Thursday, February 19, 2009

6 Photo Contests That Will Jumpstart Your Creativity

By DeeDee Dobson

Sometimes you need a little bit of a push to get creative with your camera. It's easy to get stuck in old habits, and having a goal in mind at the outset can sometimes bring out new ideas and unexpected insights. Entering photos in competitions not only gives you something to work towards, it might also bring you worldwide exposure (as well as more tangible rewards).

Below are 6 annual contests that will challenge your creativity and hopefully bring you worldwide recognition:

Leica's Newcomer Award For the past 30 years, the Leica Oskar Barnack Award (for pro photographers only) has honored outstanding photographers from all over the world as the winners of this prestigious contest. This year, they decided to add a new category, the " Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award", open to "prospective professional photographers" under the age of 26. To enter, submit a series of max 12 photos depicting "the interaction between man and the environment" on or before March 1. There is no entry fee, and the Newcomer Award is $2,500 Euros, and your work exhibited in Leica's online gallery.

International Photography Awards You're sure to find a category that suits your tastes in this contest: there are 8 main and 51 subcategories for amateurs, and 9 main and 63 subcategories for pros. The deadline is March 27, and the cost to enter is $25 for a single image, $50 for a series and $15 for each image after that (for amateurs). A jury picks 21 category winners, and prizes include cash ($10,000 and $5,000), exhibits of your work, Lucie statues, and the winner awarded the "Photographer of the Year" prize will also be featured in (and shoot part of) a Pilsner Urquell documercial in the Czech Republic!

Underwater Photo and Video Competition This competition is open to amateurs only, and if you enjoy diving and snorkeling, it's definitely one to put on your "submit list". There are 5 photo categories: Conservation, Majestic, Togetherness, Macro, and Wide Angle, and they are obviously looking for photos taken underwater. And check out the prizes: diving trips to the Solomon Islands, the Cayman Islands, Bonaire, Hawaii, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Honduras, hotel stays and dive packages in several different (exotic) locations, equipment, gift cards and much more. The entry fee is $10/image, and you can enter as many as you like. The Underwater Images competition is a non-profit corporation and all proceeds from this competition go to marine conservation, education, and scholarships, so this is money well spent. The deadline is April 1, but for an additional $5/image, you can enter as late as April 10.

National Wildlife Photo Contest This contest, held by the National Wildlife Magazine, is open to everyone over the age of 13, and divided into pro, amateur and youth divisions. (If you're not 13 yet, check out the Ranger Rick Photo Contest, held every three months). The 2009 deadline is July 20, and you can enter up to 20 photos. The entry fee is $15 (for all 20 pictures) and includes six issues of National Wildlife as well as a year-long membership in NWF. The categories this year are "Plant Life", "Birds", "Mammals", "Other Wildlife", "Connecting People & Nature", "Landscapes", "Backyard Habitats" and "Global Warming & Wildlife". Winners are awarded cash prizes, calendars, field guides and more.

World In Focus National Geographic's annual competition welcomes both amateurs and professionals, and you can enter your photos (as many as you want) in the following categories: Travel Portraits, Outdoor Scenes, Sense of Place, Spontaneous Moments, and Photo Essay. The deadline is usually in August or September (the date has not been announced for 2009 yet), and the cost to enter is $12/photo for amateurs. Past prizes have included trips to Antarctica and Chile, a cruise aboard the Maine Windjammer, photo workshops in Mexico, cameras and gear. You also get your images displayed on the National Geographic website and a gallery exhibit. I have to admit that competition here is always really stiff, but don't let that scare you - if you don't enter, you can't win!

Islands If you, like me, love to travel, you'll want to keep an eye out for the next annual photo contest by Islands Magazine. The deadline for 2009 was January 31st, so we missed that one, but on the upside, that gives you almost an entire year to travel and shoot in preparation for the next. Since they want island-based travel photos, that's a thoroughly enjoyable assignment if you ask me. The entry fee is usually $3/photo, and among the prizes this year were trips to Aruba, Oahu and Fiji! - 16651

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