Snap Judgments

The winners (and some runners-up) of SMITHSONIAN’s annual photo contest take a bow

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It’s been said that good photography involves a collision of the new and the known: a fresh take on an ancient ritual, say, or an intimate portrait of a stranger. Our grand prize winner—an image of a sumptuous statue shaded by umbrellas—is a photograph of a cremation rite in Bali.

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For the first time, contestants submitted their work exclusively on-line. We received some 7,500 entries from all 50 U.S. states and from 74 foreign countries (including Bahrain, Myanmar and Pakistan). As in years past, our judges selected 50 finalists, in 5 categories: The Natural World, People, Travel, Americana and, new this year, Altered Images. The Natural World and Travel are perennial favorites—together they received more than half the entries. Children remained favorite subjects—as did close-ups of insects. Hmmmm.

Nearly a third of the finalists come from outside the United States, a notable increase from past years. Most live in urban areas, though small towns such as Millersburg, Indiana (pop. 868), were also represented. Entrants range in age from Generation Y to baby boomer. When asked their occupation, nearly two-thirds listed "amateur photographer" rather than a day job. (Professional photographers are ineligible.) You can see all 50 finalists' photographs on our Web site at That's also where we’ll publish, in September, the rules for our Fourth Annual Photo Contest. To all who participated, and particularly to the finalists and winners, thanks, congratulations and happy shooting.


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