Photo Contest Rules

Term:’s 2014 Photo Contest begins May 15, 2014 and ends November 28, 2014, at 3:00 PM Eastern Standard Time (EST). By submitting an entry, each contestant agrees to the rules of the contest and states that they are 18 years old or older.

Who may enter:
Photographers who are 18 years old or older-except for individuals affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, including employees, emeriti, Regents, trustees, interns, volunteers, fellows, research associates and their immediate families (children, siblings and spouses) and others living in their households-are eligible. The Smithsonian will determine winners’ eligibility in its sole discretion.

What to enter:
Five contest categories are drawn from subjects of special interest to

The 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: Individuals from all walks of life.

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 (i.e. colorizing, toning, collage, photo composites, HDR, etc.).

A sixth category is for images taken with a mobile device (phone or tablet). The Smithsonian will award a prize to the best photograph submitted in any of the five categories that was taken with a mobile device. You must affirmatively check the provided box to submit your annual contest entry to the mobile competition.

Photographs must have been shot by the entrant since January 1, 2012.

Cropped photos are eligible in all categories. We do not accept digitally or otherwise enhanced or altered photos, except for those entered in the Altered Images category. Minor adjustments, including spotting, dodging and burning, sharpening, contrast and slight color adjustment or the digital equivalents, are acceptable for all five categories. If the judges determine that a photographer has altered his or her photo, they reserve the right to move the photo to Altered Images or to disqualify it.

For a photo in which a person is recognizable, you must secure a model release from the subject or, in the case of a minor, the subject’s parent or guardian and provide it to the Smithsonian upon request. A sample release is available at

Photographs that have won any other contests are not eligible. We define winning as having won a grand prize or 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place overall. Photos that violate or infringe upon another person's rights, including but not limited to copyright, are not eligible.

How to enter:

Please submit photographs and requested information on-line through our web site at We do not accept photographs submitted through the mail. Submit no more than fifteen (15) photographs per category. We 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. Use the on-line entry form on our website. Complete a separate form for each photo submitted. Photographs must be in a .jpeg, .jpg or .gif format. Files submitted may not be larger than 5Mb. The 60 finalists will be asked to submit a high-resolution 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.

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 Smithsonian Institution purpose, including, but not limited to, advertising and promotion of the magazine and its website, exhibition, and commercial products, 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.

Entry deadline:
All entries must be received through the Smithsonian magazine web site by 3pm Eastern Time on November 28, 2014.

Judging of the annual contest will be conducted by the editors of Smithsonian and Winning photographs will be announced on in spring 2015.

The Smithsonian will notify the winner 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.

We will select 10 finalists per category plus the mobile category. Six category winners will be selected, one for each category, including mobile. The grand prize winner will be chosen from 60 finalists.

The 60 finalists will be notified of their status by February 20, 2015 and will appear on our web site in March 2015. At that time, the public can vote on our web site for one Readers’ Choice winner from the sixty finalists. The reader’s choice winner will be revealed online in spring 2015.

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; infringe on the rights of third parties; or act in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner. Decisions of the Smithsonian are final.

Please do not contact us about the status of entries or judging.

Prizes: The Smithsonian will award eight prizes, as follows:

Grand Prize: $2,500
Category Winners: The winners of each of the five categories will receive $500.
Readers' Choice: The winner of the online Readers’ Choice award will receive $500.
Mobile: The best photo in any of the five categories that was taken with a mobile device will receive $500.

One cash prize per person; winners may receive additional noncash prizes. Winners must sign a release and license, declaration of eligibility, and will be responsible for paying any taxes they may owe on a prize.