Travel Photography Contests With Low or No Entry Fees

Photo + Video + Film
by Lola (Akinmade) Åkerström Sep 12, 2009
Think you’ve got what it takes to win?
Monkey drinking Fanta, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

All photos by Lola Akinmade

If you’re a photographer building your online presence and are now regularly networking with other photographers to get crucial feedback and constructive criticism on various techniques, it’s probably time to begin thinking about contests.


Contests give you an assessment of how your photographs stack up against the competition as well as the visibility that comes with winning one.

A major downside is most competitions come with entry fees. Even well known contests from Photo District News (PDN) for professional photographers come with fees as high as $35 per photograph.

These costs usually go towards prize payouts, communication, marketing, and other administrative tasks.

For the hobbyist, this can be downright expensive and usually deters participation.

Other cons include rules that require photographers transfer all rights to the sponsor so always read the fine print as a few competitions may require this.

So we’ve rounded up a few popular contests that don’t require entry fees.


National Geographic’s Your Shot – Readers are invited to upload photos and every day, Photo Editor Susan Welchman picks her daily dozen. Each month, one of the submitted photos is selected for publication in the magazine – a much coveted opportunity.

Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest – Powerhouse Smithsonian runs a high visibility contest that awards winners of each category $500 with the grand prize being an all expenses paid trip.

Energizer Photo Contest – Administered by National Geographic, this is one of their free contests with the grand winner landing spots on NG Expeditions to places like Tanzania and publication in the magazine.

Nikon Photo Contest International – Nikon has been running this free contest since 1969, providing opportunities for amateur photographers to spotlight their work.

Sony Photo Awards – With a prize of $5000 and all expenses trip to Cannes going to the overall winner, this is another contest worth exploring.

Nothing like camera giants Nikon and Sony promoting your photography through live exhibitions and online.

Fresh M.I.L.K – A grand prize of $50,000 and no entry fees makes M.I.L.K one of the best free contests out there. 150 winners are also selected with prizes of $500 each, and all winning entries are published in one of their books with royalties doled out. This contest was launched in November 2008.

Pricey But May Be Worth It

International Photography Awards (IPA) – With a cash prize of $10,000 for the International Photographer of the Year award and $5,000 for the Discovery of the Year, this renown contest provides lots of categories and opportunities to win, but at $25 per photograph, is one of the priciest.

National Geographic Traveler’s World In Focus Contest – With entry fees upwards of $22 per photo after the promotional deadline of $12 per photograph, winners of this contest win exciting all expenses paid trips and some nice professional grade cameras.

Travel Photographer of the Year (TPOTY) – Usually touted as the Oscars or Emmys of Travel Photography, this may be worth considering. Keep in mind that the competition is fierce with established professional photographers usually sweeping all categories.

Winning one of these contests can definitely boost your portfolio and speed track your budding career as a travel photographer.

Community Connection

Know of other free contests worth entering? Please share them below

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