There are plenty of photography contests nowadays – no matter if you’re a professional or amateur photographer, you can easily find a contest that will fit your skill level and your interests. By taking part in photography competitions, you can brush up your skills or even win big – some contests offer cash prizes, camera equipment, or having your work exhibited. Many of these contests have a modest entry fee and they are available to anyone.
If you’re interested in taking part in these contests in 2021, check out the following!
1. Sony World Photography Awards
This is a serious photography contest geared towards professional photographers and it is held annually. Sony World Photography competition is looking to showcase the most outstanding bodies of work in various genres of photography, such as architecture, creative, documentary, landscape, wildlife, portraiture, still life and so on.
The overall winner is chosen each year by the expert jury and given the award of $25,000. There are many other awards too, such as 2nd and 3rd place, publishing deals, gallery representation and worldwide exhibitions.
This competition has four photography contests at various levels. Here are the opening dates for each photography competition in 2021.
- Professional (Deadline for submissions: January 14, 2021 13:00 GMT) – for recognising outstanding bodies of work. There are ten diverse categories to enter and once you enter the professional competition, you cannot submit works to the “Open” or “Youth” competitions. The overall winner is selected as “Photographer of the Year” and receives USD 25,000 prize.
- Open (Opened 1 June 2020 and the deadline for submissions is January 7, 2021 13:00 GMT) – for exceptional standalone images, ten categories to enter and the overall winner is selected as “Open Photographer of the Year” and receives USD 5,000 prize. Once you enter this competition, you cannot submit in the “Professional” or “Youth” competitions.
- Youth (Should open 1 June 2021 and monthly competitions with a changing theme will be running from July 1 to December 31, 2021) – for emerging photographers aged between 12-19 years-old. Judges will select up to 10 images per month and a winner. Each monthly pick will compete for the Youth Photographer of the Year. Once you enter this competition, you cannot submit in the “Professional” or “Open” competitions.
- Student (now closed) – for photography students worldwide. This competition is now closed and the winners for 2020 will be announced later this year.
The Sony World Photography Awards are FREE to enter – there is no entry fee. You can check out their website here.
2. Monochrome Photography Award
This international photography competition is ideal for those who are the masters of black and white photography. You can choose if you want to enter the competition as an amateur or as a professional photographer and there are 13 categories to choose from, such as landscape, portrait, fashion/beauty, abstract, architecture, conceptual, fine art, nature, nude photojournalism, photo manipulation, street or wildlife photography – all in black and white or monochrome obviously, but with a category for everyone.
Both professional and amateur photographers can win a cash prize along with a certificate. Also, all winners and honourable mentions are included in the Monochrome Photography Awards Annual book which is a big deal for black and white photographers.
Here is how to enter for the Monochrome Photography Awards 2021. When it comes to entry fee, it’s $25 per single entry (professional category) and $20 per single entry (amateur category).
Winners for the last year's Monochrome Photography Awards will be announced on January 10th, 2021. You can check out their website here.
3. ND Awards
The ND Awards is another popular international photography competition available to any photographer. It also has many categories available, including fine art and nudes which aren’t too common when it comes to public photo contests.
The winner of the professional section receives the title “ND Photographer Of The Year” and over $7500 in awards, while the winner of the non-professional section receives the title “ND Discovery Of The Year” and awards.
You can submit your entries here for the Neutral Density Photography Awards 2021.
The early deadline for submissions is April 25th, 2021. For non-professionals, single image entry fee is $15 and series entry fee (from 2 to 5 images) is $20. For professionals, single image entry fee is $20 and series entry fee is $25.
The final deadline for submissions is September 19th, 2021. For non-professionals, single image entry fee is $20 and series entry fee (from 2 to 5 images) is $25. For professionals, single image entry fee is $25 and series entry fee is $30.
For multiple category entries, there will be an additional fee of $10 per category and the winners will be announced on 21st November, 2021.
You can check out their website here.
4. CPA International Juried Exhibition
The Centre For Photographic Art (CPA) in Carmel, CA is already well-known for its annual photo contest. The Members’ Juried Exhibition usually happens later in the year, where usually forty-five juror-selected photographs will be exhibited in the historic gallery in Carmel, California. The winning contest photo will be featured in an online gallery on the CPA website along with an additional forty-five juror selected images. This is a solid photos contest for fine art photographers.
Usually the juror will also grant the cash awards to first ($1000), second ($500) and third ($250) place as well as five honourable mentions ($50).
CPA also conducts an International Exhibition towards the end of the year. Check the website for updates on the photo contest dates. When it comes to entry fee, it varies from $40 to $70 depending on the submission period and membership.
- Next Exhibition: Jerry Takigawa and the Exhibition dates are January 9 – February 14
- Future Exhibition: Salon Jane: Present Tense and the dates are assumed to be February 20 – April 3, 2021.
Due to the current situation, the exhibitions will be held virtually.
You can check out their website here.
5. Yannis Behrakis International Photojournalism Award
This prestigious annual photo contest is geared towards professional photojournalists rather than fine art photographers or other photography artists. It is hosted by Athens Photo World, with the donation of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. This year, Athens Photo World will award a 15,000€ cash prize to a completed project of documentary photography, created within the last 3 years. This contest is an amazing opportunity for talented photojournalists around the world!
Those who wish to participate should send a small portfolio with up to 24 photographs, with captions and a supporting story.
The winning project will be exhibited at the next Athens Photo World festival.
Keep an eye on their website for 2021 entries that will open later in the year. There is no entry fee – participation in the Yannis Behrakis Award contest is free.
You can check out their website here.
6. F-Stop Magazine
F-Stop Magazine is an online photography magazine that features contemporary artworks from established and emerging photographers. The magazine organizes photo contests that are available to anyone – you simply need to submit up to 12 photographs from a single body of work along with your project statement.
The current contests explore the themes below:
- The Constructed Image: the winning artist will be featured in issue #105 of F-Stop Magazine, February/March and the deadline is January 15, 2021.
- Self-Portrait: the winning artist will be featured in issue #106 of F-Stop Magazine, April/May and the deadline is March 15, 2021.
Even though this contest doesn’t grant any cash awards, it can help younger photographers gain exposure. Another good one for fine art photographers to join.
You can check out their website here. This one is entry fee free.
7. Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year
This competition is organised by the South Australian Museum and all photographs must be of natural fauna, flora or natural land formations and must have been taken in the ANZANG bioregion. There are nine categories in the competition and it is open to anyone.
Deadline: February 5, 2021
Entry Fees: A$38 for the first entry and A$22 for each additional entry. For Junior Photography section: A$10 for the first entry and A$5 for each additional entry. Entries can only be submitted online.
The overall winner will win A$10,000 and a holiday prize. There will also be winners in each category and runner-ups.
More information is available on the Competition website here.
8. CAP Prize 2021
The Contemporary African Photography (CAP) Prize is at the moment accepting entries until 7 February 2021. The participant needs to prepare their work in a way that it engages with the African continent or its diaspora. The submissions will be reviewed by a panel of international curators, editors, artists and publishers from which 25 artists will be shortlisted and five artists will awarded the prize.
Entry fee is free and more information about the competition can be found on their website here.
The iPhone Photography Awards is open worldwide to photographers who use an iPhone or an iPad and the submitted photos should not be published anywhere, however posts on personal accounts like Facebook or Instagram are eligible. The images should be edited using only iOS apps and not on any desktop post processing applications.
The participant can use any iPhone with or without lens attachments. Some submissions may require a verification that the image was taken with an iPhone without which the submission will be disqualified.
There are various categories like Abstract, Animals, Architecture, Children, City Life, Environment, Landscape, Lifestyle, Nature, Panorama, People, Portrait, Series (3 images), Still Life, Sunset, Travel, etc. The first place winner in each category will win a Gold Bar and the second and third place winners a Palladium bar from the most recognizable private gold mint in the world.
Entry Fees: $5.50 for one image, $12.50 for 3 images, $18.50 for 5 images, $37.50 for 10 images, $55.50 for 15 images, $67.00 for 20 images and $75.50 for 25 images. It is best to submit only your best photos for the competition. Winners will be announced online eight to twelve weeks after the final submission deadline.
Deadline: March 31, 2021.
More information about the competition can be found on their website here.
10. Nikon Small World 2021
The Nikon Small World Competition recognizes and applauds the effort of those involved in photography through a microscope. This competition is open to anyone with an interest in photography using a microscope and is open for both professionals and hobbyists. Any type of light microscopy technique is acceptable, including phase contrast, polarized light, fluorescence, interference contrast, darkfield, confocal, deconvolution, and mixed techniques.
Submitted entries are judged by a panel of experts in the area of photomicrography and photography. The top 20 winners will be exhibited in museums and science centres throughout the United States and Canada. There is also a chance to be featured on the covers of scientific and industrial journals.
The rules to enter the competition can be found here and the first prize winner will be eligible for a gift card worth $3,000. There is also a Small World In Motion Video Competition and the rules can be found here.
Deadline: April 30th, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. ET
11. Astronomy Photographer of the Year
This competition is open to everyone and showcases the world's best space photography. Photographers of all skill levels can participate and have a chance to win cash prizes and seeing their image displayed in an exhibition at the National Maritime Museum.
More information about the competition can be found here and the entries open from 11 January – 5 March 2021.
12. 2021 Monovisions Photography Awards
The aim of this competition is to discover the best monochrome photographers from all over the world and provide them opportunities to be recognized and rewarded for their work. It is open to all photographers from around the world and all levels including amateurs and professionals.
The work can be submitted in 2 sections:
- Single photo
- Series of photos: Maximum 8 photos, sharing the same idea and concept.
There are 12 categories Abstract, Architecture, Conceptual, Fine Art, Landscapes, Nature and Wildlife, Nude, People, Photojournalism, Portrait, Street Photography and Travel. The total prize fund is worth $5,000.
- Early Deadline: January 17th 2021, Single photo $20 and series photos $25
- Final Deadline: May 16th 2021, Single photo $25 and series photos $30
The winners will be announced on July 25th 2021 and more details about the competition can be found here.
13. Chromatic Photo Awards 2021
Chromatic Awards is a platform for professionals and amateurs where new talented photographers are discovered in color photography across many categories. It gives the participant to showcase their potential and work to a glabal audience.
The categories include Aerial, Abstract, Cityscapes, Conceptual, Documentary, Fashion, Fine Art, Landscape, Nature, Nudes, People, Portrait, Photo manipulation, Photojournalism, Seascapes, Street, Travel and Wildlife.
The entry fee in the professional category is $20 for single entry and for the amateur category it is $15 for single entry. The 2021 Grand Prize is $2,000 for Professional Winner and $1,000 for Amateur Winner.
Deadline: 18th July, 2021
More information about the competition is available on the website here.
14. Bird Photographer of the Year (BPOTY)
BPOTY is one of the leading bird photography contests around the world that supports conservation efforts through imagery and finances. There are various categories in this competition like, Best Portrait, Birds in the Environment, Attention to Detail, Bird Behaviour, Birds in Flight, Black and White, Creative Imagery, Urban Birds, Conservation Award and Portfolio Award.
The grand prize winner will receive a cash of £5,000 and the title “Bird Photographer of the Year.” There will also be gold, silver and Bronze awards within each category. The total prize fund is worth £18,000.
Deadline: 15 February, 2021
More information regarding the competition can be found here on their website.
15. Photo Stories Contest For CINE-BOOKS
This is a rather unique photography contest for photographers and filmmakers who are particularly good at storytelling. You can enter this competition with a photo story or a cinematic story.
Photo story should be a photo series which represents a plot and its recommended length is 30-60 photos, while cinematic story should be in video format and represents the same story in two modes: jpg and mp4. Your stories must be unpredictable and out of the ordinary – this contest is looking for exceptionally creative minds.
The overall prize fund for this competition is $3,000.
The entries for 2021 are not yet open and looks like they did not have one in 2020 due to the pandemic situation. If the contests go ahead this year, they should open in a few weeks time for this year. Keep an eye on their website for entries and deadlines.
You can check out their website here for information on last year's competitions.
There is no entry fee – participation in the competition is free of charge.
If you want to learn more about photography contests around the world, check out the following links! And keep checking back on this post as we find the best photo contests around.
A Few Photo Contest Tips
Get Some Feedback on Your Photos First
This one is pretty obvious, but in any photo competition, you need to pull out the big guns with your best photo entry if you have any chance of winning. For that, it is worth putting your work in front of other photographers who can give you honest critique. For that we recommend the Light Stalking Shark Tank, but any place you can get quality critique from experienced photographers is a great start.
Check the Prizes
Any photography contest worth its salt will address what the winners will be getting in terms of prizes. Sometimes the kudos is enough if the photography contest is a well known one, but other times the best photo might just win some valuable prizes.
Read the Terms
This follows on from the previous point, but you really need to carefully read the terms of entry. You should make specific reference to the copyrights claimed by the organiser – you don’t want to be giving your images away for free and “rights grabs” are a bit of a problem among the less scrupulous competitions. Entry fee free competitions tend to be worse, but even paid comps terms need to be checked carefully.
How to Win a Photography Competition
Winning photo prizes is a huge topic in itself and is obviously going to require some of your best photography, but one approach that we have seen reap major rewards is analysing photos of contest winners from past years. One individual who has won a lot of photo prizes over the years is a member of the Australian photography community, and fine art photographer, Adam Williams, and he has done it with both colour and black and white images.
Adam has won Landscape Photographer of the Year, Professional Photographer of the year and Emerging Photographer of the Year in his native Australia.
He has also spent a lot of time analysing past photo competitions to see what types of images tend to win (not to mention doing a lot of travel in nature for his amazing landscape photographs). His subsequent results are amazing with more competition wins than anyone else we know of. Moreover, the people he teaches tend to have a win to submission ratio that is very impressive.
Adam’s course on how to win photo contests is well worth the read and might net you a few prizes of your own. It’s not free, but his students’ results speak for themselves.
A Note on the Entry Fee and Prizes in Comps
There is a huge temptation among cash strapped photographers to look for entry fee free competitions that is fine – we all have a budget. But remember, that an entry fee free competition is totally inundated with entries which is not great for the judges and tends to impact the quality of the prizes (not to mention prestige) of a competition. While entry fee free might be the extent your wallet can handle, do not ignore the others. As they say, free can be expensive.