Smithsonian Photo Contest and More

Photo Contests YOU Can Enter, and They are Biggies!

I know it seems a bit audacious or even presumptuous to enter photo contests of this caliper, especially some as prestigious as the Smithsonian or National Geographic Photo Contests. But don’t let these big names scare you. Read on and see why.

They are both magazines in which I have admired the photography for many, many years. The work is so good and really intimidating if I stop to think about my own abilities.

You might have even heard of, or read about the competitions of one or both, as both have been going on for years. But the contests are open to all levels of photography and the amateur work is pretty darn nice too. But first, a little background why I like the online sites of the magazines.

Why I Like the Sites

The online sites offer photography tips in addition to the gorgeous work of their field photographers. They take you to the most beautiful locations to show you why the shots are successful and give the how to’s. Helpful tips from some of the best!

But Nat Geo has something interactive to interest me. I don’t mean their really cool puzzles made from images that we submit, (look familiar above?), but a way to showcase our own work, and not in pieces either.

National Geographic has a web page on their site dedicated to you the readers and photobugs. You can upload your most prized images and Nat Geo might feature them on occasion. I have seen some amateur photographers featured. You get your own page too! See mine below.

The page is entitled My Shot and I have subscribed to the site and displayed a few of my photos. The link will take you to the main MY Shot page and you can join from there. Your uploaded images get placed on the main My Shot page and gets replaced as others upload their images. But for a time, my photos can be seen by a lot of folks. Just take note of just how many members, let alone those that are the casual looky loos, like I used to be. Your images can be selected as Editor’s Choice Photos, which seems to me, a pretty nice honor. No, not that lucky yet, I just joined so in the future, maybe….

How it Works

You can see my image of the squirrel has just been loaded on the main MY Shot page. People can then pick your image and give it stars. My peacock got 4 stars by one viewer. If any of the images you see catch your fancy, you can click on them for a larger view and additional information.

Honestly, this would be a great idea for a Blotanical tab. Hear that Stuart? That way, when a post has a selected image displayed in this way, it entices a viewer to see more and maybe, just find a new blog to follow. But more importantly, everyone’s posts get a showing for a short time, not just those getting picks. Hey, just thinking out loud here.

I only just started loading images, and when I get a chance, will go through to find some that are my very best to show. I loaded four just as a trial.  I want to use this site for all my shots of Niagara Falls, since I have seen very few of the Falls so far.

Now On to the Contests

I thought to pass along this information to you photo aficionados. The contests both have a good selection of professional and amateur work and I have perused the entries, current and past.

Some of the amateur work is every bit as good as the pros and I found that some of what is entered is not unlike what many of us garden bloggers are photographing. And there are nice macros of flowers uploaded too, so garden bloggers listen up, it does not only have to be pictures of critters, people or places. Just take a peek at the My Shot page above. Lots of plants and bugs.

The image below is somewhat typical of the amateur work. It has mood, the bird has expression, and the background is important (but not distracting) in character, depth and makes a nice foil to the vibrancy of the Cardinal. I may use this one sometime in a competition. Click to see it bigger and tell me if you think it should be cropped and is worthy. I just love opinions and constructive critique.

I have added the links at the end of this post for you to enter your work. National Geographic has a small entry fee for their Photo Contest, but Smithsonian is free. You are allowed to enter multiple images if you choose in both contests. Smithsonian has five categories—Altered Images, Americana, the Natural World, People and Travel.

Altered is for an image that is more than typical editing. “Photographs manipulated for artistic purposes by applying digital and/or traditional special effects (i.e. colorizing, toning, collage, photo composites, HDR, etc.)

Fake, fake fake

I really should do this one because creating a scene like this is what I can do best with Lightroom and Photoshop. The image above was for a Green Apples 5 minute tutorial and is what would be considered Altered. But give me a week and my entry would be pretty nice. You can see above the discrepancy in lighting direction, but it was done for a down and dirty quick tutorial. You are allowed minor improvement in the other categories, but your image must remain ‘real’ looking. In the Altered category it can be dream-like if you wish.

The images in this post had only slight sharpening and cropping, so any of them would be admissible in the other four categories.

Nat Geo has three categories I believe – People, Places and Nature. I may enter Places with a winter shot at the Falls. They highlight non-winners under each category. You can see past contest winners from Smithsonian and past winners from Nat Geo to gauge what you feel is worth entering yourself. I bet you click these links! It is worth the blog hop.

Oh, and make sure you submit images in the right format and size. I did enter one too large, yet I received an email that it was accepted. But don’t take that chance.

Just to let you bloggers know, your images are not linked back to your site, Facebook, or Flickr. You retain rights to your photos, but the magazines get the right to use them without further or future compensation. So you professional photographers take note, but just imagine the exposure if your images are used in print and credited to you.

What I entered is one male cardinal, one female cardinal, one grasshopper, one dragonfly, and of course, my favorite….. one squirrel. None of the images shown in this post are those I entered in the Smithsonian Photo Contest, but they all came from their respective photo shoots.

My shot of the male Cardinal is a strange capture, above. In the left of the photo is an icicle in the extreme foreground. It looks like the little red bird has his eye on it for some reason. Maybe I am reflecting through it to him.

The entries cannot be on any other server in the Nat Geo contest. I am not sure what they mean by this as the Smithsonian has stated this as an answer to a FAQ: “Is it OK to enter a photograph that has been on my website? Yes, your photograph is eligible for submission. However, photographs that have been published (except online) are not eligible.

The images that I picked for entry in the Smithsonian Photo Contest are better than those I have shown here today but I did not want to post them, although I am allowed. I did not enter the Nat Geo contest as of yet, because they have numbers in the thousands. But I surely plan to enter next year. Enter early too, so you can be part of the Viewer’s Choice contest. Early, allows you the opportunity for the most votes.

I really wanted to enter birds in flight, but I don’t have any really very good. You should see the snowy owl in flight on Nat Geo. What an amazing capture and one I would like to see win. I am just learning how to get better focusing and exposure on the mobile birds and hope one day to get a good image of a Golden Eagle at the farm, or Red-Tailed Hawk at the gorge. Here we settle for a Black Capped Chickadee from the winter photo shoot at the Falls.

And again, my favorite nature photographer writes a helpful and timely post. As I was lamenting my inability to capture birds in flight in preparing this post, does Galen not come along with Birds in Flight Part 1. My bird photos are going to improve now…..

Still Time Folks

National Geographic Photo Contest 2011

The National Geographic Contest ends November 30, 2011, 9:00:00 a.m. US Eastern Time.

“The Grand Prize Winner will receive $10,000 and a trip to National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C., to participate in the annual National Geographic Photography Seminar in January 2012: A behind-the-scenes experience like none other.

Smithsonian Photo Contest

The Smithsonian contest is open for entries until December 1, 2011 at 2:00 PM EST.

Grand Prize:
A Smithsonian Journeys trip to Yosemite National Park, or the wholesale cash equivalent (approx. $3,000).

“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.”

The bold, italicized text is taken from their respective websites to let you know what you can win and answer a few questions. Like the GGW contest, I like it for the exposure of my photographs and what I learn from others to help improve my work. Seriously not expecting a prize, just the fun of being a part.

My next post is The Month in Tens – November, on November 10, with the theme, It’s the Simple Things. This theme will continue the whole month with a daily look of the simple pleasure of each day.  Then… be on the look out for my Nat Geo entry. I will post images similar to what I want to enter. It is all for fun, since the competition is frighteningly incredible, but judging from past winners, not impossible.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
This entry was posted in Animals, Birds, insects, Nature, Niagara Falls State Parks, photography, photos, Squirrels, Winter and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Smithsonian Photo Contest and More

  1. Sue Lentell says:

    Thank you so much for the information. Love your squirrel photo. I have some unique photos so may submit. Sue

  2. Donna says:

    Well you have been a busy lady…I will have t check it all out this winter…too little time at the moment…I love these photos and can imagine you as a winner if these are the cast offs…amazing photos especially the cardinals…wondering what our next W4W will be??

  3. Victor Ho says:

    Thanks for the info. I can see why they liked your squirrel. It is a stunning photo. Well done.

  4. One says:

    Donna, thank you for sharing such wonderful photos and information. I would definitely look into the Smithsonian photo contest. I have seen the other one before and know it is way beyond me. I still need some polishing. In fact a lot of it. Thank you for your generous tips. Very much appreciated.

  5. HolleyGarden says:

    Oh, I hope you win! Thanks for the info. That “My Shot” page is also very interesting.

  6. GirlSprout says:

    Thanks for the heads up. I will forward your post to a friend’s husband who is a landscape photographer.

  7. igardendaily says:

    Thank you so much for the contest info. I don’t think I’m quite ready but I love knowing about these ops. You have many beautiful photos, so good luck!

  8. Tatyana says:

    Wonderful photographs, Donna! LOVE your creatures! Incredible dragonfly! The birds are awesome! High quality, great images! Thank you!

  9. Andrea says:

    Thank you Donna for being generous and concerned with us. However, it might still take a long time and a better lens before i can consider joining such contests. I cannot even try GGW, LOL. I will surely go to the links here. Go go go, I will be very happy to see your photos there, and win! Just like when One won silver in GGW, i am very happy too because she is a blogger friend. it is so nice to feel you know a winner! I hope your photos win. What about those exceptional vegetation shots in Niagara, i thought they are so unique and beautiful.

  10. Thank you for sharing this information. I, too, enjoy learning more about photography, and these sites seem as if they will be very helpful. And as I learn more about taking good photos, it is always nice to view beautiful photos by others. BTW…I have always loved the contrast of the red cardinal against white snow or the bare winter views. Your captures are lovely!

  11. b-a-g says:

    Thanks for the info Donna.
    My favourite photo is the second dragonfly, I like the way the sky is tinted like its wings.
    I also like the bird under it, the way its head is angled sideways with two points tufts and the texture of its feathers in the breeze.

  12. For those serious about photography, this is a real boon. LOVE the red cardinal.

  13. debsgarden says:

    I agree about the blotanical tab! And thanks for the info on the contests. I think it would be great fun to go through my photos to see if there might be any candidates. Good luck on your own entries!

  14. Indie says:

    You have some seriously beautiful photos. Good luck with the contests! I am just starting out in learning about photography so I don’t think I could enter one of these yet, but maybe someday!

  15. Great information! I do look at the Nat Geo site and photo contests (never entered) but I didn’t know about the My Shot page. I wasn’t aware that the Smithsonian did this as well. Your photos are all worthy winner! Your photos are excellent and I am always impressed!

  16. Jennifer says:

    Your bird shots are great Donna. I checked out a few of your links and there is some very nice photography out there. I might be tempted by the My Shot Page, but I don’t have the confidence to enter contests at this point.

  17. Your shots are beautiful Donna and well worth being showcased on Nat Geo – your dragonfly one in particular. I’ve had problems with UK competitions in the past and nowadays I keep alot of my material off my blog just incase I’m caught out again – I think you’re wise doing that with the Smithsonian entries.

  18. Christine says:

    I need to learn about photography and stop using the Auto settings before I enter anything, but I passed this on to Barbie who takes great photos. Your photos always amaze me, I think you stand a good chance of winning a competition.

  19. Denise says:

    Good luck! That squirrel is a real winner.

  20. Garden Sense says:

    Your photography is so strong! Good luck to you! Sounds like some good opportunities to get your work before an even larger audience.

  21. tina says:

    Well I think all of your shots are sure winners in the contests. Good luck!

  22. As photography has shifted from film to digital, it’s been interesting to see how competitions like these have changed too. Digital photography has certainly made these contests more accessible, and affordable, for so many more photographers. I’m always impressed at the caliber of the photographs submitted, so much better than I can do! I agree, capturing birds in flight is challenge! Good luck!

  23. Your pictures are always fabulous! Whenever I take a picture that’s even decent enough to post on my blog, I’m happy. I’ll leave the photography to others more able. 🙂

  24. vwgarden says:

    Wow, that’s a lot of great info, Donna! It’s always fun for us amateur photographers to learn more about making good photos. Your photos are so vivid and bright, very nice. Good luck for your entries.

  25. lula says:

    I have nit read this post until now, but thanks for the tip. Your images are simply great!!

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