You’ve spent a lot of money on digital cameras, lenses, lights, memory cards, instruction books, and classes. Isn’t it time your photography hobby repaid the favor? The online photo community is filled with amateur competitions that award prizes for the most creative and crowd pleasing images. Here are five competitions for a range of styles and skill levels. Each site has a distinct personality and it shows in their winning images—some like it hip and artistic, while others prefer classic, straight shots. All of these contests are all free to enter, but most require some type of registration to help cut down on vote fraud.
For all online contests, it’s important to read the fine print, especially when it comes to copyrights and obscure rules that could disqualify your photo (having a brand name appear in your image, for example). Most legitimate photo contests allow you to retain all rights to your images, but they can still use them for promotional purposes.
The Prizes: Getting published! There are no fancy cash prizes or free goods in these contests. For most photographers, seeing their image in print and on a newsstand is an impressive reward on its own.
Canon’s Photography in the Parks
The Prizes: The grand prize is a doozy—a week-long vacation for two to a national park, and Canon equipment worth $4,400, including an EOS 5D Mark II. First, second, and third prize winners will all take home a few thousand dollars worth of cameras, accessories and printers, and a PowerShot G10 will go to honorable mention winners.
The Prizes: A rotating cast of Samsung digital cameras.
Popular Photography Magazine
The Prizes: If your photo is selected for first place you will receive $300; $200 for second; $100 for third; and $50 for honorable mentions.
(Another magazine with good, regular contests is Digital Photo Magazine. Currently they’re giving away prizes like a DSLR camera and $1,500.)
The Prizes: This month it’s a free copy of Adobe Lightroom 2.