What are Photography Competitions? Are they worth Entering?

Photography competitions are a great way to test your skills and get your career off the ground. They can provide exposure that will boost your credibility and may even lead to bookings or jobs. These competitions offer cash prizes and other awards so that you can showcase your best work to a broader audience. But is it worth spending your time and money entering all these competitions? Here’s a comprehensive post that will answer all your questions about photography competitions – from what they are to whether or not they’re worth entering. So read on to find out more.

What are photography competitions?

A photography competition is a public event during which photographers from around the world submit photographs (digital or printed photos) to compete for awards in various categories. These competitions can be regional, national, or international in scope. Many of these contests are free to enter, although some require entry fees for participation. 

There are different types of photography competitions, including photojournalism, landscape, portraiture, wildlife photography, and more. The best part about these competitions is that you don’t have to be a professional photographer to compete and get your work judged by professionals in the industry. With this, you can learn new techniques and improve your skills overall. 

Are photography competitions worth entering?

The benefits of entering photography competitions vary depending on your goals and experience. Undoubtedly, entering a photography competition can be a valuable way to improve your skills and build awareness of your work. But to make any competition worth your entry, you must first consider the incentive behind the contest you are looking to enter; that way, your choice will be those most aligned with your goals and how you want the judges to judge your work.

Some key benefits of participating in a photography competition include the following:

  • Becoming better acquainted with your work – A lot can happen during a photo contest process (from judging to the exhibition), and becoming more aware of what you’re good at and where you need improvement will help you develop your photography career.
  • Developing new techniques and skills – Although it’s essential to stick with styles or subjects that you know well, shooting for contests often forces you to try something new and explore different creative possibilities. This type of exposure can push you outside your comfort zone and help you develop new interests, and make you a better photographer overall.
  • Increasing business opportunities: Most contests offer cash prizes, making winning highly lucrative for amateur photographers looking to start their own photography business. Such opportunities increase your earning potential and open doors into prestigious industry events or circles where major clients are likely lurking around the corner.

While it is recommendable to participate in photography competitions, you must also understand what they entail. That way, you know what to expect at competitions to see if they are worthwhile. 

Should I pay to enter photography competitions?

Competitions are great room for opportunities to win prizes/awards. Running a professional photography contest with awards in cash and exhibitions costs money. The organizers of competitions require entry fees from the applicants to make the competition worthwhile. If you want to enter a photography competition with an entry fee, you should keep in mind that you are paying to get professionals in the field to look at your work and give an impartial judgment. You are also creating an opportunity to win amazing prizes for yourself.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as deciding whether to pay to enter photography competitions depends on your personal goals. It’s up to you to decide if paying to enter a contest is something that would be beneficial for your career. Most national, or international competitions require an entrance fee because there are more contestants, exhibitions, events, opportunities, and prizes. 

When Should I pay to enter a photography competition?

The competition you are paying an entry fee for must be worth your time, effort, skills, and money.  However, paying an entry fee doesn’t guarantee that a competition is legit. These guidelines will help you decide about photography competitions with entry fees:

  • Do research – Proper research will help you decide if a competition is worth your entry fee. Check the reputation of the brand organizing the contest. The sponsors, the qualifications of the judges, how well-known the contest organizers are, and how often the competition is held. Check out their website to see reviews and comments. You can also look up the previous winners and how they have advanced in their careers after winning. That way, you can be sure to get valuable feedback that will help you increase your skills; even if you don’t win a reward, you will have succeeded in getting experts in the field to look at your work. 
  • Read the terms and conditions – Entry fees vary depending on the contest level, so you must be comfortable with what you’ll be paying. A contest can demand full ownership of your photos; others may be as low as $20, while others might require hundreds or even thousands of dollars to judge your work fairly. Therefore, you should only pay for those you can afford so you don’t lose money and your photos. Ensure you understand the terms and conditions, so you do not feel exploited.

Once you have narrowed your decision down to a few contests that appeal to you most, go ahead and register, you won’t regret it. A competition offering a valuable prize and potential for opportunities is worth paying an entry fee for, and, who knows, you might be the lucky winner.

What do photo contest judges look for when assessing competition entries?

Photo contest judges look for various qualities when assessing entries, including creativity, originality, technical proficiency, and overall impact. However, one of the most important factors is how well the image communicates the photograph’s CONTENT. Judges are looking for photos that tell a story and capture attention quickly.

Before getting into a competition, be sure to include these key elements in your entries.

  • Presentation: The first impression you make is the only one you get. Ensure your image meets all entry requirements and is also the required size and quality.
  • Excellent Technique: refers to the approach used to create a quality image. The camera focus, adequate lighting, contrast and juxtaposition, capturing, presentation media, and more are all part of the technique involved in creating an image.
  • Overall Impact: This is people’s feeling when they first see an image. Your image should be compelling enough to evoke an emotion from the viewer. In other words, your image should be eye-catching.
  • Creativity: is how you use your lens to express an idea, message or thought uniquely. 
  • Topic and theme: make sure your photos conform to the style or theme of the contest. Your picture should relate to and interpret the contest’s theme regardless of how good it looks.
  • Pleasing Composition: all the elements of your photo should be in view. Everything in your picture should be balanced and visually appealing. The rule of thirds is a crucial compositional principle for taking well-aligned photos.
  • Subject Matter: having a clear subject will make your photo more appealing and easier to define. When creating an image, choosing a subject that relates to the topic or story is essential.
  • Attractive Lighting: this is how you position the light source ( artificial or natural) to your subject. Ensure your light source works well with your subject matter. 

It’s essential to do your research before entering a competition to know the requirements and how best to prepare for the contest.

What is the most prestigious photography award?

There are many prestigious photography awards, but which is the most coveted?

Prestigious photography awards all depend on the field. There are awards at the national and international levels for different specialties. 

The Sony World Photography Awards: is one of the most prestigious photography awards. It has four competitions depending on your skill level (the professional, open, youth, and student competitions). No entry fee is required, and it offers a top prize of $25,000. The categories for the professional competition are documentary, wildlife & nature, architecture & design, creative, environment, landscape, portraiture, portfolio, still life, and sport.

Some other well-known photography competitions are the IPA or International Photography Awards, the Monovisions Photography Awards, the National Geographic Photo Contest, and the Pulitzer Prize for Photography.

Therefore, if your goal is to become a successful photographer with any of these prestigious awards, you need to invest time and effort into becoming genuinely excellent at what you do. And that starts with mastering photography basics like exposure and composition – fundamentals that will help you produce winning photographs every time.

How do I find photography competitions worth entering? Where do I look?

Selecting the best photography contests out of so many available can be challenging. Several online resources can help you find the right competition for your style and skill level.

First, look at online directories like Flickr and 500px and websites like expert photography. These websites contain a wide range of worldwide photography competitions, so you’re sure to find something perfect. Additionally, you can gain meaningful exposure and discover and share incredible photos on these websites.

Secondly, check out online review sites like Camera World or Photography blogs. These sites offer expert opinions on camera lens announcements, photo editing software updates, and more. You can gain great inspiration and improve your skills by reading blog posts about photography techniques. Reading reviews by people with experience in similar genres as yours will help you become better equipped to make an informed decision about which competition is right for you.

How can I learn to be a good photographer?

The best way to learn photography depends on your skills and interests. You need to have a strong eye for detail. You must be able to see the beauty in everything around you and use your camera lens to capture it. Secondly, you need to understand light and how best to use it. Understanding how exposure works will help you get the perfect shot every time. 

Finally, photography is all about composition – knowing where each element should go on the frame in order not only to create beautiful photos but also to tell a story. With these basics under your belt, there’s no stopping your photographic journey.

Some tips that may be helpful include:

  • Take time to learn how to operate your camera’s manual settings and lenses
  • Read online photo tutorials.
  • Take beginner photography classes, or subscribe to professional photo-sharing services. 
  • Get inspired by other photographers’ work by joining photography communities like social media groups, forums, etc.
  • Frequently take photos and be creative – don’t just shoot standard, snapshot-style photos.
  • Practice makes progress, don’t be afraid to experiment – try shooting in different light conditions and using different camera settings to see what works best for you.


Sometimes being creative can be a catalyst for great discoveries. Entering competitions such as photography contests can help you do that and connect with like-minded people in the field. 

So, are you ready to join some photo contests? Remember that you need to follow the rules and deadlines properly.  If you do not comply with the requirements, your entry may not be accepted. So, practice patience and follow all the guidelines before submitting your entries.

Check out our curated list of photography events with prizes (both free and paid).