Top 10 astrophotography competitions
There are many astrophotography competitions across the globe that celebrate the work of dedicated astrophotographers, and particularly amateur astrophotographers. They are a great showcase for photographers to get extra exposure for their work and recognition of their talents, boosting their profile and careers and igniting the public’s imagination with breathtaking images of the night sky and deep space.
Many of these prestigious competitions are open to anyone and most are international in scope. Providing you have the passion, skills and dedication for astrophotography, anybody has the chance of winning – often a cash prize – and joining the ranks of some of the world’s most celebrated astrophotographers.
Below, we’ve included competitions that are for both landscape photographers and deep space photographers. For the former, you only need your trusty camera, but for the latter you’ll probably need to use one of the best telescopes as part of your photography set up.
Looking for more inspiration? Have a look through our article on women in astrophotography, which features top tips from the experts. Or fill-up your social feeds with night sky images by following these 10 inspirational astrophotographers on Instagram.
One of the most prestigious astrophotography competitions, run by one of the most celebrated museums in the UK, is now in its 13th year and in 2021 it attracted an impressive 4500 entries from more than 75 countries around the world. The competition is looking for exceptional portrayals of astronomy and this year’s winner, by Chinese amateur photographer Shuchang Dong, of an annular solar eclipse offered something truly unique and different from all the other entries. The quality of the photo from its composition to its focus has to really stand out and offer an imaginative and evocative portrayal of its subject.
Atik Cameras is a company that specializes in astronomical imaging equipment, founded just over 15 years ago. The company’s competition, the 2021 Astrophotography Competition, is open until 14 January 2022. Its criteria is a little more specific than the Royal Museum’s and images submitted have to be taken using an Atik camera. They also have to be images that haven’t been submitted to this competition before. You can, however, submit as many photos as you want as long as they align with the criteria mentioned above. Looking at the entries so far in this competition, there are some truly magical shots that really capture the wonder and the scale of astrophotography.
Nottingham Precision Astro Engineering (nPAE) is a company based in the UK that makes astrophotography equipment, and each year they run their Southern Hemisphere photography competition. Anyone can enter but the subject has to be taken from the Southern Hemisphere. Prizes include cash, a Theia Astro Imaging Filter Changer and an nPAE discount voucher. Shots here have to be dramatic and feature an imaginative use of astrophotography equipment, and the subjects captured can be any kind of astronomical phenomena. Previous winners in past years have come from places like the UK, Mexico and Hungary.
An astrophotography competition that was launched ten years ago, the Hevelianum AstroCamera 2021 International Astrophotography Competition was created to commemorate a milestone in scientific history. 2011 was the year that marked the 400th birthday of Johannes Hevelius, an astronomer and artist from Gdansk, Poland who meticulously documented important celestial events, such as eclipses, comets and sunspots. Hevelianum is based in Poland and it has three categories people can enter: Deep Space Objects, Solar System Objects and Astro-Landscapes. Prizes are awarded to 1st, 2nd and 3rd places in each one. Anyone who is an amateur astrophotographer can enter and photos must display a bold and creative use of composition and framing.
Run by the organization in charge of a designated Area Natural Beauty in the south of England, the South Downs National Park Astrophotography competition has three distinct categories: South Downs Dark Skyscapes, Living Dark Skies: people and nature and Our Magnificent Moon. Entries have to display a sound use of composition that also shows how the skies interact with the landscape. Previous winners and runners-up have all displayed a unique approach to the categories they have entered. The top prize for the adult category is £250, with a runner-up prize of £150, a third prize of £100 and a fourth prize of £50.
The Hungarian company Fornax has just launched a brand new astrophotography competition. There are a number of categories including Deep Sky Objects:(photographs of the deep sky such as galaxies, star clusters or nebulae), Astro-Landscapes (photographs showing landscape elements with astronomical objects, e.g. astronomical objects rising and/or setting, movement of the celestial sphere, etc.), and Solar System Objects (photographs showing objects in our Solar System such as the Sun, the Moon, planets or comets.) The judges come from Hungary, Norway, Germany and the US and there are a range of prizes with the grand prize being a Fornax 52 mount plus MC5 controller.
Landscape Photographer of the Year was founded in 2006 to celebrate the best in British landscapes. The competition also looks at the intersection between man and the environment, including how both the people and the landscapes of this country interact with the night skies. There are four categories available to submit photographs: Classic View, Black and White, Your View and Urban Life.
Not strictly speaking a competition like the others, but this nevertheless showcases a different photo each day on Nasa’s APOD website (and Instagram, as seen above). Anyone can enter and each entry is accompanied by a write-up from a professional astronomer. This has been running since 2015 online and has been a showcase for some pretty spectacular photos over the past six years, one that gives people a real opportunity to get their work seen by a wider audience.
Run by UK magazine Amateur Photographer for an impressive 40 years now, Amateur Photographer of The Year is an annual competition that’s open to anyone. Its Travel category includes lots of scope for astrophotographers to show off their expertise, skill and creativity. Entries in this specific category show off the majesty of nature and places, and how the skies complement the dramatic landscapes.
Run by the BPA, this competition celebrates the landscapes of our planet and is open to astrophotographers too. The category that relates to the work of an amateur astrophotographer is the Best Landscape Photographer and previous entries have included some very powerful shots, showing how the land interacts with the sky. Entrants can be based anywhere in the world and winners will have their work showcased at public events put on by the BPA.