Street Photography Contest Guide
By Michael Ernest Sweet
When it comes to street photography contests, there certainly is no shortage of options to choose from. It seems like each passing week brings yet another contest to the table. In this article, I take a look at some of my top choices and evaluate them in terms of pros and cons. It should be noted, up front, that we (both streetphotography.com and myself) have no financial affiliation with any of these contests.
So, before I dig into the list, let me explain a few factors that will be considered when evaluating each of the options. I look at the price, prestige, ease of entering, past winners, judges and juries, potential exposure, as well as prizes and winnings. Other factors may come into play with certain organizations but these are the constants. Finally, it should be noted that I am a past or present judge with a couple of the organizations on the list. I have been a winner at a couple of others over the years. However, as stated earlier, I am in no position to benefit financially from promoting any of these contests. I am bringing them to you because I believe they are good places to submit work. It’s that simple. Now, let’s dig in!
dotART Urban Photo Awards – These awards are a good all around choice for a number of reasons. First, the prices, while higher than some, are a good value in my opinion. The winner’s prize package is valued at more than 1500 euros and the organization has a ton of media partners, which provides good exposure for the winner’s work. Also, there is good exposure and lesser prize packages for various runners-up. The jury is usually rather solid (I have sat on this jury in a number of years). Some big names always appear and there is good representation from around the globe. They also maintain a good virtual gallery and host a live event each year. This year Bruce Gilden will be president of the jury. Cons: There are not really a lot of cons with this one, except that the organization is a large one (indeed, they are international in scope) and they attract a high volume of entries. This means you will be up against a lot of good competition. The stakes are high, but so are the winnings.
Black and White Magazine – I mention Black and White magazine because they have been a constant in the photo content world for a long time. Of course, they only deal with black and white photography, but if that’s your thing then you are right at home with them. They run several different contests each year (be warned, a lot of lead time is necessary) a single image spotlight contest, a portfolio contest, as well as others like the “smartphone” contest, which is currently accepting images. Their contests are usually considered low cost, the current smartphone contest charges $20 to enter 4 photos. The potential gain with Black and White is enormous, as their magazine is print-based, widely subscribed and distributed, and printed at a stunning quality. You could do a lot worse than a B&W magazine prize! Cons: The only one that really comes to mind is the sometimes clumsy photo requirements, although they seem to have relaxed these guidelines lately.
F-Stop Magazine – Rather than a contest per se, F-Stop regularly puts out calls for submissions for their superb bimonthly online magazine. What I like about F-Stop is that it offers good exposure for winners and runners-up without any costs or photo requirement hassles. It’s a solid magazine with more than 100 back issues and they just let you submit easily. The submission process can seem intimidating at first glance, but it really is simple enough and it’s free! There are many opportunities with this magazine. You can place in a group exhibition or be a “featured” artist etc. F-Stop is a solid place to keep on your submissions list.
Life Framer – Life Framer is a solid choice for a few reasons. Perhaps the thing I like most about them is their subscription-based service. For about $100US per year, one can enter 12 monthly contests (many photos in each) and also develop a profile on their site, which they will host for you. The great thing about subscribing to the twelve monthly themed contests is that this will force you to not only submit regularly throughout the year but it will also force you to diversify what you submit. The jury at Life Framer is quite impressive with some of the past jurors being Martin Parr, Roger Ballen, Bruce Gilden, Steve McCurry and Philip-Lorca diCorcia. There is a 2000$ monthly prize, opportunities for exhibitions (if these still happen in the covid-era) in Paris, London, and Milan. I think Life Framer provides a lot of good exposure for the winners and runners-up. In this way, I don’t mind saying that it is good value for the money, despite the 3-digit price tag (remember this is an annual subscription). Cons: The only con I really have noticed about Life Framer is that some of their winning photos have been aesthetically suspect. In other words, I don’t feel they always select the best work. This is obviously subjective, so go and take a look-see for yourself.
All-About-Photo.com – All About Photo runs a solo online exhibition contest. Each month one winner is selected to have a “solo exhibition” on their site. I have to say, their site is stunningly beautiful and will do justice to any work selected to exhibit there. The contest is $45 to enter between 6 & 14 images. As far as online solo exhibits go (and keep in mind they will likely be here to stay) I think this one is quite legit. The potential exposure is enormous if their promo material is to be believed. I have no real hands-on exposure to this one, so keep that in mind. I simply think it is an attractive proposition at an affordable price. Getting to list a solo exhibition on your resume is a huge thing – virtual or not. Cons: Hands down the big con for this one is the jury. I could not find much information about who will actually be judging this work. Only one (unknown) name came up when I searched. They would do well to attract some better-known talent, as this does matter.
Kujaja – World-Street-Photography – WSP can be a great place to enter your photography. It is another one that is free. This organization is quite democratic in that they actively promote and support photography and photographers from all over the globe – literally. I was on the jury here for many years and the quantity of photography they receive is enormous. The talent and quality of the entries is all over the place from professionals to grandmothers with cell phones. WSP publishes an annual book, which is quite widely distributed. Exposure here is good. There are no cash prizes because there are no fees. Just enter and cross your fingers. No limit on the number of contests or photos you can enter either. Cons: The guy behind the operation has a day job and can only attend to this hobby so much. As a result, some things are not as polished as they could be. For a free contest, however, I think it is a solid operation. What do you have to lose?
Paid street photography contests have become a big business. As a result, things don’t run as fairly, smoothly, or simply as well as they did in bygone eras. Great work, alone, is, these days, a guarantee of nothing. Politics, money, and ego have blocked a lot of good photography from receiving its due. Additionally, given the sheer number of people who submit to online street photography contests, your entry will always be a kind of raffle ticket – your winning always bound up with a stroke of luck. That said, I think the above selection of places provide a great opportunity for most beginning street photographers to work at getting their photography noticed. I have some kind of connection to all of them and can honestly say I support their missions. Winning a photo contest won’t be easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is. Break a leg!