Taking an image or finishing a photo project that you’re really proud of can just be the starting point in photography. Rather than leaving your photographs unseen on a hard drive, uploading that work to your social media platforms (or website), or printing your images out for others to see, can be incredibly rewarding, satisfying, and a good way to keep focused. The prospect of presenting your work on a public platform – however large or small that might be – will challenge you to reflect on what you’re about to share with the world, offering up questions to deepen your understanding of your overall practice and consolidate what it is that you’d like to communicate with the wider world.
Another great way to share your images is by entering them into photography competitions. As well as the obvious benefits of the prizes on offer, the exposure and promotion of your work to different communities is invaluable. Photographer Tom Oldham, who has been awarded in the Sony World Photography awards multiple times reflects on what photography competitions can offer: ‘A win can really push your work into new corners of the world. [...] The Awards has undoubtedly contributed to a willingness by others to answer my requests with a yes in a very significant way.’
So, you’ve created a photograph or set of photographs you’re proud of, you’ve written a caption or series description you feel best describes the work and now you’re ready to enter a competition. With the proliferation of contests, which is the right fit for you? Really think about the competition you’re thinking about submitting to and ask yourself some questions: who is on the judging panel? What are the terms and conditions? Make sure you pay close attention to their policy on using your images. Is there an entry fee? If so, how much is it, and does the overall prize and potential exposure justify the price? Take a look at the history of the competition, do you agree with its ethos? What about the past winners? While judges are constantly looking for new, original ideas and work to champion, would you like to be associated with the previously awarded entrants?
With those questions in mind, we’ve picked out 11 photography competitions we think are worth considering. Some are currently closed, and will open later in the year, so be sure to bookmark this page and check back intermittently.
PINK LADY FOOD PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR
Open to professional and non-professional, old and young, the Awards celebrate the very best in food photography and film from around the world.
SONY WORLD PHOTOGRAPHY AWARDS
Now in its 16th year, the free to enter Awards offers leading and emerging artists world-class opportunities for exposure of their work. With four competitions (Professional, Open, Student and Youth) to choose from, first prize is $25,000, a range of Sony digital equipment plus global promotion.
ASTRONOMY PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR
Astronomy Photographer of the Year showcases the world's best space photography, from spectacular skyscapes to mind-blowing images of distant planets and galaxies. Submissions open on January 2023.
WORLD PRESS PHOTO
This prestigious contest honours photographers who represent an event or issue of great journalistic importance from that year. Check the website for 2023 opening dates.
CEWE PHOTO AWARD
A free to enter worldwide photography competition that’s open to amateur and professional photographers alike. Entrants can submit up to 100 of their photographs, 10 categories to choose from.
NATURE PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR
Powered by Nature Talks Photo Festival in the Netherlands, Nature Photographer of the Year invites photographers from all over the world to send their best nature pictures. The total prize money for the 2022 competition amounted to €25,000.
ISTANBUL PHOTO AWARDS
The free to enter Istanbul Photo Awards is an international news photography contest organised by Anadolu Agency, a global news agency provided its audience with the most up-to-date stories for more than 100 years. Entries are currently closed, check the website for the 2023 open call.
WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR
The longest-running photography competition dedicated to photographing the natural world. Whether you shoot in the remote wilderness, an urban environment or on your doorstep, Wildlife Photographer of the Year is open to everyone. Open for entries later in the year.
TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR
A truly global photography competition with 12 categories to choose from. Includes portfolio categories, one shot categories, a smartphone and tablet category plus an HD video category Open to amateur and professionals. Deadline is 25th October.
RPS INTERNATIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBITION
Photographers and image-makers of all ages can submit their work to the RPS International Photography Exhibition. Submissions are encouraged from new, emerging and established photographers worldwide. Sign up to the RPS newsletter to stay updated with 2023 opening dates. 2022 edition is currently on show at the RPS Gallery in Bristol.
TAYLOR WESSING PORTRAIT PRIZE
One of the most competitive photography awards in the world, the UK's National Portrait Gallery collaboration with international law firm Taylor Wessing is now in its 14th year. Showcasing the work of some of the most exciting and cutting-edge contemporary photographers, the popular exhibition at the prestigious National Portrait Gallery in London promises excellent exposure for all rewarded entrants. Currently closed for submissions, entries open in Spring 2023.
Don’t feel disheartened if you don’t get shortlisted or win the first competition you enter. Although preparing your entry and researching what competition suits you best take time, the process will also feed into your overall practice and help you refine your vision.