Smithsonian magazine 21st Annual Photo Contest begins September 7, 2023, and ends November 30, 2023, at 5:00 PM Eastern Standard Time. By submitting an entry, each contestant agrees to the rules of the contest and states that he or she is 18 years old or older.
Who may enter:
The Grand Prize, Readers’ Choice prize, Natural World, Travel, People, The American Experience, Artistic Images and Drone/Aerial category prizes are open to photographers who are 18 years old or older. Individuals affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, including employees, emeriti, Regents, trustees, interns, volunteers, fellows, research associates and their immediate families (children, parents, siblings and spouses) and others living in their households are not eligible for any prize. The Smithsonian will determine winners’ eligibility in its sole discretion.
What to enter:
The following six contest categories are drawn from subjects of special interest to Smithsonian magazine:
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. Artistic Images: Visuals that use photography as a creative and imaginative platform to express an idea or concept. These images can be manipulated in any method, either through photo editing software or other techniques.
6. Drone/Aerial: Any photograph captured using an unmanned aerial vehicle, commonly known as a drone. Images shot from planes/helicopters are also accepted.
To be eligible for any category, a photograph must have been shot by the entrant since January 1, 2020. 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.
Cropped photos are eligible in all categories. Minor adjustments, including the removal of sensor dust or scratches on scans of negatives, dodging and burning, sharpening, contrast, toning, slight color adjustment and conversion to grayscale are acceptable for all categories. The addition and subtraction of objects is not permitted except in the Artistic Images category. If the judges determine that a photographer has altered his or her photo beyond normal photojournalism best practices, they reserve the right to move the photo to Artistic Images or to disqualify it. Image composites including HDR and stitched panoramas will be judged as Artistic Images. Images generated using Artificial Intelligence (AI) are not permitted.
For a photo in which a person is recognizable, you must be prepared to provide a model release from the subject or, in the case of a minor, the subject’s parent or guardian, to the Smithsonian upon request. A sample model release is available here.
Similarly, entrants whose photos depict other people’s work (such as sculptures, statues, paintings, and other copyrightable works) must be prepared to provide a release from the rights holder to the Smithsonian upon request. When photographing the work of others, it must be as an object in its environment and not a full-frame close-up of another person's creation. A sample art release is available here.
If the entrant is unable to provide all required releases, the Smithsonian in its sole discretion reserves the right to disqualify the submission, seek to secure the required releases, or permit the submission to remain in the contest.
Photos must be taken in accordance with federal, state and local laws.
Photos that violate or infringe upon another person's rights, including but not limited to copyright, are not eligible.
Photos that contain sexually explicit, nude, obscene, violent or other objectionable or inappropriate content, as determined by the Smithsonian in its sole discretion, are ineligible for all categories of this contest.
Entrants must disclose the circumstances under which an image was captured as well as any instructions given to a subject.
The welfare of a subject and its environment must be placed ahead of the desire to capture a photograph. Upon entering the contest, entrants certify that subjects were treated with respect and dignity, and that no people, wildlife or the environment were harmed in creating a photograph.
If baiting was used to attract wildlife, or special equipment such as camera traps and drones used to capture the photograph, this must be disclosed. Live baiting of wildlife is not permitted.
How to Enter:
Please submit photographs and requested information online through our website at smithsonianmag.com/photocontest. You may submit up to 15 photographs per category for a contest total of 90 submissions. In order to be displayed in our online gallery without being stretched or distorted, 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. You must complete a separate form for each photo submitted.
We do not accept photographs submitted through the mail and do not accept more than one contestant per e-mail address. High-quality scans of non-digital photographs are acceptable. Digital photographs should be taken at the highest resolution possible.
Finalists must be prepared to submit an original, unedited digital file or an original negative, print or slide. Original negatives, prints or slides will be returned to finalists. The Smithsonian Institution reserves the right to disqualify incomplete entries and/or contestants who are unable to submit, upon request, a high-resolution photograph of at least 300 dpi at 3,000 pixels on the longest side or an original photo negative, print or slide. Mobile photographs are exempt from this size requirement but must be submitted at their highest resolution upon request.
The Smithsonian may collect a photograph’s metadata upon entry.
You retain your rights to your photograph; however, by entering the contest, you 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 (this includes any sales of products utilizing the photograph), including but not limited to Smithsonian Institution publications. Any photograph reproduced 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.
Use of your personal data:
Participation in the contest requires the collection of your name and email address. By entering this contest, you are consenting to the use of your name and email address for further communications regarding this contest. To access our privacy statement, click here.
The contest begins on September 7, 2023. All entries must be received through Smithsonianmag.com by 5:00 PM Eastern Standard Time on November 30, 2023.
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 2024. At that time, the public can vote on our website for the Readers’ Choice winner from among the 60 finalists. The Readers' Choice winner, Grand Prize winner and category winners will be revealed online in spring 2024. These dates may be subject to change.
The Smithsonian will notify winners via the contact information provided at the time of entry; the Smithsonian may disqualify anyone who fails to respond to the notification within five business days.
Please do not contact us about the status of entries or judging.
Eight prizes will be awarded, as follows:
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.
One cash prize per person; 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 Smithsonian may select photos for highlight on its website or display in a publicly accessible contest archive. Such selections will be made in the Smithsonian’s sole discretion.
Conditions of Entry:
All entrants hold the Sponsors and their respective regents, directors, officers, employees, emeriti, fellows, interns, research associates, and volunteers (the “Indemnified Parties”) harmless from and against all claims of any nature arising in connection with entrant’s participation in the contest and acceptance or use of a prize. The Indemnified Parties are not liable for any costs, damages, injuries, or other claims incurred because of entrants’ participation in the contest or winner’s acceptance and usage of a prize. The Indemnified Parties are not responsible for incomplete or misdirected entries, technical or network malfunctions or failures, or causes beyond their control. Entrants are solely responsible for their entries. Entrants may not submit materials that introduce any software viruses, worms or other programs designed to damage software, hardware or telecommunications equipment or are off-topic, partisan-political, contain advertising, nudity, personal attacks or expletives, or is otherwise abusive, threatening, unlawful, harassing, discriminatory, libelous, obscene, false, sexually explicit, or that infringes on the rights of any third party.
The contest is void where prohibited or restricted by law. The Smithsonian reserves the right to cancel the contest or modify these rules at its discretion. In the event of a dispute regarding the winners, the Smithsonian reserves the right to award or not award the prizes in its sole discretion. The Smithsonian reserves the right to disqualify any entrant whose entry or conduct appears in any way to: inhibit the enjoyment of others; tamper with the competition; violate these rules or other applicable law or regulation; infringe on the rights of third parties; or act in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner. Decisions of the Smithsonian are final and binding.
Last updated: September 2023.