Photo Contest Rules

Term:’s 2015 Photo Contest begins March 31, 2015, and ends November 30, 2015, at 11:59 PM Eastern Standard Time (EST). 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. The Sustainable Travel category prize, made possible through the support of United Eco-Skies, is restricted to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States or the District of Colombia. 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 employees of United Airlines, Inc. (Sponsor), its parent or affiliate companies as well as the immediate family (spouse, parents, siblings and children), and others living in their households are not eligible for any prize. The Smithsonian will determine winners’ eligibility in its sole discretion.

Sponsors:  Smithsonian Institution and United Airlines

What to enter:
The following six contest categories are drawn from subjects of special interest to

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: Individuals from all walks of life.

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:  The Smithsonian will award a prize to the best photograph submitted in any of the other categories that was taken with a mobile device (phone or tablet). 

7.     In addition this year features a seventh category, Sustainable Travel, made possible through the support of United Eco-Skies. The award for this category, the Eco-Skies Sustainable Travel Leadership Award, recognizes a photographer who demonstrates leadership and an active commitment to travel for environmentally responsible purposes, generating positive social, economic, or environmental outcomes in the local communities traveled to and ensuring the destination remains an attractive place to live, work and visit for future generations. Examples of sustainable travel projects include:

·      Environmental conservation and reforestation

·      Eco-construction and restoration projects

·      Local community enrichment and empowerment volunteering

·      Environmental awareness and education

·      Exemplary eco-conscious visitor behavior

Entries in this seventh category should address the question: What does a sustainable travel project look like to you? Entries also must be accompanied by a 100-word or less photo caption describing the photo’s content and story behind the photo. Note: Entrants in this category will also be automatically entered in the main Travel photo contest category.

To be eligible for any category, a photograph must have been shot by the entrant since January 1, 2013.

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 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:

Similarly, entrants whose photos depict other people’s work (such as sculptures, statues, paintings, and other copyrightable works) may be 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 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.

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 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. Photographs submitted to the contest must be at least 2,000 pixels wide so that they can be displayed in our online gallery without being stretched or distorted. 

High-quality scans of non-digital photographs are acceptable. Digital photographs should be taken at the highest resolution possible. Use the online 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 10 MB. The 70 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.

Photos entered into the Sustainable Travel photo contest category also grant these rights to the category sponsor, United Airlines, Inc.

Entry deadline:
The contest begins on March 31, 2015. All entries must be received through the Smithsonian magazine website by 11:59 pm Eastern Time on November 30, 2015.


Photo entries will be judged based on creativity, quality, originality, responsiveness to the prompt, and overall impact, except that (i) the Eco Skies Sustainable Travel Leadership Award judging will evaluate the photo and accompanying caption using the above criteria and (ii) the Readers' Choice award will be determined based on which of the finalists receives the most votes.

Judging will be conducted by the editors of Smithsonian and  The Smithsonian will select 10 finalists per category, a winner for each category, and a Grand Prize winner from the 70 finalists; except that the category sponsor United Airlines will participate in the final selection of the Sustainable Travel category winner, and a Readers' Choice winner will be selected from among the 70 finalists based on public voting. Winning photographs will be announced on in spring 2016.

The 70 finalists will be notified of their status by February 20, 2016 and will appear on our website in spring 2016. At that time, the public can vote on our website for one Readers’ Choice winner from the seventy finalists. The Readers' Choice winner will be revealed online in spring 2016.

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: Nine prizes will be awarded, as follows:

Grand Prize: $2,500

Eco-Skies Sustainable Travel Leadership Award: Travel Certificate Rules:

·       United will provide the Sustainable Travel Category winner with Electronic Travel Certificates (“ER1181”) valid on flights operated by United, as indicated below:

o   Two economy round-trip tickets valid from travel between US 48 / Canada / Alaska / Caribbean / Mexico / Central America / Hawaii

·       For booking and travel by December 31, 2016

·       ER1181 certificates are subject to the terms and conditions set forth on Attachment A and the terms set forth herein. Please be aware that United may update the terms and conditions to use the ER1181 certificates. There also may be additional terms and conditions on the ER1181 certificate itself that apply. United’s provision of the ER1181 certificates to the Sustainable Travel category winner is contingent on such user complying with all of these terms and conditions. These certificates are valuable and so any failure to comply with the terms and conditions of use will invalidate the certificates and may also subject the user to additional charges. Any recipient of an ER1181 certificate is solely responsible for any applicable taxes and reporting requirements.


ER1181 Electronic Travel Certificate – Terms and Conditions of Use

1.  The certificate is valid for the number of confirmed roundtrip ticket(s) as defined under credits in the authorization details. If issued for one-way travel, any unused portion will be forfeited.

2.  Offer valid only on flights operated by United or operated by other airlines and branded “United Express”. Otherwise, it is not valid on flights operated by other airlines, such as United-Marketed code share and Star Alliance flights.

3.  Itinerary must be a published fare routing.

4.  All travel must be completed by the expiration date listed under authorization details. Extension of the expiration date is not permitted under any circumstances.

5.  Open jaws are permitted.

6.  Stopovers and circle trip combinations are not permitted.

7.  Open tickets are not permitted.

8.  United reserves the right to limit the number of seats available for travel in conjunction with this offer.

9.  Customer is liable for all applicable taxes, fees and surcharges.

10.  MileagePlus miles will not be awarded.

11.  Space-available upgrade certificates may be used on day of departure provided all terms of the upgrade are met. All other upgrades, including MileagePlus and purchased are not permitted.

12.  This certificate may not be used in conjunction with any other award, discount or offer. Customer will be required to provide positive identification.

13.  This offer is subject to any government approval and is invalid where prohibited by law.

14.  This certificate is nontransferable and is void if sold or exchanged for compensation. If this certificate is purchased, it is subject to confiscation and will not be accepted for travel.

15.  In the event of flight irregularity, alternate travel will be provided in the indicated class of service (subject to availability) only on United flights. United assumes no responsibility for any expenses, or tax liability in conjunction with the use of this offer and associated ticket(s) including, but not limited to expenses for accommodations, food or circumstances beyond the control of United.

16.  If you choose to ticket by calling United Reservations, please note that there will be a Reservation Ticketing Service Fee. Please advise the agent that you will be using an electronic ER1181 Authorization (reference: GG Promo EER). Be prepared to provide the agent the promotion code, certificate PIN, class and travel area application listed above in the authorization details.

17.  Not eligible for denied boarding compensation.

18.  Should you need to reissue, refund or void a ticket after you’ve redeemed your PIN credit(s), you will not receive a redeposit of the redeemed PIN credit(s).

19.  United reserves the right to change the terms and conditions of this offer without prior notice.

20.  United’s Contract of Carriage will be applicable to all travel undertaken, hereby.

Category Winners: The winners of each of the other six categories, including Mobile, 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 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 31, 2015