Photography Contests & Scholarships

By Michelle Labbe
Quality photography requires a talent for composition, lighting and storytelling.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then photography should be a valuable pursuit. But in practice, photography doesn't always pay well, and requires a continued investment in materials and technology. And it's hard for budding photographers to get their names out in the world. Luckily, for struggling students and emerging or established artists and photojournalists looking for recognition, acclaim or just a little extra income, photography contests and scholarship opportunities are all around.

Canon Photography in the Parks Contest

This contest, sponsored by Canon, invites photographers to submit their favorite photos of a U.S. national park for the chance to win a trip for two to any national park, as well as an EOS 5D Mark II camera and a PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II photo printer. There will be two grand prize winners, one adult and one teen, and runners-up prizes are available as well (see Reference 1). Photos must be of landscapes only and may not include people. The contest is open to teens and adults, ages 13 and up.

National Geographic Photography Contest

A publication renowned for the quality of its photographs, National Geographic offers its own photography contest. Entries may be submitted online for any one of the three photography categories: people, places, and nature. There is an entry fee of $15 per photo, but entrants stand to receive a grand prize of $10,000 and publication of their photo in National Geographic (see Reference 2).

Entrants must be 18 or older and may not be affiliated with National Geographic personally or through family members. The contest is also void for residents of Arizona, Cuba, Iran, New Jersey, North Korea, Puerto Rico, the Province of Quebec, Sudan, Syria and Vermont.

Milotte Scholarship Fund

The Milotte Scholarship is for aspiring photographers in Washington state who have an affinity for nature and animals. Applicants must have received their high school diploma or GED, must be accepted to a trade school, art school, or two- or four-year university, maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher and must have been residents of the state of Washington for the past five years. Qualified candidates should submit a portfolio showcasing their observations of the natural world, along with a transcript and two references. The scholarship is a one-year grant of up to $4,000 (see Reference 3).

James Alan Cox Foundation for Student Photographers

The James Alan Cox Foundation awards scholarships to student photographers in high school or college. High school students must have completed at least one year of high school and must have taken at least one art or photography course at the high school level. College students must have completed at least one year of college and must have taken classes in photography or photojournalism.

Photojournalism is the focus of the entries to be submitted, and scholarships are awarded to students whose work best tells a narrative. Other than that, the subject matter and approach taken are open-ended. In addition to a portfolio of digital photographs and/or video entries, applications must include a short essay, two references, a transcript, and the applicant's financial information.

Five high school students will be selected to win one digital camera each, and five college or technical school students will be selected to win scholarships of $2,500 (see Reference 4).

About the Author

Michelle Labbe has been writing online and for print since 2004. Her work has appeared in the online journals Reflection's Edge and Cabinet des Fées as well as in Harvard Book Store's anthology, "Michrochondria." She is pursuing a Master of Arts in publishing and writing at Emerson College.