for portfolios. The NPOTY awards donates a percentage of the entry fees to conservation projects.
- What it is: An international photography award for professional and amateur photographers.
- When it is: The early deadline for discounted entry fees is April. The final deadline is in September.
- Prizes: There’s a total of $10,000 prize money. The grand prize winner gets $3,500 in the professional category. You compete for a $2,400 prize if you participate as an amateur photographer.
- Is there an entry fee? The entry fees range from $19 to $34 depending on the category and whether it’s an early submission.
The Neutral Density Awards is a professional and amateur photography contest. Professionals have six categories, and amateurs have five.
Its inclusivity makes it a popular photography contest among enthusiasts of all skill levels.
Each category has many subcategories. For example, Professional Fine Art photographic work can be Abstract, Conceptual, Nude, etc.
This is an international photography award that aims to launch emerging artists. It’s not only about the cash prize; it’s about recognition in the photography world.
- What it is: A photography competition dedicated to showing the diversity of life and celebrating conservation images.
- When it is: The submissions open in December and close in March.
- Prizes: The grand prize is $5,000 for the overall winner. Each winner of the seven categories gets a cash prize of $1,000. All category winners are exhibited at the California Academy of Sciences.
- Is there an entry fee? You can submit up to 10 images with an entry fee of $25. The fee is $15 per series to participate in a photo story.
The Big Picture Natural World Photography Competitions aims to promote the rich diversity on our planet. The goal is to raise awareness of the conservation of natural life through photography.
Whether you’re a landscape or a wildlife photographer, this could be your next creative breakthrough. There’s a category for each type of photography, from Aquatic Life to the Art of Nature.
The photo contest has run for ten years. Recently they launched two new initiatives: Emerging Photographer Grant and Women in Wildlife Photography.
- What it is: 1854 is a platform that hosts important photography contests.
- When it is: Year-round
- Prizes: Some photo competitions offer the possibility to participate in exhibitions or a prestigious solo show. Others offer monetary awards.
- Is there an entry fee? You need an 1854 Full Access Membership, which costs around US$150 per year.
1854 is an award-winning digital media company. They publish the British Journal of Photography and host notable photo competitions.
Their photography awards culminate with exhibitions around the world. For example, the BJP International Photography Award is the most important international contest they host.
It offers the possibility to have a prestigious solo exhibition in London and a £5,000 production grant. They are dedicated to launching the careers of emerging photographers.
This new annual photography contest by photo editing platform Ribbet is for amateur and professional photographers invited to submit images for a theme.
2023’s theme is “There’s nothing quite like this”:
We’re looking for pictures of something that makes you grateful to be alive. In a world where everything can seem chaotic and fast, it’s important to make space for those small moments that make everything worthwhile.
The winning photographs will be selected by a panel of expert judges based on: creativity, originality, whether it fits with the official theme, composition, quality and overall appeal.
There will be 3 winners who will receive a communication campaign and $3,500 in cash prizes.
All participants also receive a 30-day free Ribbet Premium membership that will be emailed when the contest finishes.
To participate, there is a US $20 entry fee per submission. You can enter multiple times.
If you are looking to try your luck at a photo contest, 2023 is the best year to start!
12 Tips for Winning Photography Contests
In this article, we asked four award-winning photographers for tips on how to win the next photography contest you enter.
Here’s a summary of what they told us:
James Day – Judge, Sony Alpha Awards Wedding Category
1. Show the judges something that they haven’t seen before.
When entering a photography competition like the Sony Alpha Awards, look for something that is visually exciting or something that makes the judge want to go back for a second look. Remember, the poor judges will have hundreds, if not thousands, of photos to sift through!
2. Remove distractions.
Are there annoying elements in the shot that are distracting from the main point of the image? Consider cropping or removing them, and try to simplify the image so that the judges can see exactly what you saw when you took the photo.
3. Prepare the file with care.
Is the file in the correct format, colour space, and size for the way the image will be viewed? Has the image been sharpened correctly? Take a few extra moments to prepare the file so that it truly sings.
4. Read the rules carefully.
Don’t spend all that time perfecting an image to enter, only to find that it isn’t eligible to win because of a T&C. One example is that for the Sony Alpha awards, entries need to be shot on a Sony alpha camera and Sony lens.
Craig Parry – Judge, Alpha Awards Nature Category
5. Be prepared.
Prepare for your shoot by making sure you have an understanding of the environment and the subject before you take the plunge. There is nothing worse than rocking up to a shoot or location unprepared, so always do your due diligence!
6. Step outside your comfort zone.
Take risks – not only photographically, but personally. There is nothing more rewarding than expanding your comfort zone and it’ll improve your photography at the same time.
7. Seek inspiration outside the usual places.
Stop looking at social media for ideas! Think about your subject and location, and try to find inspiration outside the norm. Perhaps look back at old books or old magazines for out-of-the-box ideas. If you’re seeing it on social media, it’s most probably been shot to death already.
8. Have perspective.
It’s so important to have a healthy perspective on your work – don’t think your photography is the best. It’s important to be inspired by your peers, and it’ll help you grow as an artist. Inspiration is a healthy mindset, and it will help you develop as an artist and person.
Stefan Haworth – Judge, Alpha Awards Sport Category
9. Start with the subject.
Make sure the subject of your photograph is clearly defined and not blending in. Ensure there’s an aspect that makes you feel something – is it the amplitude of the rider or athlete, emotion, success, stoke, style, beauty, pain? What’s so special for that moment to be captured, and why that split second?
Make sure you’ve captured the athlete or subject in the best moment when they look good or are at the peak of their jump.
10. Aim for simplicity.
Less is more. Have as few distractions in the image as possible, and make sure the subject is prominent. Use light to create contrast, and bring the viewer’s eye to the subject.
11. Remember that light is key.
Keeping your images as close to real life as possible is effective, but playing with shadows, dark and light, can give an amazing contrasting look which can be even more powerful.
When you’re taking the image, be sure to expose the image, so the subject is identified correctly, and don’t focus on colour as light is what creates it and gives contrast. As Stefan says, “Shoot for black and white, colour is a bonus.”
12. Pay attention to framing.
This is key – have you used the rule of thirds or symmetry? Stick to one or the other. Try and have as many aspects of the image lay on the rule of thirds lines as possible. This is a major card for judges in the final image.
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You might have an epic shot as the base, but adding creativity and emotion is the most powerful aspect that will help you make it to the finals.
Best Photo Contests FAQs
What makes a good competition photo?
An image that’s good enough to submit to photography competitions should show a unique point of view. It also needs to be technically correct.
What is the most prestigious photography award?
The most important international contest is the Hasselblad Award. It’s presented to the “photographer recognized for major achievements”.
There’s also the Pulitzer Prize for Photography. This is one of the most important recognitions for photojournalists.
The Sony World Photography Awards is another important international contest.
What do photo contest judges look for?
Judges look for technique and originality. Winning images need to be perfect in technique and composition. However, they also need to present a strong point of view. Photographers need to communicate something with their work.
How do I choose a competition photo?
Not all photography competitions are suited to every photographer. Read the rules to see if your image is suitable. Also, read the terms and conditions to see if you agree. Then, evaluate the prizes and see if they’re worth the entry fee.
Ready to Enter Your First Photo Contest? Final Words
A very important topic when you enter a photography competition is rights.
On the one hand, you need to ensure you’re not giving up your rights by participating. You should also check how they intend to use your photos.
Most of the important photography awards respect your right as an author. However, some smaller and less-known contests might not. Read the terms and conditions carefully.
On the other hand, you need to be sure that you’re not infringing third-party rights. Obviously, you need to have full ownership of the image. However, you might also need model releases or other permissions.
In any case, don’t let the formalities discourage you. Just make sure you cover all your bases and start entering a photo competition or two.
It’s always a good idea to put your work out there. Which other photography awards do you recommend? Let us know in the comments.