A great way to gain recognition in the photography community and to establish legitimacy in the eyes of your clients is to win respectable professional photography contests or competitions. Some of these contests offer cash prizes and other tangible rewards, while others offer publication in magazines (printed and online) and books. You can find and enter these competitions through a number of sources, some free, some paid. Many of these competitions run through various photography communities, with competitions as a feature of the site. Others, however, simply seek to feature “Best of” shots and focus less on the community aspect. It can prove worthwhile to enter different photo competitions, regardless of the format. That said, here’s a list of the best photography contests and competitions we’ve heard of, participated in, and/or found on the internet.
This article was originally written in 2009 and updated in 2022.
Why join photography contests and competitions
There are many reasons why photographers should enter contests and competitions. For one, it’s a great way to get your work seen by a wider audience. Even if you don’t win, simply being a finalist can help to raise your profile and attract new clients. Additionally, competitions can be great sources of motivation, learning, and feedback, helping you to push yourself creatively and produce your best work. And of course, there’s the prize money.
Also, as a photographer, it can be easy to get bogged down in the business of everyday life. Between shoots, editing, and maintaining your website, it can be hard to find time to step back and reflect on your work. This is where photo contests and competitions can come in handy. Joining a contest gives you a chance to take a break from your normal routine and focus on creating something new.
If you’re looking for a way to challenge yourself and improve your photography, joining a photo contest or competition is a great option.
Best Photography Contests and Competitions
Let’s get! started with our list of the best photography contests and competitions in the world.
Photocrowd has earned its place on this list of best photography contests by offering a neatly-themed and VC-funded platform for fun photo contests that deliver actual prizes. This site focuses on building (or benefitting from) community, which serves at least two purposes. First, you can network with other photographers and also get helpful feedback on your work. Secondly, a large community also offers higher visibility for your work. Plus, you can potentially win prizes while creating theme-driven images. Current themes include indoor portraits, famous buildings, light painting, and enjoying life, among others.
- Cost: Free
- Target Audience: Primarily Amateurs and Serious Hobbyists
[Related Reading: Red Bull Illume Photo Competition Releases First Round of Finalists Ahead Of Awards Ceremony]
Similar to Photocrowd, you can win actual prizes through Viewbug. The site finds “sponsors” for each of their contests and then offers prizes for contestants to win. This is one of the more active photo contest websites out there. Also, like Photocrowd and a couple others on this list, Viewbug thrives on interaction with a large community.
- Cost: Free
- Target Audience: Primarily Amateurs and Serious Hobbyists
WPPI Awards Competitions (Recently Cancelled)
WPPI is well known for it’s multi-day, in-person photography conferences and shows. Portrait, wedding, and other photographers and videographers meet in Las Vegas every year for this event. An annual competition usually serves as one of the event’s highlights, which includes contests for album designs, as well as 8×10″ and 16×20″ prints. Some competitions are only open to members while others are open to all in attendance. The 2023 edition of the competition is currently on pause while they reevaluate the current format, but it’s worth staying tuned for updates. These are some of the best photography contests for wedding and portrait photographers, with a few perennial winners and very stiff competition. Submissions are usually due in mid January.
Best Photography Contests: International Photography Awards (IPA)
If you’ve ever looked into entering the best photography competitions before, you’ve no doubt heard of the International Photography Awards. This organization conducts an annual competition for professional, non-professional, and student photographers on a global scale. As a result, they’ve created one of the most ambitious and comprehensive competitions in the photography world today.
According to the IPA team, there “mission is to salute the achievements of the world’s finest photographers, discover new and emerging talent, and promote the appreciation of photography.” Sponsors help make winning a lucrative endeavor, too. Winners of the main categories compete for IPA’s top award of International Photographer of the Year. The cash prize for this award is $10,000. In addition, the nominees in the non-professional and student categories compete for the title of the Discovery of the Year, a Lucie Statue, and $5,000 cash prize.
Work selected for Best of Show will then travel to various countries to be included in photo festivals, galleries, and other photography-related events. The work of all first, second and third place winners are published in a high-quality, full-color, hardcover award winning Annual International Photography Awards Book.
- Professionals – Single Image: $35 | Series (2 to 5 images): $60 | Each Additional Category: $25
- Non Professionals – Single Image: $25 |¨Series (2 t0 5 images): $50 | Each Additional Category: $15
- Students – Single Image: $15 | Series (2 to 5 images): $20 | Each Additional Category: $10
In this selection for the best photography contests, members submit black and white images (individually or as a series) into various categories, ranging from “architecture” and “landscapes” to “minimalism” and “wildlife,” among others. The same image can be entered into multiple categories, and each is judged independently for each category.
The prize list for this photography competition is extensive, so we’ve included a screenshot below.
- Professional: Single Image – $30 | Series – $50
- Non-Professional: Single Image – $25 | Series – $40
- Students: Single Image – $15 | Series – $30
- Discounts apply for those entering from a pre-approved list of countries (info on website)
Best Photography Contests: Digital Photography Challenge
In the DP challenge, members submit to challenges, cast votes, and participate in the forums. Strengths of this site include a strong community with community feedback and favorite photographers. There’s also an effective learning aspect, with the settings of each image displayed as well as user-submitted tutorials. This unique feature stands out on this list of the best photography contests.
Free membership is all you need to submit, comment, and vote. Paid membership unlocks exclusive competitions, 100MB of storage, and other features. Winners of these competitions receive recognition for their work and badges on their profile.
- Cost: Free for limited access, $25 per year or $5 per month for full access
[Related Reading: Incredible Images From The Underwater Photographer of The Year 2021 Competition]
This photography competition may not actually quality as the “best,” but it’s free and serves as a great starting point. Photokonkurs.com runs regular photography contests with prizes and adds new contests every 2-5 days. Prizes vary from cash to watches, books, and sunglasses. In general, the sites presentation and layout are confusing and poorly constructed. However, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to test your work on the competition circuit, and you’ll have a better understanding of how the best photography contests vary from others.
- Cost: Free
More of the Best Photography Contests and Competitions
As we’re unable to compile a complete list of the best photography contests and competitions, feel free to comment in the section below with any other competitions you may have found. In addition, please check out the communities, contests, and competitions listed below.
- Photo Points – http://www.photopoints.com/main/
- Worth 1000 – http://www.worth1000.com/
- Better Photo – http://www.betterphoto.com/contest.asp
- The Photo Challenge – http://thephotochallenge.com/
- Fan Art Review – http://www.fanartreview.com/
- Foto Fanatic – http://www.fotofanatic.com/
- E Snips – http://www.esnips.com/community/photography
- Apogee Photo – http://www.apogeephoto.com/
- Photo Friday – http://www.photofriday.com/about.php
- Shutter Bugs – http://www.shutterbugs.info/
- Picture – http://www.picture.com/
- Photo Eye – http://www.photoeye.com
- Photo Life – http://www.photolife.com/contests.php
- Photography Corner – http://www.photographycorner.com/forum/index.php
- Photography Unlimited – http://www.photography-unlimited.jp/Rules_eng.html
- National Photo Awards – http://www.nationalphotoawards.com/
- Proof Positive – http://www.proofpositive.com/contests/photocontests.htm
- Mom’s Life – http://www.momslife.com/contests/
- The Color Awards – http://www.thecolorawards.com/
Featured Image by Matheus Viana