The Best Photo Contests to Enter in 2024

As a photographer, you’ve got plenty of opportunities to gain exposure. Many opt for the social media route, and you should certainly consider creating profiles on at least one platform. Building a website to showcase your work is also a good idea, but have you thought about entering photo contests?

Regardless of your photography niche, you’ll find plenty of photo competitions to determine how your art fares against others in your field. Some will require you to pay an entry fee, while others are free of charge.

Which photo contests should you enter, though? If you’ve found yourself asking that question, you’re in the right place. This article will highlight the best, most lucrative, and most prestigious photo contests to enter.

Photo Contest Index

World Press Photo Awards

If you want to test your photojournalism skills against others in more than one competition, consider joining the World Press Photo Awards. The contest has been hosted since 1955 and includes some of the most powerful images documenting various events.

Over 4,000 photographers from across the globe enter the competition annually, and you’ll get split into regional and overall winners.

  • Deadline: January
  • Entry Fees: Free
  • Prizes: Regional winners: €1,000, exhibition features, and inclusion in a book. Global winners: €1,000 + an additional €5,000, along with exhibition features and inclusion in a book.

Sony World Photography Awards (Professional)

Sony has two annual World Photography Awards – one for amateur photographers and another for professionals. Despite its name, you don’t need to earn the bulk of your income from the craft to enter the professional photography competition.

You can enter the Sony World Photography Awards as a professional in 10 categories. You’ll need to choose 5-10 pictures, and you aren’t limited to one genre.

  • Deadline: January
  • Entry Fees: Free
  • Prizes: Overall winner: $25,000 + Sony gear. Category winners: Sony equipment. 2nd/3rd place: A feature at a Sony exhibition, plus a book.

Sony World Photography Awards (Amateur)

Sony’s World Photography Awards differs a little for the amateur category. The competition is open to everyone; unlike the professional version, you only need to submit one image that you like.

Sony’s World Photography Awards Open Competition has several categories, with up to 15 photographers getting shortlisted in each of them. Entry usually closes toward the beginning of each year.

  • Deadline: January
  • Entry Fees: Free
  • Prizes: Overall winner: $5,000 + Sony equipment, book copy, and featuring in an exhibition – plus a trophy. Category winners: Sony equipment, certificate, book copy, and exhibition feature. Shortlisted photographers: Inclusion in book.

NPPA Best of Photojournalism

Every year, the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) hosts the NPPA Best of Photojournalism awards. The competition’s aim is to highlight the best photojournalists on the globe and showcase the importance of this field in the world of reporting.

Like the IPPA, organizers divided the NPPA Best of Photojournalism awards into several categories. These include, but aren’t limited to Politics, Science, and Sports.

In addition to still images, the NPPA hosts awards for the best editors in the photojournalism field.

  • Deadline: January
  • Entry Fees: Free for NPPA members, $75 for non-members

Istanbul Photo Awards

The Istanbul Photo Awards is organized and hosted annually by Anadolu Agency. While its name might suggest otherwise, you don’t need to have a base in Istanbul to enter the competition.

You can apply for several categories at the Istanbul Photo Awards, including single news, story news, and niches ranging from sports to nature. The competition is primarily geared toward news photographers.

  • Deadline: February
  • Entry Fees: Free
  • Prizes: Category winners: $3,000. Runners-up: $1,500. Third place: $1,000.

Amateur Photographer of the Year

If you’re not a professional photographer, you might sometimes find it difficult to gain exposure – especially if you pit your wits against those more seasoned in their field. Luckily, you’ll find several amateur photography awards – such as Amateur Photographer of the Year, which bills itself as “the UK’s most prestigious photography competition for amateur photographers.”

The Amateur Photographer of the Year award is held annually, and you can enter it regardless of your favorite genre. You’ll have the opportunity to enter several rounds throughout the year, each of which has a different theme.

  • Deadline: Varies
  • Entry Fees: Free (Max of 1 per round with voucher from Amateur Photographer magazine)
  • Prizes: Winner gets £500 voucher for anything on MPB (each round); £1,000 voucher for the overall winner. Second-placed get £100 voucher. Third-placed get £50.

The Leica Oskar Barnack Award

Leica’s annual Oskar Barnack Award is one of the most prestigious photography competitions you can enter that’s hosted by a camera supplier. The company has hosted the ceremony each year since 1980, with entrants submitting their images in several categories. The award is named after 35mm photography pioneer Oskar Barnack, inventor of the original Leica camera.

The prize money increased in 2020, and winners will receive a significant range of prizes.

  • Deadline: March
  • Entry Fees: Free
  • Prizes: Winner: €40,000 and €10,000 worth of Leica equipment. Newcomer Honoree: €10,000 + Leica Q2. Winners and Shortlisted Nominees: Appearance of their work in an exhibition.

Landscape Photographer of the Year

If you live in the UK and want to showcase your country’s beauty, you might want to consider entering the Landscape Photographer of the Year competition. The contest has several categories, including urban life, black and white, and classic view.

The Landscape Photographer of the Year award is held with several sponsors, including National Rail and the Sunday Times magazine.

  • Deadline: May
  • Entry Fees: £9.99
  • Prizes: Winner: £10,000 and a book. Category winners: £1,000 and a book. Category runners-up: Book. Highly-commended images: Book. Commended images: Inclusion in book and exhibition.

International Photography Awards’ Lucie Awards

The Lucie Awards is the flagship competition organized by the International Photography Awards. It takes place every year and is open to professional and amateur photographers from various countries across the globe.

To enter the Lucie Awards, you need to finish top of one of the 13 categories in the IPPA. You will then have the chance to win Discovery of the Year, and the eventual winner will walk home with the Lucie Awards trophy and an additional cash prize.

  • Deadline: June
  • Entry Fees: $35 (professionals, single image); $25 (amateurs, single image); $15 (students, single image); $60 (professionals, 2-9 images); $50 (amateurs, 2-9 images); $30 (students, 2-9 images)
  • Prizes: $10,000 for category winners. $5,000 for the Lucie Awards winner, plus a trophy

SPIE International Day of Light

Lighting is the most crucial aspect of good photography, and it only makes sense to celebrate it. That’s exactly what the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE) does with the annual International Day of Light Photo Contest.

This ceremony aims to celebrate the photographers that have managed to tell a powerful story in their images using light. In addition to showing how lighting impacts landscapes and whatnot, you can capture shots related to light technology and more.

  • Deadline: September
  • Entry Fees: Free
  • Prizes: Winner: $2,500. Second place: $1,000. Third place: $500. Technology and science: $750.

Hamdan International Photography Award

The Hamdan International Photography Award, also known as HIPA, was founded in 2011 by the crown prince of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid bin Mohammed Al Maktoum. It offers the largest cash prizes of any photography competition in the world.

The award “demonstrates the commitment of Dubai to encouraging and supporting art, culture and innovation,” the contest states. “The Award appeals to all talented photographers across the globe, and also nurtures national talent, which will in turn attract international art and cultural attention. The Award highlights how Dubai is fast developing into one of the most artistically conscious and established cities in the world.”

Each award season features a different theme. Themes in recent years have included Nature, Humanity, Water, and Hope.

  • Deadline: September
  • Entry Fees: Free
  • Prizes: Grand Prize: $120,000. Other top placements receive prizes of up to $25,000. Total prize amount is $450,000 split among all winners.

Nikon Photo Contest

Every year, Nikon hosts a competition to recognize photographers across the globe. The company has held the contest since 1969. You’re not restricted by either age or category, but Nikon does have a separate competition for photographers aged 25 and below.

  • Deadline: October
  • Entry Fees: Free
  • Prizes: Winner: 500,000 Japanese Yen (just over $3,700). Excellence Award, Nikon’s Selection Award, and Special Encouragement Award: New Nikon equipment and photo exposure.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

The prestigious Natural History Museum in London, UK, hosts the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition every year. The contest sheds light on photographers that have successfully captured the world’s biodiversity in their natural habitats, and the competition has run ever since 1965.

To enter the competition, you must take photos of wildlife that isn’t a pet or farm animal. You can submit a maximum of 25 pictures.

  • Deadline: December
  • Entry Fees: Up to December 1st, 2021: £30. From December 2nd, 2021: £35.
  • Prizes: Winner: £10,000, plus a certificate and trophy. Category winners: £1,250 and a certificate. Highly commended: Certificate.
    Portfolio Award: £2,500 and a certificate. Photojournalist Award: Same as above. Rising Star Portfolio Award: £1,500 and a certificate.

Plenty of Photography Competitions to Gain Exposure

As you can see from our list, you can find a huge range of photography competitions to enter – regardless of whether you’re an amateur or a seasoned pro. Winning one of these photography competitions can elevate your career to the next level, and you’ll have the opportunity to meet some of the industry’s most coveted picture-takers.

You’ll need to pick your best work if you want to have a chance of winning, but even entering is a good learning curve for your future progression.

Image credits: Header photo from 123RF