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Now let’s explore the best photography contests and prizes in 2022
You’ve been working hard on your portfolio, curating the work that best shows off your artistic style and goals. Now that it’s all coming together, you’ve started considering sending your best photographs out to some of those contests and competitions you’ve heard so much about—but there are so many to choose from. How do you keep track? How do you determine which one is right for you? And how do you deal with all those entry fees?
We’ve got you covered. We put together this guide to the photography world’s best contests, competitions, and calls for entries to make finding your next creative breakthrough just a little bit easier. You’ll be excited to know that there are deadlines coming up soon if you’re chomping at the bit, and plenty further out in 2022 if you need some time to finish getting your portfolio together. And if fees are getting you down, there are even a few contests throughout the year that are free to enter.
Sharing your work with the world is an important part of the creative process. Thanks to some of these renowned international competitions, you can win awards and accolades, earn prestige and opportunity, and yes, you could even wind up with a hefty cash prize in your pocket. You never know… so get submitting!
Free Photography Competitions
If the sound of paying to enter a photography contest doesn’t exactly appeal, there are plenty of free photo contests that you can enter. This way, you have the opportunity to submit your work, but there’s no risk involved. Sounds like a win-win to us!
Keep in mind, though, while the majority of these free photography competitions are ideally suited for those just embarking on their photography career who might have smaller budgets, not all of them are suitable for total beginners. Read up on each competition before taking the time to submit work
Deadline: April 30, 2022 Prize: $3,000 for the first prize winner, $2,000 second prize, $1,000 first prize, and more Entry fee: None
If you happen to be into light microscope photography, you’re probably already aware of this contest, as it’s the only legitimate one in the field. Winning entries tour various museums and science centers in North America, and Nikon provides a nice package of gear as well.
Should you enter? If photomicrography is your game, by all means, yes, this is one of the best photography contests for you. And there’s also a Small World Video competition if that interests you.
Deadline: May 7, 2022 (contest runs every two years) Prize: €10,000 (with notable exposure, including a book publication of the winner’s work) Entry fee: None
The Prix Virginia has been awarded every other year since 2012, and is open to all living professional women photographers, regardless of age or nationality. It does exclude photojournalists and advertising photography, and photos that have been previously exhibited in France are ineligible.
In addition to the cash prize, the winner will receive an exhibition at Espace Oppidum in Paris, and her work will be featured in the French publication M, le magazine du Monde, as well as in an exclusive winners book. With so much to gain from winning this experience combined with their special attention to female photographers, this is one of our top picks for free photography contests.
Should you enter? Yes! This is a special opportunity for female photographers to gain recognition and exposure—not to mention the considerable cash prize and no entry fee doesn’t hurt.
Deadline: November 30, 2021 (Closed) Prize: $2,500 grand prize, and $500 runners up prizes Entry fee: None
The Smithsonian’s reputation might not be quite on the level of National Geographic amongst photographers, but it has similar mainstream recognition, which translates into major exposure. Categories for entry include Natural World, Travel, People, The American Experience, Altered Images, and Mobile—a category specifically for photos taken on phones or tablets.
Should you enter? Yes. There’s no entry fee, and the categories are diverse enough to accommodate most photographers.
Deadline: January 7, 2022 (Closed) Prize: $5,000 for open competition; up to $25,000 for professional competition Entry fee: None (you can purchase “image bundles” if you would like to submit more than 10 images)
With a substantial cash prize and separate categories for pros, students, and youth, the Sony World Photography Awards is one of the most highly regarded photography contests around. Additionally, winners and finalists will have their work exhibited at London’s Somerset House and featured in a traveling exhibition that goes all over the world.
Should you enter? Absolutely. This is an opportunity for photographers at all levels to gain world-class exposure. And, with no entry fee, this is easily one of the best photography contests around.
Deadline: March 18, 2021 (Closed ) Prize: $6000 for 1st place (photo of the year); various other prizes for different categories Entry fee: None
Influential global news network Andalou Agency’s new photojournalism competition doesn’t have a tremendous catch yet, but the cash prize has attracted top-tier talent. The winner exhibitions take place in Shanghai, Izmir, Ankara, and Antalya.
Should you enter? Maybe. With no entry fee, there’s nothing to lose, but this competition doesn’t afford the same exposure as many other free photography competitions, so keep that in mind when deciding on where to spend your valuable time.
Deadline: February 28, 2022 Prize: $1,000, as well as tuition and fees to enroll in three courses during a semester at the Newhouse School. Entry fee: None
The Alexia Foundation Student Grants give student winners the chance to attend Syracuse University or a selection of professional workshops, as well as offering grant money to fund new photo projects. With a focus on work that deals with social issues, this grant requires a detailed project proposal. Applicants can include work in audio, video, or VR formats, as well as still photography.
Should you enter? Yes, if you’re a student currently pursuing an undergraduate, graduate, or associate degree then this is definitely one of the best photography contests for you. This award offers a good chance to expand your education as well as your portfolio.
Deadline: March 14, 2022 Prize: CHF 80,000 (Swiss Francs) to complete a proposed project and publish an accompanying book Entry fee: None
Photographers who have attained success in their early careers by exhibiting and publishing their works are eligible for the Prix Elysée. You’ll need a “reputed professional” to nominate you for the prize, but chances are if you’re at the career level that the Prix Elysée expects from its applicants, that won’t be a problem. Eight finalists receive 5,000 Swiss Francs toward original projects created for the competition, and each of those projects will round out final portfolio submissions in jury consideration.
Should you enter? Maybe. For photographers who are already further along in their careers, the Prix Elysée is a great opportunity to make the transition to the next level—even towards a mid-career retrospective. This one’s not for beginners.
Amateur Photography Contest
When you’re just getting started out in your photography career, submitting your work can be intimidating, but lucky for you, there are contests available that are specifically set up for those who are early on in their career.
Some of these amateur photography contests were listed above in the section on free photography contests, including Smithsonian Photo Contest, Sony World Photography Awards, and the Alexia Foundation Student Grant
Keep in mind, you will notice that these contests do have submission fees, but most of these submission fees are small and are only there to ensure that all submissions are legitimate. In addition, it’s important to note that “amateur” photographers should still have some skill, talent, and passion for photography. If you’ve never shot photos beyond selfies on your phone, these are not the contests for you—with one notable exception, discussed below.
The following are what we consider the best photography contests for amateur photographers.
Deadline: Early Bird February 28, 2022 Prize: Between $500 and $10,000 in different categories, as well as book publication and exhibition participation Entry fee: $35 per image for professionals, $25 per image for non-professionals, and $15 per image for students
The International Photography Award does a lot to promote its winners. They publish winning photographers in the IPA Annual Book of Photography and also organize a touring exhibition that goes all over the world. Throw in a large cash prize and a good variety of categories for photographers of all levels, and you’ve got a great contest.
Should you enter? Yes. It’s well worth the price of entry for photographers at any stage of their career.
Deadline: June 6, 2021- Closed Prize: Publication in Foam Magazine, featured in the Foam Talent Exhibition Entry fee: €25
The Foam Talent Call is one of the most prestigious international open calls for photographers between the ages of 18 and 40. Over the past decade, the Talent Call has helped launch the careers of numerous talents around the world by giving their work the exposure and recognition it deserves. The Foam Museum, and its publication Foam Magazine, is an Amsterdam-based institution focused entirely on photography.
Should you enter? Yes, if you’re within the age range. This is a great opportunity for emerging photographers. Winners will also have the opportunity for their work to be added to the prestigious Art Collection Deutsche Börse, which offers another way to get your photography in front of an international audience.
Deadline: March 31, 2022 Prize: Grand prize receives an iPad Air; top three winners receive Apple Watch Series 3; 1st place in each of the 18 categories receives Gold Bar; 2nd and 3rd place receive platinum bar Entry fee: Begins at $5.50 for one image, goes up to $135.50 for 50 images
Best file this one under “just for kicks.” There’s no cash prize other than Apple products and those gold and palladium bars, nor is there any distribution or exhibition of entries. With that said, there aren’t many rules either. Photos must be taken on an iPhone or an iPad, but clip-on lenses and mobile image processing apps are fair game. That said, the entry fee is nominal, and if you win you can always add it to your resume.
Should you enter? Do it for fun, not for your career.
Deadline: March 4, 2022 Prize: An ADC Cube Entry fee: $75-150
The Art Directors Club (ADC Global) and The One Club merged in 2017, but there are still plenty of awards opportunities for emerging artists through their Young Ones competitions. The Young Ones ADC lets students compete for a chance to win an ADC Cube award in the same categories that industry professionals have been competing in at the Annual Awards for almost a century. And there are tons of photography categories open for entries, including fashion, food, landscape, photojournalism, and many more.
Should you enter? If you’re a student currently enrolled in a graduate or undergraduate college program. Induction into the Young Ones can be a pivotal opportunity for emerging talent, for the exposure and prestige as much as for the networking opportunities.
Deadline: Varies Prize: Varies Entry fee: Varies
The British Journal of Photography Breakthrough Awards are open to current BA and MA students, as well as to anyone who has graduated with a BA or an MA within five years. Winners have their work showcased at the BJP-produced Breakthrough Awards showcase in east London and are also published in BJP’s print magazine and online platform. Since the award is geared towards emerging photographers and new talents, winners also receive a portfolio review session and portfolio reprint, networking and industry opportunity benefits, and the opportunity to sell their prints through the BJP website.
Keep in mind there are various awards and competitions held throughout the year in different categories, so it’s a good idea to check the registration options frequently.
Should you enter? If you can swing the entry fee, absolutely! The exposure, prestige, and support offered to winners are sure to help any emerging photographer get a leg up.
Deadline: September 3, 2021 (Closed) Prize: Group exhibition in Berlin, Paris, Brooklyn, and Paris; publication in a photography book Entry fee: Single entry fees range from $15 to $50; series entry fees range from $45 to $70
For emerging photographers, it can be tricky navigating competitions that promise career-making exposure. Feature Shoot is the real deal. The contest has established itself as a reliable venue for new talent breaking through to the next level in professional photography. With two categories to enter (single image and photo series), this year, your chances of winning are further increased.
Should you enter? If you’re trying to turn your photography hobby into a career, this is one of the best ways to do it.
We love amateur photography contests because they often help launch the careers of aspiring photographers who otherwise might struggle to get their work in the front of the right eyes.
But, if you’re not an amateur photographer and you don’t mind spending a small amount of money on an entrance fee.
Read on for more of the best photography contests
Keep in mind, unless otherwise stated, you still can be an “amateur” and apply to these contests, but we would recommend looking into some of the ones listed above before pursuing these.
Deadline: March 4, 2022 Prize: £10,000 for the overall winner of the Adult Competition, £1,500 for the winner of the Young Competition Entry fee: £10
This is a noteworthy competition for astrophotography, and it’s been gaining notoriety as time goes on. With plenty of category cash prizes available and an exhibition at England’s Royal Observatory Greenwich awaiting the winner, this is one of the best photography contests for anyone who loves astronomy. Trust us, the winner galleries are a treat to scroll through.
Should you enter? Only stargazers need to apply.
Deadline: March 2021 (Closed ) Prize: Main Category Grand Prize €40,000 and Leica camera equipment valued at €10,000. Newcomer prize €10,000 and a Leica Q2. Winers are also exhibited in a touring exhibition. Entry fee: None (must be nominated to participate)
Named after the inventor of Leica, this award was established in 1979 on the 100th anniversary of Oskar Barnack’s birth. Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2020, this was the first year where competition participants were selected through a nomination process. The award is judged by an international panel looking for work that’s creative and groundbreaking. Submissions must be series of images that highlight the relationship between nature and society to be eligible.
Should you enter? This is the first year where participants were only able to enter if they were nominated
Deadline: Early Bird March 6, 2022 - Final July 10,2022 Prize: $5,000 for professionals, $2,000 for non-professionals and students Entry fee: $30 per image and $50 per series for professional photographers, and between $20 per image and $40 per series for non-professionals
With six broad photography categories, this is one of the best photography contests for ensuring there’s something for everybody. Though pictures are not exhibited after the initial winners’ exhibition, they are circulated in PX3’s Annual. Previous winners have received increased attention in the European market.
Should you enter? Yes, if you’re based in Europe. The contest is well-regarded, but not positioned to truly bolster careers in North America.
Deadline: March 13, 2022 Prize: $3,000 for Photographer of the Year, $2,000 for New Talent of the Year, $100 for first place category winners Entry fee: Between $20-30 for professionals, $15-20 for non-professionals, $10-15 for students
The Moscow Foto Awards aim to recognize and acknowledge talented international photographers while introducing them to the Russian creative community. The contest is open to photographers from anywhere in the world. Winners have their work featured in a Best of Show exhibition that starts in Moscow before traveling internationally.
Should you enter? With a sliding scale for professionals, non-professionals, and students, fees are reasonable and there are plenty of chances to win both recognition and monetary prizes.
Deadline: New competitions each month Prize: $1,000 first prize, $600 second prize; $400 third prize Entry fee: $20 for one image, $30 for four images, $40 for six images
The Independent Photographer highlights a new theme monthly, so there are frequent opportunities to submit your work. Winners are featured in an annual exhibition in Berlin and an annual photo book in addition to cash prizes.
Should you enter? Yes, if you are over the age of 18 and your work speaks to the theme. And if your work doesn’t fit this month’s category, check back for next month’s theme to see if there’s a better fit.
Deadline: New contests monthly Prize: Different prizes each month, always including publication on Shoot the Frame’s website Entry fee: Starting at $3 for one image or $7/month for unlimited submissions
Shoot the Frame is a platform featuring monthly photography contests. Photographers can submit to portrait, landscape, and wildlife categories, and will win prizes from Shoot the Frame’s sponsors as well as the chance to be featured on their platform.
Should you enter? If you’re looking for a quick and simple contest to motivate you, this could be it. Monthly contests can help you stay on top of your game by reminding you to shoot and submit new work.
Deadline: Various deadlines depending on which category you’re applying to. Prize: Various cash prizes, exhibition in New York, Tokyo, London, and Rome, publication in Life Framer’s annual Entry fee: Starting at $20 for one image, up to $40 for six images
Life Framer runs monthly photography competitions judged by industry professionals and themed around various topics. This month, they’re calling for entries in the theme of World Travelers. Winners get the chance to have their work shown at international exhibitions.
Should you enter? It’s worth a shot, given that Life Framer’s changing monthly calls offer lots of different chances to find a contest with a theme that suits you.
Deadline: Early Bird April 24, 2022 Prize: $2,500 and $500 for professionals; $1,300 and $300 for non-professionals (as well as exposure and international press for all winners) Entry fee: $20 professional, $15 amateur
Now in their seventh cycle, the Neutral Density Awards give away a total of $7,500 in prize winnings each year. Professionals and amateurs compete in their own categories, and winners are published in ND Magazine, among other editorial perks. The professional photographers on the ND jury are balanced by other photo industry pros, like gallery owners, publishers, and editors.
Should you enter? Yes. This competition is just off the beaten path enough to give your most striking photography work a real chance to shine.
Deadline: May 7, 2021 (Closed) Prize: $2,000 for st place; $1000 for 2nd place; $500 for 2nd place Entry fee: Beginning at $15 per image, and up to $75 for a series of images
A rare portraiture-only competition, with a focus on images that tell a story, the Kuala Lumpur International Photo Awards attracts top-tier talent thanks to its substantial cash prize and low entry fee. However, exposure begins and ends with a single exhibition in Kuala Lumpur.
Should you enter? Yes, if you specialize in portrait photography. This is one of the only contests where the judging is geared solely towards portraiture, so it’s a good opportunity for photographers focused in that area.
Deadline: TBA Prize: $5,000 Entry fee: $30 for up to 10 images
This annual contest run by the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center is open to all kinds of photographic artists, with submissions accepted in “photography, digital imaging, film/video, and lens-based installation work.” Two winners will each receive a $5,000 prize, and will also feature in their own concurrent solo exhibitions in spring 2019. The Philadelphia Photo Arts Center also runs an artist residency program if you’re interested in 2022.
Should you enter? If you’re in the United States, yes. The cash prize is considerable, and if you’re a U.S.-based photographer, exhibiting at this nonprofit arts center could help you gain local and critical exposure.
Deadline: TBA. Entries open in April 2022 Prize: £5,000 and Canon camera gear Entry fee: £10-£40 depending on the number of entries, with free entry for young photographers
The British Wildlife Photography Awards aim to celebrate UK-based photographic artists and highlight the diversity of Britain’s natural flora and fauna. The annual awards have been running since 2009, and categories have grown to include: animal portraits, animal behavior, coast and marine, hidden Britain, British seasons, and more. Winners have their work featured in a national touring exhibition and a print book. No doubt about it, this is one of the best photography contests for wildlife photographers.
Should you enter? If you live in the United Kingdom, yes. Entry fees are modest compared to potential winnings, and you’re helping raise awareness about British biodiversity while also supporting your photography.
Deadline: July 3, 2022 Prize: $2,000 for the overall winner for professional, $1,000 for the overall winner of amateur, as well as publication in print and online Entry fee: $25 for a professional single entry, $20 for an amateur single entry
The Monochrome Awards seek to acknowledge the best monochrome photography from around the world, at any experience level and in any style. In addition to cash prizes, winners have their work published in the annual Monochrome Photography Awards book. The contest has categories for a wide range of black and white photography, from photojournalism to architectural and conceptual photography.
Should you enter? Definitely. The competition is open to all experience levels, so there’s not much to lose and plenty to gain.
Deadline: July 30, 2021 (Closed) Prize: An all-expenses-paid trip to Kyoto to collaborate with traditional Japanese Benrido masters Entry fee: 5,000 Japanese Yen ($50)
This award acknowledges outstanding monochromatic photographs. The competition’s emphasis on traditional Japanese printing techniques means that the winner will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Kyoto, where the photographer and print master will work together to produce a collotype portfolio to be exhibited at the Kyotographie International Photography Festival.
Should you enter? Yes, especially if you work in monochrome. This contest is a unique opportunity to get exposure to the craftsmanship side of the photography world.
Deadline: Entries open April 10, 2022 Prize: Between £250 and £4,000, Fujifilm professional cameras and lenses, Hurtigruten voyages, Royal Photographic Society memberships Entry fee: Between £8 and £15 depending on the category (new option available that allows you to submit 10 images for £40)
This is the only travel photography contest that rivals National Geographic’s competition. Now in its 19th year, Travel Photographer of the Year has categories that cover a wide range of subjects. The contest’s exhibitions in London, now opposite the iconic Tower of London, are heavily attended and the exhibition is starting to tour internationally, including China, Dubai, Malta, Portugal, and Sharjah.
Should you enter? Absolutely. The entry fee is low and the upside is huge. If you’re a travel photographer, this is undeniably one of the best photography contests.
Deadline: September 24, 2021 Prize: $1,500 for Photographer of the Year, Outstanding Achievement Entry fee: $35 for professional single image entry, $30 for amateur single image entry
The 12th annual International Color Awards recognizes outstanding talent in the field of color photography. Second and third place winners also receive monetary cash prizes, and both Photographer of the Year winners and individual category winners benefit from participating in the competition’s Winners Gallery Exhibition.
Should you enter? Probably. This is one of the few awards that drills down into a genre of photography instead of a particular subject matter, and there are plenty of ways to win and place in the competition.
Deadline: entries open August 31, 2022 Prize: Between €100 and €1,000 Entry fee: €10 early bird, €25 for the final deadline
The Gomma Grant was created in 2014 to support emerging and established photographers. “Consistency, personality, and courage” are the qualities the Gomma judges are looking for; the contest is open to entrants who create any kind of photographic work. Expect a high-caliber panel of judges, including photo editors from publications like The Guardian and the British Journal of Photography.
Should you enter? Since this grant is open to anyone working in a photographic medium, it’s worth a shot.
Deadline: Closed Prize: £10,000 for Wildlife Photographer of the Year, a range of prizes between £1,000 and £2,500 for other categories Entry fee: £30
Hosted by the National History Museum of London, this could be the world’s most prestigious nature photography contest. There are seventeen categories, covering all manner of flora and fauna. The cash prize is huge, with smaller cash prizes available in specific categories, and the exhibition of winning selections tours through 60 countries. Plus, there’s a youth category open to those under seventeen years of age.
Should you enter? Absolutely. If you have an interest in nature photography, this is the best photography contest.
Deadline: TBA Prize: Participation in a traveling exhibition, print publication Entry fee: $40 per set of six images
The Tokyo International Photography Festival seeks to even the playing field for photographers who don’t necessarily have the language skills or cultural resources to apply to some of the more well-known photo competitions. It’s open to photographers from around the world and is judged by an equally international jury of renowned photographers. There is a theme to the competition each year—the 2019 theme was “Turbulence”—so check-in for the 2021 theme when contest details become available.
Should you enter? If the annual theme is relevant to your work and the entry fee doesn’t sway you, yes. The international traveling exhibition is a unique opportunity for increased exposure, but there’s no cash prize.
Deadline: TBA Prize: Prizes between $500 and $7,500, and the chance to be published in National Geographic Entry fee: $15 per entry
National Geographic has a long and storied tradition of great photography, and this contest is one of the world’s most popular. They offer two major contests with a variety of prizes: Travel Photographer of the Year and Nature Photographer of the Year. For photographers focused on documenting the natural world, this is an important contest to consider.
Should you enter? Yes, if you shoot travel or nature work. Previous winners have reported exponential increases in business.
Deadline: March 1, 2022 Prize: €100 to 800 for category winners and runners up, €3,000 plus travel and accommodations at awards show for the overall winner Entry fee: €30, free for those entering the Young Photographers category
This nature photography contest has a creative focus. Categories include Birds, Mammals, Other Animals, Plants and Fungi, Landscapes, The Underwater World, Man and Nature, and Nature’s Studio. If you’re into shooting wildlife photography, you likely have an image that fits one of those categories. It’s also a great option for young photographers, with separate awards for those under 14 years old and 15 to 17 years old.
Should you enter? Yes, if you’re an avid wildlife photographer residing in Europe.
Deadline: January 20, 2022 (Closed) Prize: $1,000 Entry fee: $50
Going strong for over 78 years, Pictures of the Year International (POYi) is one of the oldest and most reputable photography competitions around. It gives out awards in a range of photojournalism and documentary photography-related categories. POYi is an internationally regarded contest, and winning photos are exhibited at several high-profile venues, including the Newseum in Washington D.C.
Should you enter? Yes. The prize money isn’t going to change your life, but the exposure just might. Plus, there are 22 different categories open for submission, which means that you can find your niche.
Deadline: March 1, 2022 Prize: $5,000 grand prize, $1,000 category prizes Entry fee: $25 (up to 10 photos), $15 (photo essay category)
The California Academy of Sciences puts on this competition and also hosts the winner exhibition. This competition’s reputation is growing every year. It seeks to illustrate the rich diversity of life on Earth and inspire action to protect and conserve it through the power of imagery. Categories include Art of Nature, Aquatic Life, Winged Life, Terrestrial Wildlife, Human/Nature, Photo Series: Time Capsule, and Landscapes, Waterscapes, and Flora. Big Picture’s chair is award-winning conservation photographer Suzi Eszterhas.
Should you enter? Yes, it’s an obvious choice for nature photographers. Entry is open to photographers worldwide.
Best photo contests to bookmark for 2022:
Above we mentioned some competitions that were still accepting entries into 2022. Some of these entries include:
- Prix Virginia International Photography Prize for Women
- Sony World Photography Awards
- iPhone Photography Awards
- Prix Elysée (2023)
Keep in mind, if a contest you are interested in has already passed, be sure to bookmark and check back for their 2022 or 2023 deadline. Most of the contests mentioned are annual competitions, meaning if you missed ththis year’s deadline, there’s a good chance the next one is just around the corner! Don’t miss out.
And there you have your top contests and competitions from the 2021 photography world and a few for the future! No matter how niche your work may seem or what kind of photography you love to create, chances are there’s a contest coming up for you.
Our best advice?
Reach for the stars and push yourself to new horizons, but do so with a little self-awareness. If you’re at the very start of your career as a photographer, it may not be a smart move to apply to every competition with a steep entry fee. Be selective with these contests in the same way you’re selective with your work when you put together your photography portfolio.
Do this and there’s a solid chance a photography award could be in your future.