Best photography competitions to enter in 2021
October 22, 2021
One of the best ways to challenge yourself photographically is to enter photography competitions. Luckily, there are dozens out there to choose from, no matter your genre, style or level.
Wading through the sheer number of awards available can be a little daunting, so we’ve chosen some highlights for the year ahead, with 18 important photography competitions for your consideration.
You’ll find all the crucial information you need, including entry dates, where to enter your work and entry fees. We’ve also spoken to a number of judges and organisers to share with you some top tips to help your work stand out from the crowd. Some of the information was subject to change, so it’s always worth double checking deadlines on individual competition websites to ensure you don’t miss out.
With cash, prizes and kudos up for grabs, there’s never been a better time to put your work forward for an award – how many will you enter?
What are the best photography competitions to enter in 2021/2022?
Amateur Photographer of the Year (APOY)
Opens March 2021
Closes November 2021
Entry fee Free entry per round, £2 thereafter
About – Of course we could only kick off the top list with our very own competition. Amateur Photographer of the Year – known as APOY – is a points-based competition, where photographers can take home prizes for each round, culminating in the overall winner being awarded the top prize at the end of the year. Last year, that accolade went to Caron Steele who proved she had the prowess to excel at a variety of different subjects. But who will go the distance this year? This is a competition which will push you to try genres and subjects outside of your comfort zone, which can only be of benefit to your photography.
Top Tip – Amateur Photographer editor Nigel Atherton says, ‘You get one free entry with every copy of AP, but don’t forget that you can buy additional entries from Photocrowd to increase your chances of winning. When it comes to choosing an image to submit, consider how it looks at smaller sizes – this is often the way judges will first come across your image and may make their initial judgement based upon it.’
Landscape Photographer of the Year
Opens January 2021
Closed 14 April 2021
Entry fee £9.99 single image, £24.99 up to 8 images, £34.99 up to 20 images.
Prizes Total fund worth £20,000, overall winner receives £10,000.
About – After taking a break in 2019, one of the UK’s biggest photography competitions is back in 2020 and 2021. The competition sees thousands of entries each edition, so you’ll have to work hard to stand out from the crowd – but winning the award can set you on a life-changing path. The winning entries will also be exhibited in a central London location.
Top Tip – Founder and head judge of the awards, Charlie Waite, says, ‘Enter the competition with confidence and conviction that your photograph says what you wish it to say and will awaken something emotional in the viewer. Who knows, perhaps your chosen image(s) may have a bearing on your future as a photographer.’
Sony World Photography Awards
Closes Usually closes in January
Entry fee Free
Prizes A total prize fund of $60,000 (USD) plus Sony digital imaging equipment is shared between winning photographers,
About – The Sony World Photography Awards spans four different photography competitions – one for professional photographers, another accessible to all, and Youth and Student competitions. All of the awards are free to enter, and there are lots of different categories to choose from. Each year, the winning entries are displayed in a major exhibition at London’s Somerset House.
Top Tip – Exhibition curator and chair of the juries Mike Trow says, “What makes the Sony World Photography Awards so exciting is the range of subjects and global reach of the stories and images selected. My advice for entrants is to choose your categories carefully and believe in your story. Show the judges how you see the world, but try to avoid cliché. Photography techniques and styles are getting more adventurous and dynamic, so technical excellence is also necessary.’
Travel Photographer of the Year
Opens Expected to be April 2022
Closes TPOTY 2021 is now closed
Entry fee £8-£30
Prizes TBA, last year’s prizes included a Fujifilm X-T3 camera and £2,000.
About – This competition has several categories to choose from, and with travel being such a broad subject, you may find you already have something ready to enter.
Top Tip – The founder of Travel POTY, Chris Coe, says, ‘Enter your best not your favourite image, stick to the category brief/theme (don’t try to persuade yourself that just because you like the shot it really does fit the theme!) and ask someone else’s opinion about your image choice – it’s surprising what fresh eyes can see. Also, think about entering the category you feel is the hardest, as this may well have the least entries!’
Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year
Closes now closed
Entry fee Free
About – This competition showcases the world’s best space photography, which includes spectacular skyscapes, distant planets and galaxies. You can submit up to ten images across a number of categories.
Top Tip – Dr Melanie Vandenbrouck, a judge for the competition, says, ‘Be yourself, but also try something new. My experience is that pictures that emulate other astrophotographers’ images often don’t feel very natural. But trying to push your own limits and imagination can create powerful results. This competition is about beauty as much as it is about the astronomical objects captured or the technical skill deployed.’
Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year
Opens Open now
Closes 6 February 2022
Entry fee £30 / 5 images
Prizes £5,000 for the overall winner, various prizes for category winners.
About – There’s not long left to enter what has become one of the world’s leading and best photography competitions. Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year has consistently attracted the very best photographic talent since its inception almost ten years ago. Last year, photographers from 77 countries entered over 9,000 individual images. With lots of categories to choose from, there should be something which matches your specific portfolio – don’t make the mistake of thinking that the judges are only looking for highly stylised food advertising shots.
Top Tip – Judge Yasia Williams, Art Director at Octopus Publishing, says, ‘I look for originality – I want to see something I’ve never seen before, or a familiar image but seeing it photographed from a new and exciting perspective. The wow factor – an image that instantly makes you want to know more about it and continue to look at it. Feeling – a picture that stirs emotion.’
Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Opens Usually opens in October
Closes Usually closes in December
Entry fee £30 for 5 entries
Prizes Winner receives £10,000, smaller cash prizes also available
About – One of the most important and prestigious photography competitions of the calendar, Wildlife Photographer of the Year is organised by the Natural History Museum in London. For over 50 years, it has championed ethical wildlife photography, forming a major exhibition which takes place at the museum. Some of the biggest names in wildlife photography have placed in the competition – the positive impact it could have on your career can’t be understated.
Top Tip – Chair of the Wildlife POTY jury Roz Kidman Cox advises, ‘Think urban. One category that has a relatively low number of entries is Urban Wildlife. Statistically, it gives you a much greater chance of being placed. And as the category encompasses any animal or plant in a human-dominated environment, that means nature on your doorstep. So no need to travel, and the opportunity to revisit a site or reshoot a vision.’
Taylor Wessing Photographic Prize
Entry fee £30 per photograph
Prize £15,000 cash prize for the winner
About – Organised every year by the National Portrait Gallery, the Taylor Wessing Photographic Prize is probably the most prestigious portrait photography competition there is. At the time of writing, it wasn’t confirmed whether there would be a 2020 competition, as the National Portrait Gallery is set to close for three years for renovation works. However, if portrait photography is your thing, being validated by this competition can do wonders for your confidence and your career. If it doesn’t run, look out for other photography competitions along the same genre, such as the BJP Portrait of Britain award.
British Wildlife Photography Awards
Closes Usually closes in April
Entry fee £10-£40 depending on how many images you want to submit
Prizes Overall winner receives £5,000, other prizes available
About – Established in 2009, the now decade-old British Wildlife Awards was launched to celebrate the diversity and wealth of Britain’s natural history. It’s a competition which encourages you to look to your own doorstep for stunning imagery of local flora and fauna, with each year having a special theme.
Top Tip – Judge and former winner of the British Wildlife Photography Awards, photographer and conservationist Paul Colley, says, ‘Find a common subject close to home, experiment and accept initial failure as the price of ultimate success. Competition judges get excited by different images, by novelty and imagination. A common subject close to home allows you to try many new ideas quickly, which experimental photography demands. Novelty has possibilities constrained only by your imagination. Imagine the subject in a completely different way and then invest all your time working out how to do it. Most people give up after a few failed experiments. The imaginative souls who tough it out succeed.’
Close Up Photographer of the Year
Closes November 30th 2022
Entry fee £10-£40 depending on number of entries
Prize £2,000 cash prize for the winner
About – Now in its third year, Close Up Photographer of the Year was founded by long-term AP contributor Tracy Calder and her husband Daniel. With a love for macro photography, they launched CUPOTY in 2018 to celebrate close-up, macro and micro photography, allowing it to take centre stage. The annual competition is open to anyone using any device, from a mobile phone to an electron microscope. The competition has a number of different categories, with Insects being a new subject for 2020.
Top Tip – Founder of the awards Tracy Calder says, ‘Remove distractions – any blemish will appear magnified when shooting up close, so spend time removing specks of pollen, dust etc at the time of shooting if possible. Think about the background – last year entrants used everything from a velvet glove to a bank folder. The area behind your subject should never be an afterthought. Tell a story – beautiful close-up portraits of butterflies and plants are wonderful, but if you can show an element of behaviour then it will lift your image to another level.’
International Garden Photographer of the Year
Opens Late February 2021
Closes 31 October 2021 (midday)
Entry fee £12 per category, up to 4 images.
Prize TBC cash prize for overall winner
About – In 2022, IGPOTY returned for its 15th annual competition, with categories which include ‘The Beauty of Plants,’ ‘Abstract Views’, ‘Beautiful Gardens’ and more. There will also be four photo projects and special awards. The contest is supported by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and is open to both amateurs and professionals.
Top Tip – James McGlinchey, Exhibitions Manager at IGPOTY says, ‘Introduced as a new category in 2019 was Plants and Planet. It gives climate change issues exposure, trees are planted for every entry and entrants can still scoop the prize money and all-important title. My other top tip would be to shoot original content – there are many competitions out there and to stand out, our judges want to see new, evocative content that excites the audience.’
Closes now closed
Prize €1500 for 1st prize
About – Organised by the Expert Imaging and Sound Association, of which Amateur Photographer is a part, the Maestro Photo Contest is open to both amateur and semi-professional photographers who create a portfolio of images. For 2020, the theme is ‘Movement’, which can be represented by both natural and man-made subjects.
Top Tip – Andy Westlake, AP’s Technical Editor and judge at EISA Maestro says, ‘It’s a portfolio-based competition, so make sure you enter a set of images with a coherent vision and style that are directly relevant to the year’s theme.’
Nature Photographer of the Year
Opens December 2021
Closes now closed
Entry fee 27.50 euros
Prizes 500 euros for the winner
About – Nature Photographer of the Year not only gives you the opportunity to win great prizes and earn some cachet, it’s also a chance to support nature conservation. The awards ceremony takes place at the yearly Nature Talks Photo Festival in the Netherlands, where the winning images are also exhibited.
Top Tip – Former AP editor Keith Wilson, who chaired the Nature POTY jury between 2017-2019, says, ‘Try to avoid the most popular categories such as mammal and bird portraits. It takes something rare or exceptional to win these. By comparison, categories involving macro photography, so plants and fungi or invertebrates, are neglected, but the standard has improved immensely in recent years. Consider also black & white categories.’
SINWP Bird Photographer of the Year in aid of RSPB
Closes now closed
Entry fee Minimum donation of £1
Prizes Prize package worth over £1,145
About – Another competition which not only gives you the opportunity to prove your mettle, but do some good, is SINWP Bird POTY. The 2020 competition raised over £2,000 for the RSPB – 100% of the donations from entry fees go to the charity.
Top Tip – Colin Jones, from the Societies, says, ‘Finer technical details are pored over with particular emphasis on storytelling, pictorial quality, behaviour, sharpening, correct scaling use, subject movement control, noise and ISO selection, and the quality of portrayal of the species’ characteristics.’
iPhone Photography Awards
Closes 31 March 2021
Entry fee $3.75 – $125.50
Prizes iPad Air, Apple Watch and a Gold Bar
About – Now in its 14th year, this competition is open to photographers worldwide – so long as their images are taken on an iPhone or an iPad. There are several categories, including Architecture, Animals, Floral, Landscape and more. Entering a competition like this is a good way to test the old theory that the best camera is the one that you have with you – leave your ‘real’ camera at home.
RPS International Photography Exhibition 163
Closes now closed
Entry fee From £18-£30
Prize £4,000 for future projects
About – Celebrating photography from across the globe, the annual RPS International Exhibition is selected from an open call. Alongside the opportunity to exhibit, £4,000 is awarded to support future photographic projects. Last year’s edition (162), goes on display at RPS House in Bristol from February, if you’re looking for inspiration.
British Photography Awards
Opens 3rd August
Closes 3rd November
Entry fee £5 per image
Prize Invitation to the prestigious award ceremony
About – Aimed at celebrating the talent of all British and British-based photographers, the BPA works with a range of charities to operate a non-profit competition. Over 90% of the entry fee goes directly to a charity of your choosing, with ticket sales from the annual gala dinner also going towards good causes. The 2020 competition has already closed, but you have several months to think about entering next year’s edition.
Weather Photographer of the Year
Entry fee Free
Prizes TBC, last year’s prizes included £500 cash for the winner, plus GoPro Hero7 camera and RMetS membership.
About – Organised by the Royal Meteorological Society (RMetS), the 2019 Weather POTY competition attracted more than 5,700 entries from almost 2,000 photographers. It is judged by a diverse group of people including meteorologists, photographers and photo editors. It’s open to anybody, using any equipment and there’s also a Young category for under 18s. The judges look for images which capture the beauty, power, occasional absurdity and fragility in the face of human activity – it could include clouds, precipitation, frost or ice, fog, optical phenomena such as rainbows, lightning and tornadoes.