Smithsonian Photo Contest

Smithsonian Photo Contest

Deadline: November 30, 2020
Entry Fee: Free
Prizes: $500, $2,500

Over the last 17 years, readers have submitted more than 470,000 images to Smithsonian’s annual photo contest. These photos have transported us to the far corners of Earth, captured spectacular, split-second moments and introduced us to fascinating people and unique landscapes.

Smithsonian magazine 18th Annual Photo Contest begins March 31, 2020, and ends November 30, 2020, at 5:00 PM Eastern Standard Time.

Who may enter

The Grand Prize, Readers’ Choice prize, Natural World, Travel, People, The American Experience, Altered Images and Mobile category prizes are open to photographers who are 18 years old or older.

What to enter

The following six contest categories are drawn from subjects of special interest to Smithsonian magazine:

  • Natural World
    Animals, plants and landscapes; geological or climatological features; and scientific processes and endeavors.
  • Travel
    Locales, peoples or activities in the United States and abroad that convey a sense of place.
  • People
    Portraits and photos of groups or individuals.
  • 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.
  • Altered Images
    Photographs manipulated for artistic purposes by applying digital and/or traditional special effects.
  • Mobile
    Any photograph taken with a mobile device (phone or tablet).

To be eligible for any category, a photograph must have been shot by the entrant since January 1, 2018.

You may submit up to 15 photographs per category for a contest total of 90 submissions.


Photo entries will be judged based on creativity, quality, originality, responsiveness to the prompt and overall impact.

The Smithsonian will select 10 finalists per category, a winner for each category, and a Grand Prize winner from the 60 finalists. The 60 finalists will be notified of their status and appear on our website in March 2021.


  • Grand Prize: $2,500.
  • Category Winners: The winners of each of the six categories will receive $500.
  • Readers’ Choice: The winner of the online Readers’ Choice award will receive $500.
Enter Contest


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