The Most Prestigious Photography Awards Out There

Top Lists, Photography

June 24, 2020

Celebrating one's determination, dedication, passion, and skills, awards are often regarded as the highest form of validations. For many photographers, receiving a prestigious prize from respected photography organizations or groups is a way to accelerate their careers or acknowledge their career-long accomplishments.

Although there are many photography awards out there, there are some who are considered a cut above the rest due to their credibility and the level of professionalism. If you are a photographer, here are some of the most prestigious international photography awards you should watch out for.

Featured image: Peter Gail, AP representative, receives the Golden Eye Award on behalf of Nick Ut from Ivo Samkalden, Mayor of Amsterdam, Amsterdams Historisch Museum, 4 April 1973, via Creative Commons.

Sony World Photography Awards

Created in partnership with Sony, the Sony World Photography Awards has been one of the world's leading international photography awards for the past 13 years. A global voice for photography that provides a vital insight into contemporary photography today, it consists of four competitions: Professional, recognizing outstanding bodies of work, Open, rewarding exceptional standalone images, Student, awarding students from academic institutions, and Youth, celebrating the best single images by emerging photographers aged between 12-19 years-old.

Open for any professional photographer and always free to enter, the competition covers a range of categories, from architecture, documentary, landscape, portraiture, sport, street photography, wildlife, travel, future and more. The total prize fund of $60,000 (USD) plus the latest Sony digital imaging equipment are shared between the winning photographers.

Among the artists who have won the competition are Alys Tomlinson, Edgar Martins, Kei Nomiyama, Andrea Gjestvang, Natalia Wiernik, and John Moore. The Awards also recognize the world’s most influential artists working in the medium through the Outstanding Contribution to Photography award, including Mary Ellen Mark, Elliott Erwitt, Martin Parr, William Eggleston, Candida Höfer and, most recently, Nadav Kander.

Featured image: Esposito Salvatore - The Sails © Esposito Salvatore, 2014 Sony World Photography Awards, via Jordi Bernabeu Farrús.

The National Geographic Photo Contest

The National Geographic Photo Contest features images created by photographers from around the world, sharing visions that inspire, inform, and awe. Among the most prestigious awards, it invites international photographers to share their stunning travel experiences from around the globe, showing people, places and cultures. The grand prize winner receives $7,500 and their winning image is featured on the competition's Instagram account. Individual category prizes include first place winners who receive $2,500, second place winners who receive $1,500 and third place winners who receive $750.

Among 2019 winners are Weimin Chu, Jassen Todorov, Sandipani Chattopadhyay, Junhui Fang, Tamara Blazquez Haik, and Danny Sepkowski. 

Featured image: Photograph By Sergio Tapiro Velasco, 2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer Of The Year Contest. Courtesy The National Geographic Photo Contests.

Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize

One of the most prestigious international awards in the world of photography, the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize is awarded annually to a living professional of any nationality who has made the most significant contribution, either through an exhibition or publication, to the medium of photography in Europe in the previous year.

Set up in 1996 by The Photographers’ Gallery in London, the competition made a collaboration with Deutsche Börse in 2005, who has been a sponsor of the £30,000 award since. Each year, the award assembles a new international jury of experts to select four photographers for the finalists’ exhibition, finally choosing the winner from this group of finalists.

The four artists shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2020 are Mohamed Bourouissa, Anton Kusters, Mark Neville and Clare Strand, each offering very distinctive approaches to the photographic medium whilst demonstrating its ability to accommodate and give form to a diverse range of practice and concerns.

Featured image: Mark Neville - Parade #7, 2019 © Mark Neville. Courtesy of Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize.

World Press Photo

Each year, World Press Photo recognizes and celebrates the best visual journalism produced over the last year through the Photo Contest and Digital Storytelling Contest. While The World Press Photo Contest rewards a photographer for the best single exposure picture contributing to the past year of visual journalism, The Digital Storytelling Contest recognizes and rewards forms of visual storytelling enabled by digital technologies.

The World Press Photo Contest covers eight categories - Contemporary Issues, Environment, General News, Long-Term Projects, Nature, Portraits, Sports and Spot News, and awards €10,000 to each winner through the World Press Photo of the Year and the World Press Photo Story of the Year. The prize-winning photographs are assembled into an exhibition that travels to 50 countries and published in a yearbook available in multiple languages.

The Digital Storytelling Contest awards visual stories in three categories - Interactive, Long and Short, awarding the nominees with the World Press Photo Interactive of the Year and the World Press Photo Online Video of the Year, each being €10,000.

Featured image: Peter Gail, AP representative, receives the Golden Eye Award on behalf of Nick Ut from Ivo Samkalden, Mayor of Amsterdam, Amsterdams Historisch Museum, 4 April 1973, via Creative Commons.

Hasselblad Award

Considered the most prestigious in the world, The Hasselblad Award is awarded to a photographer recognized for major achievements, whether being an individual who has made pioneering achievements in photographic art, who has had a decisive impact on younger generations of photographers, or who has realised several internationally significant photographic projects and continued to develop artistically. It was founded in 1980 and it is presented annually since then, with the exception of 1983.

Each year, three to five nominees are being selected by an award committee of internationally prominent experts and scholars in photography and the winner is selected by the Foundation’s board of directors. The competition awards SEK 1,000,000, a gold medal and a diploma and the winner's work is being shown in an exhibition at the Hasselblad Center.

The winner of the 2020 award is Alfredo Jaar, the photographer who explores complex socio-political issues, bringing to the fore the ethics of representation.

Featured image: Alfredo Jaar - A Logo for America, 1987. Courtesy of Hasselblad Award.

Prix Pictet

Founded in 2008 by the Pictet Group, the international photography award Prix Pictet seeks to harness the power of photography to draw global attention to issues of sustainability, especially those concerning the environment. Evolving into the world’s leading award for photography and sustainability, it has so far covered eight themes - Water, Earth, Growth, Power, Consumption, Disorder, Space andHope.

Entry to the award is not open but strictly by nomination from the worldwide networks of nominators currently numbering 300. An award of 100,000 CHF is given to a photographer who has produced a series of work that is both artistically outstanding and presents a compelling narrative related to the theme of the award. The winners of the previous eight editions are Benoit Aquin, Nadav Kander, Mitch Epstein, Luc Delahaye, Michael Schmidt, Valérie Belin, Richard Mosse and Joana Choumali. Each year, a book that showcases the work of the shortlisted professional photographers has been published and distributed worldwide and the exhibition of their work is touring globally. 

Featured image: Prix Pictet Hope exhibition, 2020, showcasing the work of the twelve photographers shortlisted for the Eighth Prix Pictet. Courtesy Prix Pictet.