Submission Guidelines

Submissions for the 2014 Activist Awards will open on October 1, 2014


PhotoPhilanthropy believes in the power of photography to inspire hope and understanding and to connect people around the world. The Activist Awards have been established to emphasize the important role of high quality documentary photography and visual storytelling as a vehicle to create meaningful impact and social change.


The contest is open to all professional, amateur and student photographers regardless of age, gender, or nationality.

Note: Entrants under 18 years of age require the permission of a parent or guardian. By entering the contest, entrants under 18 years of age indicate that they have obtained the permission of a parent or guardian.

Categories and Prizes

Photo essays must be entered into one of three categories. Two finalists in each category will also be announced.

  • Professional Photographer – $15,000 Grand Prize: Any individual who earns the majority of their living from photography or has been professionally trained.
  • Amateur Photographer – $2,000 Grand Prize: Any individual who does not earn the majority of their income from photography.
  • Student Photographer – $2,000 Grand Prize: Any current student with less than two years of professional work including internships.

Submission Guidelines for All Categories

In order to reflect current issues, photographs in the essay must have been taken within the last three years. Long-term projects will be accepted but they must contain some images that were taken in the last three years.

Photographers may enter two essays in the same year. The two essays may be of work with the same nonprofit but they must be about different subject matters. An essay entered in a previous year of the competition may not be re-entered (this includes re-editing of a previous entry).

Collaboration with a Nonprofit Organization

Submitted photos must depict the work of a charitable organization (designated by 501(c)(3) status in the US, or international equivalent) and be presented as a photo essay.

PhotoPhilanthropy emphasizes the important role of high quality documentary photography and visual storytelling as a vehicle to create meaningful impact and social change. We seek images that bring awareness to critical issues but that also offer hope and a solution. This specific approach to social change will be emphasized and considered during judging. All subjects photographed should be treated with respect, compassion and dignity.

For all submissions, collaboration with the charitable organization will need verification. For this reason it is mandatory to submit the contact name and email address of the person you worked with at the organization. You will also need to provide a letter in English from the organization on their letterhead verifying your collaboration. You will upload this letter to your submission form when prompted.

PhotoPhilanthropy reserves the right to reject any submission based on quality, content or theme. All submissions will be reviewed by the PhotoPhilanthropy team for accuracy of information. Written essays may be edited for clarity. Upon completion of review, accepted photo essays will be posted on the PhotoPhilanthropy website. We will inform you by email when they have been posted.

Photographic Requirements

Submissions must be comprised of a minimum of 7 and a maximum of 10 photos. Photographs must be in digital format, and only those submitted using the submission form provided on the PhotoPhilanthropy website will be accepted.

No print or film submissions will be accepted; scans of negatives, transparencies, or photographic prints are acceptable. All images must be uploaded through our online submissions form.

Files must be in jpeg format and fit to exactly 1000 pixels on their longest side, at a resolution of 72 dpi. No file size should be more than 2MB. Each image must be submitted as a separate file (no Powerpoint or iPhoto presentations). Please save images as RGB, ICC profile Adobe RGB (1998) or Grayscale. File name should be under 32 characters and contain no special characters (i.e. `.,!@#$%^&*). Please be sure there is not a firewall to prevent uploading images.

If your images are an unconventional shape, please write to
[email protected] for special uploading instructions.

Only minimally enhanced photographs are eligible for submission. Minor color correction is acceptable, as is cropping. High dynamic range images (HDRI) and stitched panoramas are acceptable only if the combined parts were all made at approximately the same time. Any other changes to the original photograph are not acceptable and will render the photo essay ineligible for a prize.

Copywriting of photography is encouraged; watermarking of photography is discouraged.

Every photo essay submitted must be comprised of photos that have been created exclusively by the entrant submitting the photo essay.

Written Materials

Each photo requires a caption and the entire submission must be accompanied by a written artists’ statement that addresses the following areas:

  • Please describe the vision and goals for initiating this project.
  • Please describe the mission of your featured organization.
  • Please describe why you chose this particular organization.
  • Please describe the specific aspect of the organization your photo essay portrays.
  • Please describe the intended audience for this work and engagement strategies.
  • Please describe the Call to Action associated with the photo essay.
  • Please describe how the work is being used and distributed (e.g., website, printed materials, exhibitions, books, social media, in the press, etc.).
  • Please describe the impact the work had on you and the organization, and how your work has helped the nonprofit and/or the larger community to effect positive social change (e.g., raise awareness, funding, policy change, etc.).
  • Please describe what you plan to do with the award money if you win. You may include an outline for a future project with a nonprofit partner.

Your written statements, or portions thereof, will be published on the PhotoPhilanthropy website along with your photo essay. We suggest you proofread and keep a copy of your written captions so that if you need to resubmit due to an error, you won’t lose your material.

You can submit your photo essay on the submission page.

Please note that PhotoPhilanthropy reserves the right to edit all material posted to our site.


PhotoPhilanthropy is looking for photo essays that visually articulate the mission of a nonprofit organization in a compelling manner. In order to be considered for acceptance to the PhotoPhilanthropy Activist Awards, all submissions will initially be reviewed for content and quality of imagery. PhotoPhilanthropy reserves the right to refuse any entry based on quality or content.

Once accepted, all entries will be judged in two rounds. First, members of PhotoPhilanthropy and its advisors will review the essays and select the strongest to continue to a second round. In the second round, a panel of independent judges will review eligible entries and select the winners based upon the following criteria:

  • Originality
  • Innovative and compelling storytelling
  • Relevance in portraying the issues addressed by the organization
  • Visual impact (composition, emotional impact)
  • Technical execution (focus, exposure)

The winners will be announced in March 2014.

Model Releases

Model releases are required if photographs contain any elements that are not owned by the entrant and/or which are subject to the rights of third parties. If any persons appear in the photograph, the entrant is responsible for obtaining, prior to submission of the photograph, any and all releases and consents necessary to permit the exhibition and use of the photographs by PhotoPhilanthropy and the subject of the photo essay without additional compensation.

There is a large body of discussion about when to use model releases if you have identifiable portraits in your images. We encourage you to talk to your nonprofit organization, your teacher, or go to American Society of Media Photographers and make a decision about whether or not you need a model release. Sample model releases are available on the ASMP website.

In submitting images to PhotoPhilanthropy, the photographer understands that all images may be placed on the web for public viewing, and the photographer assumes all responsibility for permission from the subject of the image.

Copyright and Content

We encourage all photographers to properly copyright their work. Please look at the latest information on copyright on the ASMP website. PhotoPhilanthropy recognizes and respects copyright held material and photographers will retain full copyright to, and ownership of, their submitted photography.

PhotoPhilanthropy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting documentary photography and the work of nonprofits.

Terms of Consent

Essays accepted into the competition will be posted on the PhotoPhilanthropy website. Entry constitutes permission for PhotoPhilanthropy to copy, publish and display all submitted materials in print or electronic form without compensation by PhotoPhilanthropy, for use in promoting PhotoPhilanthropy and its programs including Activist Awards, Exhibitions and future programs for the purpose of the advancement of the goals and mission of PhotoPhilanthropy. The PhotoPhilanthropy credit, along with the photographer’s credit and the name of the featured nonprofit, will appear if the image is used for these purposes. No images will be redistributed or sold to third parties for re-use. Any inquiries for licensing of images beyond what is stated here will be redirected to the photographer.

If you are interested in licensing any images displayed on this website, we are happy to connect you with the photographer to obtain usage rights (email [email protected]).


PhotoPhilanthropy is extending the opportunity for photographers to have their work eligible for inclusion in our Exhibitions Program. Our two most recent exhibitions — at the United Nations and at Southwire corporate headquarters in Carrolton, GA — were highly praised. If you would like your submitted photo essay to be included in future curations, make sure to select ‘yes’ in the Exhibitions portion of the submission form.

We will contact you if any of your images are selected for inclusion in an upcoming exhibition. More information on PhotoPhilanthropy’s Exhibition Program can be found here.

Library of Congress

PhotoPhilanthropy also offers a unique opportunity for submitting photographers to have their work considered for the Library of Congress’ permanent photography collection. If you are interested, make sure to select ‘yes’ on the Library of Congress portion of the submission form. More information on the national library of the United States is available at

Please contact [email protected] with any questions about the Activist Awards Guidelines.

Ready? We look forward to receiving your photo essay on the submission page.

We are listed with Photo Contest Insider and Photo Contest Information.