No matter how seriously you take your art — you may be an aspiring photojournalist or simply enjoy taking snaps of friends — there is nothing like a little competition to sharpen your skills. Entering photography competitions and running for prizes is a great way to get feedback, exposure (no pun intended!) and recognition for your creativity. Working to brief can be inspiring for the amateur photographer, as is gaining insight from fellow competitors. It will also force you to snazz up your portfolio and present your work in a professional fashion, which isn’t a bad thing! Take a peek at our list of interesting competitions in the world of photography, and remember it is the taking part — not the winning that counts!
But First: Tips for your online portfolio
Though entering some informal competitions may require no more than a single image, organizers will almost always ask for a link to your online portfolio. With that in mind here are a few simple tips to get yours looking tip top…
Pick the perfect platform: Where Wix, Tumblr, and Cargo are fabulous free platforms to get started with, you may wish to upgrade to something geared specifically to showcasing photography. Some good choices are PhotoShelter or Format.
Take inspiration from the best: Check out how your favorite artists present their work. We rate Londoner Tom Hull’s site for thought-out layout and typography, love the visual delight of fashion and celeb prodigy Louie Banks’ online presence and feel documentary photographer Brent Stirton’s portfolio makes the case for simplicity.
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Less is more: This is not Instagram. Nobody wants to see your latest breakfast photo. Be selective and only put up the very best shots and series that you feel exhibit your style and originality.
6 Photography Competitions I love (and fail miserably at!)
The Big Picture: Running every week, year in year out, The Telegraph travel section’s photography competition is a great way to get started. Winners get a £500 camera and there is no specific brief or entry fee. A great way to have a shot at getting your travel memories published.
I Shot It: A novel series of competitions across multiple and varied subjects (cities, children, horses – you name it!), this platform puts everyone on a level penning. Competitions are judged by professional photographers and artists and you can disregard everything we said in the portfolio section, as judges only see the single image. This means you have a shot for your photo to beat big names. Entry fees vary from free to around $10 as do prizes but there are lots of delicious Leica goodies on offer.
On the Move International: Part and parcel of Cortona On The Move Festival in the beautiful Tuscany. Each year this competition takes on a specific theme. 2016 is a cracker – HAPPINESS! Entry requires you to submit a series (or project) of between 8 and 15 images so you can really go to town with the fun and creative brief. It is open to everyone but the deadline for submissions is May 22nd so best get your skates on. The winning project will be exhibited in next year’s edition of the festival and receive 4000 euros of prize money.
Smithsonian 14th Annual Photo Contest: Take a deep breath, you have until November to get your sh*t together for this one. Across seven awesome categories – The American Experience, Natural World, Travel, Sustainable Travel, People, Altered Images and Mobile – there are currently already over 330,000 submitted images this year — and counting! Along with your image, you have the chance to elucidate the story behind it in 100 words. Finalists are judged by the editorial team based on creativity, quality, originality, responsiveness to the prompt and overall impact and the 10 finalists in each category are then put to a public vote.
Travel Photographer of the Year Contest: Another May deadline (27th) to race for (or perhaps mine the archives of your worldwide wanderings), National Geographic of course hosts the big daddy of travel photography competitions. To enter, submit a single shot along with a caption in one of three categories – Nature, Cities or People. As would be expected for the calibre of this magazine, they are not looking for just visually appealing pictures… images should “tell the story of a place or reveal insights about what inspires you when you travel.” As well as the obvious exposure perks, the top entry wins a 7-day Polar Bear Safari for Two at Churchill Wild-Seal River Heritage Lodge including air travel and 1st, 2nd and 3rd in each category also receive great prizes.
Shoot the Frame: Established in 2012 as a platform for emerging photographers, this monthly competition is a great one for exposure and a fun thing to plonk on your photography resume (if you have such a thing!). Choose from three sections – Shoot the Face (Portraits), Shoot the Land (landscape) and Shoot the Wild (you guessed it, wildlife) and enter in time for the winner announcements on the 6th of each month. Prizes are both fun and practical including subscriptions, software and kit from an impressive range of sponsors.
Many of the biggest and most prestigious international award competitions – for obvious reasons – have January deadlines. This is your year guys: get ready for Sony World Photography Awards, World Press Photo and Picture of the Year International. We know you will be devastated to hear that submissions for this year’s absolutely genius The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards are also closed… but there is always next year!
I’m considering running a weekly photography competition here on The Tripod Collective. Is that something you’d be interested in taking part in? Let me know in the comments! If there’s enough interest, we’ll get it underway!