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The best photography competitions to enter

Mon 06 Aug 2018

The best photography competitions to enter

This post was updated on 27 March 2019.

By Anna-Maria Pfab, MA Photography Lecturer at Falmouth Flexible.

You've been working hard on your portfolio, editing and sequencing the work to best show off your visual identity and ambitions. What’s next? Sharing your work with the world is an important part of the creative process, but it can be difficult to know the best way to get your work in front of the eyes of professionals. 

Entering competitions is a fantastic way of doing so – but, how do you determine which one is right for you?

Below is a guide to the world’s best photography competitions to make these decisions a little easier for you. Thanks to these renowned international contests, you can not only win awards and prizes but also prestige and opportunity – so get submitting!

1. Leica Oscar Barnack Award

Deadline: April 2019

Prize: $2,500 for finalists, $10,000 for the newcomer prize, $25,000 for the grand prize, as well as a Leica M camera and lens worth $10,000.

Entry fee: None

The Leica Oscar Barnack Award is aimed at professional photographers, calling for the submission of self-contained series documenting the interaction between people and their environment in a creative and ground-breaking style. 

Who should enter? The Leica Oscar Barnack Newcomer Award is aimed at photographers under 25.

2. 2019 LensCulture Street Photography Awards

Deadline: April 2019

Prize: Between $1000 and $5000

Entry fee: Single image is free, 5 single images cost $50 ($10 for each additional photograph) and $60 for a series.

Apart from winning cash prizes, the winning photographers for this award will also be exhibited in New York! An opening reception will be held for artists, invited media, photo editors and industry insiders for a night of art appreciation and networking. 

Who should enter? If you are creatively capturing the weird and wonderful moments of life as they unfold around you then this award is for you.

3. PND Photo Annual 

Deadline: May 2019

Prize: Between $2,000 and $10,000

Entry fee: $45 for a single entry, $55 for a series and $25 for students

Photo District News' annual competition accepts submissions in 10 categories including student work, photojournalism and fine art. The winners' images are featured in a print publication as well as on the PND website, whose readership includes many photo editors and art buyers. 

Who should enter? There is a category for everyone and this competition is an excellent way to get exposed to industry professionals - so get entering! 

BA Photography Top Up

4. Sony World Photography Awards 

Deadline: Submissions open on 1 June 2019

Prize: £5,000 

Entry fee: None

The Sony World Photography Awards is one of the most highly regarded photography competitions in the world. The winners and finalists have their work exhibited in a show at Somerset House in London and featured in a travelling exhibition that goes to numerous venues around the globe.  

Who should enter? There are four different categories: Professionals, Open, Youth and Student. So whether you're an amateur photographer, a student or a professional photographer, this competition is definitely worth considering.

Check out the Sony World Photography Awards Facebook and Instagram feeds for inspiration.

5. Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 

Deadline: June 2019

Prize: £15,000

Entry Fee: £28 per entry

The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize celebrates and promotes the very best in contemporary portrait photography. 

Who should enter? If you are working within the field of portraiture, and are aged 18 or over, then consider entering this hugely prestigious award. The winning work is exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery and published in a catalogue accompanying the show. 

6. International Photography Awards

Deadline: July 2019

Prize: Between $5,000 and $10,000 for different categories

Entry fee: Professionals: Single Image $35, Series (2-9 images): $60; Non-professionals: Single image: $25, Series (2-9 images): $50; Students: Single Image $15, Series $30

From the IPA website:

The International Photography Awards conducts an annual photography competition for professional, non-professional and student photographers on a global level, creating one of the most ambitious and comprehensive competitions in the photography world today. The IPA recognises photography's leading talents who are creating, shaping and defining the world of photography today.

The IPA promotes the work of their winners heavily. Further to this, they publish the winning photographs in the IPA Annual Book of Photography, and also organises a touring exhibition. 

Who should enter? The competition is worth entering whatever stage of your photography career you're at. 

Check out the IPA Facebook feed for inspiration.

7. World Press Photo

Deadline: Accepting entries from January 2020

Prize: €10,000

Entry Fee: None

This is arguably the most prestigious photojournalism contest in the world. The winners' work will be in a show touring 45 countries, and the accompanying catalogue is internationally distributed. 

Who should enter? ​If you are a documentary photographer or photojournalist you should definitely have a look at this contest. 

Check out the World Press Photo Facebook and Instagram for inspiration. 

8. British Journal of Photography Breakthrough Awards

Deadline: TBC - keep checking their website and social channels for further details

Prize: Exhibition in London and publication in the BJP

Entry Fee: £10 for a single image, 330 for one series, £40 for two series

The BJP Breakthrough Awards are open to BA and MA students, as well as anyone who has graduated with a BA or MA within the last five years. The winning entries have their work shown at the BJP Breakthrough Award showcase and they are also published in the print magazine and online platform. Further to this, the winners  also receive a portfolio review session and a portfolio reprint, networking and industry opportunity benefits and the opportunity to sell their work through the BJP website. 

Who should enter? The award is geared towards students, emerging photographers and new talents. The award comes with a lot of exposure, prestige and support and will help emerging photographers kick-start their career. 

9. Wildlife Photographer of the Year 

Deadline: TBC - keep checking their website and social channels for more information 

Prize: £10,000 for WildLife Photographer of the Year and a range of prizes between £1,000 and £2,500 for other categories. 

Entry fee: £30

This competition is hosted by the National History Museum in London and is probably the world's most prestigious nature photography contest. There are 17 categories covering all manner of flora and fauna. The exhibition of the winning photographs tours to 60 countries. 

Who should enter? If you have an interest in nature photography then this is the competition for you!

Check out the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Facebook and Instagram feeds for inspiration.

10. D&AD Next Photographer Award

Deadline: TBC

The D&AD Next Photographer Award sets to unearth the best new talent in photography and promote them in the industry. The winner's work is showcased at D&AD Festival, in front of an audience of creative influencers, and in the iconic D&AD Annual. And of course, the winner gets global exposure from D&AD and media partners. 

Who should enter? If you've been working in the industry for fewer than three years, this award is for you. There's no age limit but you must be out of full-time education. Also you must not have an established career in a different role within the creative industry, for example as an established art director who has recently taken up photography.

11. Foam Talent call

Deadline: TBC for 2020

Prize: Publication in Foam magazine and inclusion in the Foam Talent exhibition

Entry fee: €35

From the Foam Talent website:

Being selected as a Foam Talent puts you in the spotlight of the international photography world. It marks you as an emerging artist with great promise and gives you the means to jumpstart your career. 

They are right - this is one of the most prestigious international photo competitions for photographers aged between 18 and 35. If you are selected as a Foam Talent, your work is given valuable exposure. 

Who should enter? If you are within the age range, then this competition is worth entering. 

If you've completed a 2-year foundation degree or an HND level course in related fields, and are now looking to receive an internationally recognised undergraduate honours degree, then Falmouth Flexible's online BA(Hons) Photography (Top-Up) is for you.