Oliver Atwell rounds up some of the most popular and interesting photography competitions open to UK-based photographers
There are many ways in which a photographer’s work can get out into the wider world. Platforms like Facebook and Flickr offer not just the ability to instantly upload your images, but can also guarantee instant responses from peers.
But while sharing images in this way can be a satisfying experience, it doesn’t quite carry the weight of having your images judged as part of a photography competitions.
Entering such a competition means that your photographs will more often than not be judged by a panel of experts and can lead to the kind of exposure that most photographers can only dream of. Then there’s the little matter of prizes.
There is a variety of photography competitions that run both nationally and internationally, but working out which one is right for you is crucial. All photography competitions will be very clear about what the judges are looking for, so any images you enter must fit the theme perfectly.
Therefore, before you start, make sure that you understand the terms and conditions. Every photography competition has its own requirements (file size, subject, number of images that can be entered, and so on), so make sure you read the small print. In fact, there is quite a lot of homework to do before entering any competition. Remember, though, that taking part in competitions should be fun, and is a great way to see what everyone else is up to with their images.
Here follows a selection of current and upcoming competitions. Take a look and give it a try. Good luck!
Photography competitions open this year:
Amateur Photographer of the Year
Prizes: Various Samsung cameras, lenses and other kit for first and second place in each of the ten rounds, and a £250 Jessops gift card for third place. Prize of £5,000 worth of Samsung kit to overall winner
Deadline: 28 September for round 8, Wildlife at Home and Abroad
This year’s Amateur Photographer of the Year competition is run by Amateur Photographer magazine, in association with Samsung and Jessops. Held over ten monthly rounds from February till November, prizes are awarded to the winners of each round, with a final prize for the overall winner of the competition. It is open to all amateur photographers and each month’s round follows a distinct theme, such as Water in the Landscape.
Judges are looking for original, imaginative and technically well-executed images that explore the theme in an exciting way. The entries are narrowed down to a shortlist of 50, and points are awarded for creativity, technical excellence and how well the image fulfils the brief. The three images with the most points win the top three prizes for that round and the top 30 highest-scoring images are published in the magazine at the end of the month. The person with the most points after the final round will be crowned Amateur Photographer of the Year. There is still time to enter this year’s APOY and get your images in for October. The theme is Wildlife at Home and Abroad.
Great British Insect photography competition
Frequency: Every two years
Prizes: Under 18: Olympus digital SH-25MR camera and £300; 18 years and over: Olympus photographic equipment to the value of £500 Deadline: 31 October 2012
Insect life offers ample opportunity to produce fascinating and diverse images. Photography can teach us much about these creatures and the National Insect Week’s Great British Insect photography competition does much to assist this. This year’s theme is Great British Insects. As well as the two main categories (Under 18 and 18 years and over), there is the Riverfly Competition, sponsored by the Riverfly Partnership, with a first prize of £500 cash. The first-prize winners will have their images published in the Royal Entomological Society’s bulletin Antenna.
Epson International Photographic Pano Awards
Prizes (in 2012): Total prize pool of $31,000, with first prizes of $1,000 cash plus Epson products in Open, Amateur and VR/360 awards
Deadline: Opens January 2013 and closes June 2013
This competition is home to some of the most impressive panoramic images from around the world. There were three sections in 2012, for Open, Amateur and VR/360 awards. The Open and VR/360 awards are open to all professionals, amateurs and students. The idea is to produce an image with a wide-aspect ratio along the theme of either ‘Nature’ or ‘The Built Environment’ for the Open and Amateur awards. The VR/360 is an open category. Entries are judged by a group of experts, with each entry awarded a number of points.
This year’s open winner was Craig Bill from the USA, whose stunning panoramic image of a lightning storm (see above) stood out among the 3,853 entries from 55 countries. There is an entry fee of $18-$20 for individual images, but considering the wealth of prizes on offer it’s a small price to pay.
My Pretty Big Dog
Prizes: A variety of toys and products for your dog
Deadline: Last day of every month
We’ve all taken photos of our pets, but here’s an opportunity to actually do something with those shots. This competition has a bias towards dogs of the larger variety (take a look at the Browse by Breeds section of the site to see if your dog qualifies) and is divided into three categories: Big Puppy (under the age of one year); Big Dog (between the ages of one and seven) and Big Veteran (seven years and older).
Judges are looking for creative composition, facial expression, pose and overall cuteness. If you’re a dog lover, this is definitely one to enter.
International Garden Photographer of the Year
Prizes: (in 2012): A range of prizes depending on category, with £5,000 awarded to International Garden Photographer of the Year and £500 for best in each category
Deadline: Opens March 2013 and closes November 2013
Take a stroll through any garden and you’ll soon see that there is a whole world of opportunity to take stunning photographs (take a look back at our Macro in the Garden special issue, AP 16 June). Your very own back garden is home to countless plants and insects, all of which can make for great images.
IGPOTY is a great competition to enter and is home to some truly impressive work. There are a variety of categories to enter, with one finalist winning the title of International Garden Photographer of the Year, and one under-16 finalist winning Young Garden Photographer of the Year. The judges will select around 100 finalists whose photographs will be printed to exhibition standard and displayed at major shows, with substantial press coverage. The competition is also a good way to receive feedback about your work.
Shoot the Face
Prizes: Range of prizes for the winner, including $300
Deadline: End of the month
Taking someone’s picture is so much more than just pointing a camera at them and tripping the shutter. There’s much to consider, including location, lighting, clothing and the character of your subject. Just take a look at the many entries to this competition to see how seriously diverse portrait photography can be.
Shoot the Face is a relatively new photographic competition and one that offers the opportunity for photographers to showcase their portrait skills. It’s open to professionals and amateurs from all over the world. You are free to enter one or multiple images. Images will be considered by a panel of judges who are looking for emotion, power, creativity, skill and originality.
Renaissance Photography Prize
Prizes (in 2012): Overall winner receives £3,000 and the winner of each individual category receives £500
Deadline: Opens December 2012
Many of us have been affected by cancer, whether it’s through our own illness or that of a loved one. This competition offers a platform to express these moments of your life. Founded by lawyer and keen amateur photographer Fiona Gifford in 2007, the Renaissance Photography Prize aims to raise money to support young women with breast cancer.
Entrants are asked to express, photographically, the ways in which they have been affected by cancer. There are five categories: Environment, Expression, Memory, Perspective and Disorientation. Visit the categories page for some tips and ideas on how to interpret these themes. Examples of (2012) entry fees are £15 for a single entry, or £40 for up to six entries. Not only will your work be seen and judged by some of the top names in photography, but all the entry fees are donated to the Lavender Trust at Breast Cancer care.
Terry O’Neill/Tag Award
Prizes: 1st prize £3,000, 2nd prize £1,000, 3rd prize £500
Deadline: 22 November 2012
The Terry O’Neill/Tag Award is one of the most valued and sought-after awards in contemporary photography. The award was established in 2007 by fashion photographer Terry O’Neill as a way to discover and create a platform for up-and-coming talent in the photography scene. This is an open competition, so there is no limit to the photographic styles that can be entered, with fine art, reportage, fashion, documentary, landscape wildlife and portraiture all accepted.
A minimum of three pictures must be entered, and there is a maximum of six. The entrance fee is £5 for students and £7 for non-students per image submitted. The judges are looking for the strongest series of work and the strongest narrative.
Sony World Photography Awards
Prizes: Open: $5,000 and Sony camera equipment for overall winner, with Sony camera equipment for each category winner, plus other prizes
Deadline: 30 November 2012 for Student Focus; 4 January 2013 for Open, 3D and Youth; 9 January 2013 for Professional
The Sony World Photography Awards is one of the world’s largest photographic events. To enter the awards you must first register for Free membership, Advanced membership (£14.95) or Premium membership (£49.95), with each package offering different levels of entry to the competitions and benefits.
There are five competitions for 2013, comprising Open (amateurs and enthusiasts), Professional, Youth (aged 19 and under), 3D and Student Focus. The Open competition consists of ten categories, including Architecture, Low Light, Panoramic, Split Second and Travel. The winner of the Open competition wins the title Sony World Photography Awards Open Photographer of the Year plus $5,000. All winning images will be showcased in a London exhibition and a winners’ book.
Take a View – Landscape Photographer of the Year
Prizes (in 2012): Top prize of £10,000 for the overall winner and a range of prizes for each category
Deadline: Opens April 2013
Landscape is arguably one of the most popular genres of photography, and this competition has been established to celebrate the rich and diverse lands that we find ourselves surrounded by every day.
Take a View was set up by celebrated landscape photographer Charlie Waite and is divided into two main classes, the Landscape Photographer of the Year Award and the Young Landscape Photographer of the Year Award, the latter for photographers who are 16 or under. There are four categories within each of the two classes and up to 25 images per person may be entered. The total prize fund is worth £20,000, plus there’s an eight-week exhibition at the National Theatre and the publication of a full-colour book of the best entries.
Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Prizes: Young section: £500 for each category winner, £1,000 plus a masterclass with a leading nature photographer for the overall winner;
Adult section: £1,000 for each category winner, £1,500 for each special award winner, £10,000 for the overall winner
Deadline: Opens 17 December 2012 and closes 22 February 2013
This competition is now in its 48th year and still acts as a major showcase for some of the most impressive nature photography from around the world. The competition is run by two leading institutions – the Natural History Museum and BBC Worldwide – and is open to both amateurs and professionals. But be careful: only subjects that are living a free and wild existence will be accepted. That rules out any images of captive life.
There is a one-off registration fee of £20 for adult entries that allows entry of up to 20 images (the Young section is open to anyone aged 17 years or under and is free to enter). There are various categories in the Adult section, including Botanical Realms and Urban Wildlife, and three age groups (15-17 years, 11-14 years and 10 years and under) in the Young section.
The 2011 winner was Daniel Beltrá, who produced a thought-provoking and topical image of pelicans covered in crude oil. The winner of the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year was Mateusz Piesiak from Poland, who photographed a pair of American oystercatchers on a beach in Long Island, New York.
Wanderlust Travel Photo of the Year
Prizes: Trip to Papua New Guinea (Amateur), £3,000 (Portfolio)
Deadline: 18 October 2012
It’s impossible to resist the urge to take photographs on holiday. The winning entries of the Wanderlust Photo of the Year competition are a good source of inspiration to show you how to take standout images, but it’s also a competition worth considering if travel photography is high on your list of favourite hobbies.
Amateur photographers can enter up to four images free of charge to be in with a chance of winning a trip to Papua New Guinea, while both amateurs and professionals can enter the Portfolio competition (£10 entry fee for five photos) with the top prize of £3,000. Both Amateur and Portfolio awards have People, Wildlife, Landscape and Travel Icons categories.
A shortlist of entries will be on show at the Destinations 2013 Travel Show in London, where the winners will be announced. If you’re looking for some tips, there’s an excellent set of articles on the wanderlust.com website written by expert Steve Davey.
Terms and conditions
We said in the introduction that it is important to read the brief of a competition very carefully to ensure your picture fits what the organisers are looking for. What may not be so obvious is to read the detailed fine-print terms and conditions to find out what the organisers expect to be able to do with your pictures. Some competitions are set up solely as a cheap way for a company to establish a picture library, and by entering the competiton you give up all rights of ownership. Be careful to read the terms and conditions before you enter.
Increasing your chances
You may stand a better chance of winning competitions by entering lesser-known ones, or ones that take a lot of effort or cover an unusual subject matter, where there are fewer entries.