Photo Contest Rules
Smithsonian.com’s 15th Annual Photo Contest begins March 28, 2017, and ends November 30, 2017, 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 and Mobile 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, 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.com:
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. Altered Images: Photographs manipulated for artistic purposes by applying digital and/or traditional special effects (i.e., colorizing, toning, collage, photo composites, HDR, etc.).
6. Mobile: Any photograph taken with a mobile device (phone or tablet).
To be eligible for any category, a photograph must have been shot by the entrant since January 1, 2015.
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. Minor adjustments, including spotting, dodging and burning, sharpening, contrast and slight color adjustment or the digital equivalents, are acceptable for all 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 model release is available here.
Similarly, entrants whose photos depict other people’s work (such as sculptures, statues, paintings, and other copyrightable works) may need to obtain a release from the rights holder and provide it 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.
Photographs that have won other major photo contests, either online or in print, as determined by the Smithsonian, are not eligible for submission. 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.
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.
How to enter:
Please submit photographs and requested information online through our website at smithsonian.com/photocontest. You may submit no more than 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, 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 will be asked 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 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.
The contest begins on March 28, 2017. All entries must be received through Smithsonian.com by 5:00 PM Eastern Standard Time on November 30, 2017.
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 by the end of February 2018 and will appear on our website in spring 2018. 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 2018.
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.
Please do not contact us about the status of entries or judging.
Prizes: 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 noncash prizes. Winners must sign a release and license, as well as a declaration of eligibility, and will be responsible for paying any notary public fees or taxes they may owe on a prize.
Online Features: 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 as a result 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.
Updated: March 28, 2017