The Best Photography Contests and Prizes in 2016

The Best Photography Contests and Prizes in 2016

Do you dream of fame and glory? Whether you’re a professional photojournalist or an amateur shutterbug, photography contests and prizes should be on your radar for 2016.


Photography contests and prizes are an opportunity to be recognized by the creative community for your exceptional work. If you send the right photo to the right contest, you’ll win money in your pocket, eyeballs on your work and a credit for your resume.

But which contests should you enter? There’s a lot of options, and a lot of entry fees, so it’s important to know which contests and prizes are worth your time and money. Don’t get caught up in scams that ask for money and offer no value.


In 2016, it’s time to share your portfolio with the world. We rounded-up the best photography contests and prizes to get you started. We judged them by prizing, entry fees and submission rights. There’s something for everyone, from wildlife photographers to iPhone photo app experts.

Here are the best photography contests and prizes for 2016:

Andras D. Hajdu, First Place

Pictures of the Year International

Deadline: January 2016
Prize: $1000
Entry fee: $50

Heading into its 73rd year, Pictures of the Year International (POYi) is one of 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 a number of 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 a 22 different categories open for submission, which means that you can find your niche.

Giulio Di Sturco, First Prize: Contemporary Issues

World Press Photo

Deadline: January 2016
Prize: €10,000
Entry fee: None

World Press Photo’s contest is arguably the most prestigious photojournalism contest in the world. The exhibition of winners tours to 45 countries and the accompanying publication is internationally distributed. The cash prize and high level of competition puts this contest in the upper echelon.

Should you enter?

Yes. Few photography contests offer the same cash or exposure as World Press Photo, let alone both.

Bernhard Lang, First Prize: Travel (Professional)

Sony World Photography Awards

Deadline: January 2016
Prize: $5000
Entry fee: None

With a substantial cash prize and separate categories for pros, students, and youth, the Sony World Photography Awards is one of the most highly renowned 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.

Hangst Matthias, First Prize: Single Sports

Istanbul Photo Awards

Deadline: January 2016
Prize: $8000
Entry fee: None

Influential global news network Andalou Agency’s new photojournalism competition doesn’t have tremendous cachet 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 it doesn’t afford the same exposure as many other contests.

Mehran Hamrahi, 2014 Student Winner

Alexia Foundation Grants

Deadline: January 2016 Prize: $20,000 Entry fee: None

Unlike other contests or prizes, the Alexia Foundation Grants will give you money to create work in the future. It gives you “the financial ability to produce substantial stories that drive change in the effort to make the world a better place.” The photographs you submit demonstrate your ability and the accompanying written proposal explains how you’ll use the funds.

Should you enter:

Yes. If you’re interested in social justice, think up a unique photography series proposal and hopefully Alexia Foundation will help you make it happen.

Tony Hewitt, First Prize: Creative – Landscape

WPPI 16X20 Print, Album and Filmmaking Competition

Deadline: February 2016
Prize: $2,000
Entry fee: $45 (members), $65 (non-members)

The WPPI’s photography competition is unique in a number of ways. First of all, it’s one of the only contests that still recognizes prints. The judging process is also noteworthy, with entrants given the opportunity to sit in and receive feedback directly from the judging panel.

Should you enter?

Yes. Especially if you’re in portraiture or wedding wedding/event photography, where the WPPI’s contest provides a rare opportunity to pick up a high-profile accolade.

Anne Paternotte, 2014 Emerging Photography Contender

Feature Shoot Emerging Photography Awards

Deadline: February 2016
Prize: $500
Entry fee: $20

For emerging photographers, it can be tricky navigating the 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. The prize isn’t much money, but this helps keep some of the “big fish” out of the competition, which means emerging talent has a greater chance of being noticed.

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.

Ondřej Pelánek, First Prize: Young Wildlife Photographer

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Deadline:February, 2016
Prize: £10,000
Entry fee: £30

Hosted by the National History Museum of London, this could be the world’s most prestigious nature photography contest. There are 17 categories, covering all manner of flora and fauna. The cash prize is huge, and the exhibition of winning selections tours through 60 countries. Plus, there’s a youth category open only to those under 17.

Should you enter?

Absolutely. If you have an interest in nature photography, this is the contest to beat.

Liesa Cola, First Prize: Magazine/Editorial

PDN Photo Annual

Deadline: February 2016
Prize: $15,000 Arnold Newman Prize (portraiture), $100 Epson Creativity Award + Epson printer, $1,500 PDN Publisher’s Choice Award + one-page promo in PDN (Photo District News)
Entry fee: $45 (single entry), $55 (series), $25 (student rate)

Photo District News’ contest accepts submissions in ten categories, including fine art, student work and photojournalism. PDN circulates the winners’ photos in its print magazine and on its website, to a readership full of editors and buyers. This contest is one of the best ways to get industry exposure.

Should you enter?

Yes. Though prizes vary depending on category, being in PDN is a potentially career-making incentive.

JH Engström, First Prize Winner

Leica Oskar Barnack Award

Deadline: March 2016
Prize: €2500, a Leica M camera and a lens worth €10,000
Entry fee: None

Named after the inventor of Leica, this award was established in 1979 on the 100th anniversary of Oskar Barnack’s birth. The award is judged by an international panel who are looking for work that’s creative, groundbreaking and unintrusive.

Should you enter?

Yes. You can submit virtually anything you want, and the prizes are valuable. Plus there’s no entry fee, so what do you have to lose?

Richard Peters, First Prize

GDT European Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Deadline: March, 2016
Prize: €3,000 + Travel and accommodations for awards show
Entry fee: €30

This nature photography contest has amore creative tilt than the others. Categories include: Birds, Mammals, Other Animals, Plants and Fungi, Landscapes, Under Water, Man and Nature and Nature’s Studio. If you’re into shooting wildlife, you likely have a photo that fits one of those categories. It’s also a great option for young photographers with separate awards for under 14 years old and 15 to 17 years old.

Should you enter?

Yes, if you’re an avid wildlife photographer.

Sebastiano Tomada, First Prize Winner

PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris

Deadline: March 2016
Prize: $5,000 (professionals), $2000 (non-professionals)
Entry fee: $30 (photo), $50 (series)

With six broad photography categories, there’s something for everybody at this Parisian competition. Though pictures are not exhibited after the initial winners’ exhibition, they are circulated in PX3’s Annual. Previous winners have definitely 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.

Jesse Alkire, First Prize: News/Events

iPhone Photography Awards

Deadline: March 2016
Prize: IPPA Photographer of the Year Award
Entry fee: $3.50 (per image)

Best file this one under “just for kicks.” There’s no cash prize, nor any distribution or exhibition of entries. There aren’t many rules either. Photos must be taken on an iPhone, but clip-on lenses and image processing apps are fair game. That said, the entry fee is nominal and you can add it to your resume.

Should you enter?

Do it for fun, not for your career.

Zsolt Kudich, First Prize

Big Picture Natural World Photography Competition

Deadline: March 2016
Prize: $5,000 (grand prize), $5,000 (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. Big Picture’s chair is award-winning conservation photographer Suzi Eszterhas.

Should you enter? Yes, it’s an obvious choice for nature photographers.

Tamas Schild, First Prize

Kuala Lumpur International Photo Awards

Deadline: April 2016
Prize: $4,000
Entry fee: $15 (per image)

A rare portraiture-only competition, 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 the Kuala Lumpur.

Should I enter?

Yes. 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.

Luc Jamet, First Prize

Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Deadline: April 2016
Prize: £2,500
Entry fee: None

This is a noteworthy competition for astrophotography and it’s been gaining notoriety as time goes on. A solid cash prize and an exhibition at England’s Royal Observatory Greenwich await the winner. For anyone who loves astronomy, the winner galleries are a treat to scroll through.

Should you enter?

Only stargazers need apply.

Ralph Claus Grimm, First Prize

Nikon Small World Photomicrography Contest

Deadline: April 2016
Prize: $3,000 to use on Nikon gear
Entry fee: None

Chances are you aren’t into light microscope photography. If you are, you’re probably already aware of this contest, as it’s the only legitimate one there is in this field. Winning entries tour various museums and science centers in North America, and Nikon provides a nice package of gear as well.

Should I enter?

If photomicrography is your game, by all means yes.

Daesung Lee, First Prize

On the Move International Award

Deadline: May 2016
Prize: €4,000 for use towards Nikon equipment
Entry fee: None

This is the contest component of the Cortona On the Move International Photography Festival, which attracts a crowd thanks to its medieval Tuscan backdrop. Submissions take the form of projects based around a theme (still to be announced). This isn’t a career-builder, but there’s a substantial prize, and it’s a fun creative challenge. You can get some quality Nikon gear with €4,000.

Should you enter? It’s an excuse to go to Tuscany. What could be bad about that?

Stefano Zardini, Merit Winner

National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Deadline: June 2016
Prize: An 8-day, all expenses paid photo expedition to Costa Rica and the Panama Canal, valued at $13,980
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. Some professionals have expressed trepidation about the rights acquisition for the winning entry because NatGeo can use it in books and release it as a free wallpaper, but there’s no denying the cachet associated with winning this contest.

Should you enter?

Yes. Previous winners have reported exponential increases in business.

Lluís Salvadó, First Prize

Travel Photographer of the Year

Deadline: June 2016
Prize: £2,500
Entry fee: £ 15 (Portfolio, new talent, HD short), £ 7.50 (one shot, smart shot)

This is the only travel photography contest that rivals National Geographic’s competition. With categories covering everything from cityscapes to wildlife photography, there’s an opportunity to play to your strengths. The contest’s exhibition at The Museum of London Docklands is heavily attended and previous winners have reported direct benefits to their business.

Should you enter?

Absolutely. The entry fee is low and the upside is huge.

Max Rive, First Prize: Open Award

Epson International Pano Awards

Deadline: July 2016
Prize: $2000, Epson SureColor P-7070, Triple Scoop Music voucher $600
Entry fee: $20 per image

The Epson International Pano Awards is the largest panoramic photography competition in the world. The winner galleries are stunning. For a more specialized type of photography, the prizes are valuable. There’s cash and swag for over 20 winners.

Should you enter?

If you have some exceptional panoramas in your portfolio, this should be at the top of your list.

Sean DuFrene, First Prize: Self-Promotion

International Photography Award

Deadline: August 2016
Prize: $10,000 (International Photographer of the Year), $5,000 (Discovery of the Year), $5,000 (Deeper Perspective of the Year), $2,500 (Moving Image Photographer of the Year)
Entry fee: $35 per image (professional), $25 per image (non-professional), $15 per image (student)

The International Photography Award does a lot to promote their winners. They publish the photos in a book and 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.

Trent Mitchell, First Prize

Moran Contemporary Photographic Prize

Deadline: August 2016
Prize: $50,000
Entry fee: $25 per entry

Entering it’s 28th year, this contest aims to celebrate Australia and its people. As such, it is only open to Australian citizens. It offers a tremendous amount of grand prize money and features a number of smaller payouts for finalists and student submissions.

Should you enter?

If you’re Australian, this could be a career-changer.

Alessandra Meniconzi, Editor’s Pick

National Geographic Photo Contest

Deadline: November 2016
Prize: $10,000
Entry fee: $15 per photo

National Geographic needs no introduction in the photography world. This is one of the premier contests to be found. Entrants can submit photography in the categories of people, place, or nature. Winning is no small feat. Over 22,000 people submitted last year, but a huge cash prize and a ton of publicity awaits the winner.

Should I enter?

Yes, though be aware that the level of competition is high.

Pham Ty, First Prize

Smithsonian Photo Contest

Deadline: December 2016
Prize: $2,500
Entry fee: None

The Smithsonian’s reputation might not be quite on the level of National Geographic, but it also has similar mainstream recognition, which translates into major exposure. The only caveat is that the magazine controls the most of the rights to the winning photo, which has given some professionals pause

Should you enter?

Yes. With no entry fee, the potential benefits here far outweigh the rights issue.

Dragan Milovanovic, First Prize

I Shot It: The Best Photo Competition

Prize: various Leica prizes
Entry fee: Various

A rolling series of contests under one name, I Shot It offers different prizes, judges, and entry fees depending on the current competition. Recent submission calls include Black and White, Dogs, Birds, Flowers, Macro and Cats. It’s worth following I Shot It on social media so that you can stay up-to-date with the latest competition they’re running.

Should you enter?

It depends entirely on the contest that’s running, but prizes from Leica are a nice incentive.

In conclusion, no matter what area of photography you’ve chosen to focus on, there’s a contest out there for you. Remember to play to your strengths. Because it’s easy to rack up up entry fees, be mindful of where you’re at in your career. If you’re just starting out, it’s probably not worth spending money on contests that draw a lot of professional photographers. These contests can be great tools for career building, and some of them are quite lucrative. Good luck!

Want more?
Discover 2016’s best design contests & prizes here. [Discover 2016’s best illustration contests & prizes here.]
[Discover 2016’s best fine art contests & prizes here.]