It can be hard to set yourself apart if your area of specialty falls in the category of visual arts. For students who participate in sports or academic extracurriculars, there are often clear paths to leadership positions or established ways in which to gain recognition. As an artist, you may sometimes feel less important or even forgotten as you strive to achieve.

 

High school photography is a perfect example. While you might put just as much time into perfecting your craft as student athletes, leaders, or academic competitors do, there are far fewer avenues to gain formal recognition for your work. It can be difficult to quantify your skills in photography.

 

Photography contests are a great way to establish yourself as a serious and successful photographer. Not only do they highlight your photography skills, but they also prove your willingness to take a risk and your initiative to seek out opportunities.

 

Photography contests can be more than simply a way to gain recognition. They sometimes offer cash, scholarships, or quality photography equipment as prizes. Winning a contest can be exciting; some contests even host shows or awards banquets that may allow you further exposure for your work and provide important networking opportunities with other photographers.

 

Here, we’ve compiled our list of six top photography contests for high school students. If you’re interested in entering a photography contest, keep reading to learn more.

 

1. National Geographic Student Photo Contest

This annual contest sponsored by National Geographic prompts high school photographers to capture an image that “conveys what exploration and adventure means to them.” All photographs are submitted alongside a written description of the photo and how it reflects a sense of exploration or adventure.

 

Entries must be submitted online through the online entry form by the end of January each year. Full contest rules can be found here.

 

The Grand Prize Winner receives his or her choice of a National Geographic Student Expedition Photography Workshop, including round-trip coach air transportation as well as accommodations, meals, and activities. These experiential learning opportunities are offered in Barcelona, Prague, and Yellowstone and last for 12 days during which students work alongside a NatGeo photographer and learn through field experiences, workshops, and critiques.

 

2. Rocky Mountain School of Photography High School Photo Contest

The Rocky Mountain School of Photography sponsors its High School Photo Contest annually and attracted nearly 6000 submissions in 2017. It welcomes entries in the categories of Nature, People, and Action and awards three prizes in each category. Submissions are judged by professional photographers ,who also provide feedback to the top three photographs in each category.

 

The contest opens on December 1st each year and closes on the last day of February. Entries must be submitted through an online portal. Complete contest rules are available here.

 

The Grand Prize Winner receives a Canon 6D camera body with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM lens. Other prizes include a Lensbaby Spark, Oben AT-3565 Aluminum Tripod with BC-217T Head, and a $100 B&H Gift Card.

 

3. Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

This national contest invites high school students to enter through regional competitions each year. It includes categories not only for photography but also for written submissions and other visual arts as well. Regional Gold Key winners are automatically considered for recognition at the national level.

 

In 2016, more than 330,000 students submitted work to the contest, with only 16 receiving the highest honors, including $10,000 scholarships.

 

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards open each year in mid-September. You can find complete rules and contest deadlines available here.

 

National medalists in each category are recognized at a National Ceremony at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Several sponsored awards offer scholarships up to $10,000.

 

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4. Congressional Art Competition

This contest is sponsored by the Congressional Institute and aims to recognize and encourage artistic talent in U.S. high school students. Since the competition’s inaugural year in 1982, over 650,000 students have participated.

 

To enter, students submit visual art, including photographs, to their representative’s office. Panels of district artists then select winning entries from each district. Winners are recognized both in their district and at an annual awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.

 

You can view complete rules of the contest here, but you will need to contact your district representative to confirm your district’s participation and obtain specific guidelines regarding entries and deadlines. Winning artworks are displayed for one year at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

 

5. SONY World Photography Awards Youth Competition

Sponsored by the World Photography Organization in partnership with SONY, this international contest is open to all photographers aged 12 to 19. Its mission is to help “young photographers grow and flourish into the next stages of their careers.”

 

Photographs are judged by professional photographers and scored based on composition, creativity, and clarity.

 

The brief for the 2018 competition is “Your Environment.” Students are encouraged to interpret this prompt liberally, with examples including culture, landscapes, and social issues.

 

The Youth Competition Winner is awarded flights to and accommodation at the awards show in London. In addition, the winner receives SONY digital imaging equipment, and his or her work is included in an exhibition at Somerset House, London.

 

6. National YoungArts Foundation

The National YoungArts Foundation is less of a competition and more of an ultra-selective art workshop encompassing nearly all genres of the creative and visual arts, including photography. The Foundation “identifies and nurtures the most accomplished young artists… and assists them at critical junctures in their educational and professional development.”

 

Students aged 15 to 18 are invited to submit applications for a coveted place at the National YoungArts Week, where they receive mentorship from top professional artists. In addition, students accepted to the National YoungArts Week vie for nomination as a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts, one of the nation’s highest honors for high school artists.

 

Contest rules are available online here. Generally, applications must be received by mid-October each year.

 

Winners receive up to $10,000 in cash awards along with master classes with accomplished artists and a lifetime of mentoring and professional support.

 

If you’re a high school photographer looking to gain recognition, establish your craft as a serious extracurricular, or simply see how your work compares on a larger platform, photography contests are definitely something you should consider.

 

To learn more about preparing for visual arts competitions or quantifying your experiences as a photographer, consider the benefits of the CollegeVine Near Peer Mentorship Program, which provides access to practical advice on topics from college admissions to career aspirations, all from successful college students.

 

For more information about art and extracurricular activities in high school, check out these posts:

 

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Kate Sundquist

Kate Sundquist

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.
Kate Sundquist

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