Does photo contests make sense in participating? – For Recognition

Absolutely. There is no better way to get instant world-wide recognition for what you do than to participate in photo contests. If the contest is an international one it gets you even more eyeballs.

Evaluating your Skills

Another reason for participating in a photography competition is that you can test your skills against some of the best photographers (amateur and professional) around the world. Additionally, there are no dearth of photo contests. There are competitions which even 12 year olds can participate. Thus, rest assured you will find competitions that is commensurate with your skill level.


Branding is yet another reason. A plaque or a trophy or even a magazine cover can go a long way to boost the morale of a young photographer and give him a good platform to brand him/herself. Winning prizes alone is not enough to run a successful photography business. You need good paying gigs and these international recognitions help a long way to convince prospective clients that the photographer they are about to hire is a capable one.

A round up of a few photo contests around the world

The following are details of some of the more popular photo competitions around the world. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list.

Sony World Photography Competitions

Held by the Sony World Photography Organizations, the competitions involve a variety of segments under which you can enter your photos. These are Professional, Open, Youth and Student Focus.

Sony World Photography Competitions


The first category, the topmost is the Professional. This segment is specifically for professionals. It is divided into 10 sub-categories which are judged by esteemed judges from the industry. This segment only accepts a body of work and is assessed as a whole. Participants have to submit a minimum of 5 images and a maximum of 10 images. These submissions have to be accompanied by a series description.

The second category is the Open one. This has a total of ten categories under it. You need to submit single images for these categories. The categories are Architecture, Culture, Enhanced, Motion, Nature, Wildlife, Portraits, Still Life, Street Photography and Travel. An individual photographer can enter up to 3 images under the Open category. These 3 images can be either under the same sub-category under Open Category or spread across 3 different sub-categories.

The third category is Youth. This category is open for photographers in the age bracket of 12 – 19. You can enter only a single image in the photo contests. The entry should be in response to a brief. This category is an attempt to identify and nurture the next generation of master photographers.

Sony World Photography Competitions

The final category is Student Focus and this one is exclusive to students of photography. Only students who are undertaking full-time courses on photography are allowed to take part in this competition.

The students of registered universities will be given a unique 1st challenge. They will have to come up with their submissions for the said challenge. Only one photograph will be allowed per student. Once the images are submitted 10 images will be shortlisted out of the submissions. Photographers of these 10 images will be given a second challenge to perform.


All the winners of the Professional, Open and other categories will be given free return tickets and accommodation in order to attend the ceremony in London where the winners will be felicitated. Apart from that cash awards, equipment giveaways and a chance to get exhibited at the Somerset House is also involved.

Sony World Photography Organization

The World Press Photo Contest

The annual World Press Photo contest, organized by the WPP Foundation, is a massive platform for press photographers and photo journalists the world over to showcase their work and to get recognized for the work they do. The sole objective of this competition is to encourage imagery that are true, factual and accurate depiction of the world we live in. The process of judging the entries to this competition is very tough.

The judges of this competition are all eminent photojournalists from around the world. The process of judging and the judges themselves are independent and beyond the influence of the Foundation.


Winners of the respective categories are invited (all expenses paid) to the World Press Photo Festival of Visual Journalism in Amsterdam to attend the award ceremony. Plus, the winning entries are arranged into a traveling exhibition that visits 45 countries. That means, if your image is a winner, it is likely to be seen by more than 4 million people around the world.

Additionally, the winning images are also published in the WPP Foundation yearbook. Available in multiple languages this yearbook is sold at the WPP stores.


There are a list of categories under which you can enter your images. These are – Contemporary Issues, Daily Life, General News, Long-Term projects, Nature, People, Sports and Spot News.

The World Press Photo Contest

In order to enter into the photo contests for 2018, your single images have to be shot within the calendar year 2017. Except Long-term Projects where the images must represent three different years at least. As a matter of fact you cannot enter single images under this category.

The World Press Photo Contest

For story entries under Contemporary Issues, Nature, People, Daily Life your images can be shot in 2017 and 2016. You can enter between 2 and 10 images for the Story entries. At least one of them must be shot in 2017 to be eligible for the 2018 competition.

Under the General News category single pictures or stories must be related to reportage work on topics that are related to news and the after effects of such incidents. If you love street photography then Daily Life is the segment that should interest you. Under this category you can enter images that are from everyday life. These images can showcase ordinary or extraordinary events that don’t find their way to the front page or even on the news at all.

The World Press Photo Contest

If landscapes or people are your thing you would find the categories – Nature and People to your liking. The WPP contests open some in December of each year and information can be achieved from the link given below.

The World Press Photo Contest


The Nikon Photo Contest

Since 1969 the Nikon Photo Contest is one of the most prestigious world photo contests in the world of photography. The competition looks to bring the world of photography under a single platform. It looks to provide a common platform for photographers to converge, convey and exchange ideas.

Nikon Photo Contest introduced two new categories on the Nikon 100th anniversary category. The first one is ‘Next Generation’. The Next Generation award has a theme – Future. This format allows both single photos as well as multiple photos. You can enter a maximum of five photos under this category. There are no restriction in terms of the equipment that you can use. The only restriction being you have to be under the age of 30 to be able to participate in this category.

The Nikon Photo Contest

The other being the Nikon 100th Anniversary Award. This is a special award the theme of which is Celebration. There are no age restrictions. However you can only use Nikon equipment. Additionally, only you can enter only a single image in the contest.

The regular category or the Open Award also had a theme Future for this year’s competition. Photographers could enter either a single photo or a photo story (comprising two or five images) as well as a video. There was no restriction to the use of equipment either. Additionally, there are no age restrictions either.

The Nikon Photo Contest

Prizes Given Away

Prizes for the Nikon Photo Contest are very lucrative indeed. First prize is a purse of 500,000 yen in cash, a brand new Nikon D5 and an AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR. Other categories and podium finishes also have lucrative cash and equipment prizes.

Apart from these participants had the opportunity to enter the Nikon Photo Contest Web gallery, the Nikon Photo Contest official Facebook, an entry into the official Instagram feed as well as entry into exhibitions at venues that are managed by Nikon.

Another lucrative branding exposure, for those who had participated in this year’s competition, is a chance to get featured in the Nikon calendar. This is open to all participants regardless of whether they win an award or not. This would be either for the 2018 or the 2019 calendar and only upon prior consent. That means you can opt out if you don’t want to (there is no reason why you would do that though). But imagine the kind of exposure you will have if you do decide to consent!

The Nikon Photo Contest


General guidelines for submitting to photo contests

The rules and regulations as well as the submission guidelines tend to vary from competition to competition. However, the general guidelines tend to hover around good common sense. You, however, need to check the submission guidelines of each competition you wish to participate.

All works you intend to enter to a photography competition should belong to you. By that I mean the rights to the photography should belong exclusively to you. You cannot enter the same photographs to more than one photo contests, either as a modified or edited version or without any modifications. E.g., the Nikon photography contest do not allow submission of photographs that were submitted to another photo contests or have won at other contests before.

There is a limit to the number of image that you can submit to each competition or each category. Usually this is 10. But that tend vary depending on the specific competition and the nature of the theme. There are some competition which will ask for photo stories and that will require that you submit a minimum of two and a maximum of around ten images.

Plus, there are certain photo contests that are open only to photographers under a specific age limit. There are others which only students of photography submit to. There are still others which are open to professional photojournalists only. You need to keep these in mind when submitting your images.

Some post-processing guidelines for submitting to photo contests

Very recently there have been a few incidents. Allegations and accusations against winning or shortlisted entries have marred photo contests. Winning images as well as shortlisted images accused of excessive post-processing beyond the acceptable threshold.

A case in the point is the World Press Photo of the Year back in 2012 by Paul Hansen of a Gaza Funeral Procession. The WPP Foundation had to ultimately enlist the help of forensic experts to determine whether the image was a composite. Though the image was not a composite, the photographer did do a liberal amount of post-production to the image.

Due to these unfair practices adopted by a few photographers, and the subsequent scandals, these photo contests have now adopted a tighter selection procedure as well as tighter scrutiny of the submissions.

In any ways you cannot employ any post-processing techniques that would fundamentally alter the nature of the photograph. You cannot remove elements from the image nor add them while post-processing. In the context of the above photograph the photographer had used processing techniques to make some areas darker than others and some areas brighter than normal.

This resulted in some major hue and cry forcing to the Foundation to rethink its processing guidelines as well as submission requirements.

Ben Novoselsky

CEO and Founder at
Entrepreneur, geek, photo enthusiast.
Ben Novoselsky

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