Applications Open for Smithsonian Magazine Annual Photo Contest

Carey Winfrey
Editor-in-Chief of Smithsonian magazine

Applications are open for photographers who are 18 years old or older from around the world to apply for the Smithsonian magazine 19th Annual Photo Contest.

Six contest categories drawn from subjects of special interest to Smithsonian magazine are available to enter as follows:

  1. Natural World: Animals, plants and landscapes; geological or climatological features; and scientific processes and endeavors.
  2. Travel: Locales, peoples or activities in the United States and abroad that convey a sense of place.
  3. People: Portraits and photos of groups or individuals.
  4. The American Experience: Events, objects or activities connecting the American people to their history or their cultural heritage; photographs that tell us what it means to be an American and provide a sense of what it is like to live in this country.
  5. Altered Images: Photographs manipulated for artistic purposes by applying digital and/or traditional special effects.
  6. Mobile: Any photograph taken with a mobile device (phone or tablet).

Eligible photographs for any category must have been shot by the entrant since January 1, 2019. This date applies to all images in a composite. The contestant certifies that he/she is the sole creator and copyright owner of the submitted photograph.

There will be Grand Prize, Readers’ Choice prize, Natural World, Travel, People, The American Experience, Altered Images and Mobile category prizes, all open to photographers who are at least 18 years old.

Photographs and requested information should be submitted online through the Smithsonian website at Applicants may submit up to 15 photographs per category for a contest total of 90 submissions and photographs must be submitted in .jpeg, .jpg or .gif format, edited for web in sRGB color space, at least 2,000 pixels wide and no larger than 10 MB. Applicants who want to enter into more than one category must complete a separate form for each photo submitted.

Entrants retain the rights to their photographs; however, by entering the contest, grant the Smithsonian Institution (and those authorized by the Smithsonian) a royalty-free, world-wide, perpetual, non-exclusive license to publicly display, distribute, reproduce and create derivative works of the entries, in whole or in part, in any media now existing or later developed, for any purpose, including, but not limited to, advertising and promotion of the magazine and its website, exhibition, and commercial products, including but not limited to Smithsonian Institution publications. Any photograph reproduced by the Smithsonian Institue will include a photographer credit as feasible. The Smithsonian Institution will not be required to pay any additional consideration or seek any additional approval in connection with such uses.

Eight prizes will be awarded, as follows: Grand Prize of $2,500; category winners of each of the six categories will receive $500; winner of the online Readers’ Choice award will receive $500.
Winners may receive additional non-cash prizes. Winners must sign a release and license, as well as a declaration of eligibility, and will be responsible for paying any fees or taxes associated with the prize. All prizes are awarded “as is” and non-transferable. In case applicable law prohibits the Smithsonian from awarding a photographer the cash prize and/or any non-cash prize, the Smithsonian may award the prize in name only.

The window for receiving applications is April 1, 2021 to November 30, 2021 by 5:00 PM Eastern Standard Time.

For full information about the contest and instructions on how to apply, please go to