Top 10 Best Photography Awards In The World!

Top 10 Best Photography Awards In The World!

“And the award goes to…” Awards ceremonies are filled with moments like this. Few things give greater validation for artistic endeavors than awards. The best photography awards can also be used to increase exposure for a photographer’s work. 

Exposure doesn’t pay any bills, though. Paying work pays bills! However, the most prestigious awards in a field can actually benefit a photographer. We are mostly talking about awards with worldwide, meaningful exposure. Even local awards can help out. 

While I will never recommend doing work for “exposure” in lieu of real pay, submitting your art for a major award can be good for business. Plus, you get major bragging rights! So here are some of the most prestigious awards available to photographers!

Top 10 Best Photography Awards In The World!


1. International Photography Awards

International Photography Awards

With a statue nicknamed the Lucie, this award is open to professionals, amateurs, and students. It is an annual award that chooses three photographers as winners who will then get the opportunity to show off their work in a New York City exhibit.

That gallery exhibit generates a lot of exposure for the winners, but even before a final selection, a field of 45 photographers enjoys having their selections on display in galleries around the world as part of the contest. Photographers may enter more than one image, but entry fees apply to each image.

Up to $10,000 cash accompanies the award and the gallery exhibition. Created in 2003, the awards ceremony is held annually in December. 

Categories are Fine Art, Architecture, People, Nature, Advertising, Moving Images, Editorial, Event, Sports, Deeper Perspective, and a Special Category. In addition to those awards, IPA also hands out titles like Fine Art Photographer of the Year, Advertising Photographer of the Year, People Photographer of the Year, Editorial Photographer of the Year, Architectural Photographer of the Year, and Photography Book of the Year.


2. National Geographic Photo Contest

National Geographic Photo Contest

National Geographic has been the magazine that photographers want to published in for over 100 years. Getting published in NatGeo is an achievement of its own, and since 2006 there has also been an annual contest open to professional and amateur photographers in three categories each: People, Places, and Nature.

Getting published in National Geographic magazine brings a photographer lots of prestige, acclaim, and exposure, in addition to monetary compensation. Winning the annual award nets a cash award of $10,000, a part in the award ceremony in Washington DC, being published in the magazine as a winner, and all the exposure you can leverage out of this well known magazine.

Especially for nature, wildlife, and travel photographers, being recognized by the National Geographic Society and getting published cements a photographer’s brand name as being one of the best around. The competition is stiff, but the potential results could be life changing.


3. The Pulitzer Prize for Photography

The Pulitzer Prize for Photography

Winning a Pulitzer is a big deal. There are two photography categories, Feature photography and Breaking News. Not just anyone can be submitted for this award, a photographer has to be employed by a U.S. based media outlet. Several other categories, especially for printed works of journalism and other types of writing exist.

The Pulitzer Prize is the child of Joseph Pulitzer, an innovative and visionary newspaper publisher in the U.S.A. during the late 19th Century. He was a giant in the industry, owning several major newspapers, and he was a champion for the news media.

A person may submit their own work or someone may submit for them. A cash reward of $15,000 is included for the recipients. The award is annual, usually held in May.


4. Sony World Photography Awards

Sony World Photography Awards

Sony definitely has a stake in the world of photography. From taking over the Minolta line of digital cameras and lenses, to its partnership with Carl Zeiss for the lenses on their camcorders, Sony is a major player in photography and imaging.

Sony partners (since 2006) with the World Photography Organization to bring these awards each year. Competition is open in four levels: Professional – Recognizing outstanding bodies of work​, Open – Rewarding the world’s best single images, Youth – Best single images by photographers aged 12-19, and Student – For photography students worldwide.

While there is no straight up cash prize, photographers who win or are shortlisted will get the chance to experience the following: Possible inclusion in a number of international exhibits, Showcase their work in London’s Somerset House, Possibility of working with Sony and its partners on several projects, Works will be included in Sony’s World Photography Awards book. Pretty nice incentives.


5. The National Newspaper Award

The National Newspaper Award

The Canadian version of the Pulitzer, this award is open to photographers working for Canadian media outlets. The judging is done by selected Canadians with extensive media experience. From Canada. 

This competition was established in 1949. Prizes are allocated in 22 different categories, including arts and entertainment, beat reporting, and best news feature photo. So obviously with a heavy emphasis on photojournalism. 

No cash prizes are offered, but the National Newspaper Award is renowned as one of the most prestigious photography awards in the world. The awarding body encourages younger photo-journalists to participate and get recognition in the early stages of their career. In journalism, this kind of exposure actually does have real value, as it can result in assignments and positions at top media outlets.


6. British Photographic Portrait Prize

British Photographic Portrait Prize

Professional and amateur photographers can compete for this award established in 2003. Organized annually by the National Portrait Gallery in London, 60 photographs are selected for exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery between November and February. 

For a portrait photographer, that is quite the treat. Past winners, even non winning past exhibitors, have benefited greatly from the recognition this contest brings.

From that exhibition of 60, a shortlist of four photographers receive prizes of between £1,000 and £12,000.


7. The Premier International Travel Photography Awards

The Premier International Travel Photography Awards

The Travel Photographer of the Year (TPOTY) awards are run by photographers for photographers. Wherever you live in the world, and whether you are amateur or professional, beginner or expert, young or old, Travel Photographer of the Year is a competition open to you. There is even a category open for smartphone images.

Besides the exposure, there are some amazing prizes available, different each year depending on sponsors. Professional cameras and lenses from Fujifilm, trips to Norway with Hurtigruten, outdoor clothing from Páramo, exhibition prints from Genesis, Photo Iconic tuition, leather portfolio books from Plastic Sandwich, and even some cash prizes.

This is one of those contests that has exposure that will actually bring extra business to a photographer. Winners get fantastic exposure for their work, from international media coverage to being featured on the TPOTY website and in exhibitions, books, and merchandise. TPOTY sponsors have even helped negotiate usage fees for images which buyers have found through the awards.

Categories include travel, faces, wildlife and nature, festivals and events, and other things.


8. Monovisions Photography Awards

Monovisions Photography Awards

Black and White photography is a fabulous art form, this contest celebrates that. Amateurs and professionals, working in film or digital, can submit images in several categories. People, Landscapes, Abstract, Photojournalism, People, Fine Art, Architecture, Conceptual, Travel, Nature & Wildlife, Street Photography, Portrait, and Nude. Submit as single images or as a series.

Prizes are cash awards of either $2000 or $3000 and extensive media coverage from the sponsors involved. This contest is relatively new, beginning in 2014, but it has already gathered a lot of attention from aficionados of black and white photography.


9. Hamdan International Photography Award

Hamdan International Photography Award

This contest has the highest monetary award, $400,000, so competition is fierce. You really need to submit your A game, top drawer, best images. 

Founded in 2011 under the patronage of crown prince of Dubai sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid bin Mohammed al Maktoum, the purpose of this contest is to put Dubai in the league of top cultural cities in the world. A very worthy goal, since it increases appreciation for the art of photography and at the same time offers artists the opportunity to showcase their work with some of the best in the world.

Open to anyone in the world, at any level of skill, professional, amateur, student, whoever. The focus is on the quality and artistic merit of the image.


10. Proify International Photo Competition

Proify International Photo Competition

Categories are landscape, street, portrait, after dark, wedding, panoramic, retro, HDR, travel, drone, wildlife, and macro. 

The biggest difference in this contest from the others is that it is only open to photographers who make less than $20,000 from photography per year. What this means is that it’s for photographic enthusiasts more so than established professionals. Someone just starting out in the world of paid photography can use this contest as a jumping off point for a new career. 

Begun in 2013, this contest has rewards including generous cash awards and photographic equipment. The Proify Awards are dedicated to shining a spotlight on up and coming and undiscovered talent. 

The sponsors are interested in giving good talent their ‘big shot’ at becoming a working pro.


Why photography awards are important for photographers

Photography is a visual art. One way or another, a photographer gets paid for what is seen. Besides the client, others often see the finished work. When a photographer does an exceptional job, people do take notice. This can lead to new clients.

Visual advertising also helps a photographer be seen. Only the best images will get picked for an advertising campaign, regardless of the medium. Even when posting to social media, a photographer is wise to choose images that will receive praise, positive comments.

A prestigious award is already a wonderful validation of artistic merit. Those awards can also be used to get a photographer’s work noticed by more people. Besides whatever exposure international acclaim comes with it, the best photography awards are almost like the achievements section of a resume.

Let’s face it, brand names are important to some consumers. A decent handbag is nice to have, but there is a segment of purse consumers that will pay more for Coach or Gucci. Lots of manufacturers make good cars, but a Mercedes or Lexus is more expensive than some other brands for good reasons. And a segment of the market for automobiles will gladly spend extra for them.

A similar effect may occur for the winners of prestigious international awards. The brand of that particular photographer winning the award becomes the Coach bag or Mercedes sedan of their particular photographic genre.

Industry specific awards, national awards, even local awards may also be able to raise the value of a photographer’s brand. It depends on how well an artist leverages it.

Some awards may include a monetary prize. If used in the right way, the prestige and acclaim can result in raising the value of a photographer’s work. All of that is a bonus to the reward of being recognized for the award.


Other contests

There are a number of other contests, some international in scope, others more localized. Keep your options open. Entering a contest can be a great way to  gain recognition and the competition can improve the quality of your work.

Winning a world renown contest could change your professional life, giving your business just the boost you’ve been working for. Hard work, impressive skills, and fantastic images are what you need to succeed in the business of photography. The recognition and exposure of a major award can put your images, thus your business, above the rest.

If you are looking to improve your photography skills, you can check out my post on the top photography schools in the world and also some awesome online photography courses.

Here is a list of some of the best photography awards in the world. Also what type of photography is considered for that award and what the prize actually includes.