Smithsonian magazine’s 6th Annual Photo Contest

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For the past five years, Smithsonian editors have judged a total of 72,000 photographs from more than 90 countries around the globe. As we enter our sixth year, we have a clear sense of what makes a photograph a Smithsonian winner. Technical quality, clarity and composition are all important, but so too is a flair for the unexpected and the ability to capture the right moment. We are excited when we can see the photograph through your eyes—through your skill, your passion, your vision.

The five contest categories are drawn from those subjects of special interest to Smithsonian:

  • Americana—Events, objects or activities connecting the American people to their history or their cultural heritage.
  • The Natural World—Animals, plants and landscapes; geological or climatological features; and scientific processes and endeavors.
  • People—Individuals from all walks of life.
  • Altered Images—Photographs manipulated for artistic purposes by applying digital and/or traditional special effects (i.e. hand coloring, toning, bleaching, collage and photo composites, etc.).
  • Travel—Locales, peoples or activities in the United States and abroad that convey a sense of place.


  • Grand Prize: A four-day, three-night Smithsonian Journeys Grand Canyon Weekend Adventure for two from July 17-20, 2009, or the wholesale cash equivalent.
  • 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. Winners may receive additional noncash prizes.


Photographs must have been shot by the entrant within the past three (3) years (since January 1, 2006).

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, contrast and slight color adjustment or the digital equivalents, are acceptable for all five categories. If our judges see that a photographer has obviously altered his or her photo, they reserve the right to move the photo to Altered Images or to disqualify it.

How to enter:
Please submit photographs on-line through our Web site at We do not accept photographs submitted through the mail. Submit no more than three (3) 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 Web site. 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 2,024k (2Mb). The 50 finalists may be asked to submit a high-resolution file or an original negative, print or slide. Original photographs will be returned to finalists.

Official web page:

photo contest

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