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  • Writer's pictureTyesha Ferron

Keep Your Eyes Out for These Aerial Photo Contests

Credit: 2020 Siena Awards

When you’re good at something, you should be recognized for it. All over the world, people have embraced drones as the next level of photography, so it stands to reason that there would be platforms to exhibit and reward those whose work can be considered the best of the best. For the past few years, companies have been giving aerial photographers worldwide an opportunity to prove themselves a stand-out amongst their peers. If you’re a drone photographer with a lot of promise, consider submitting your work to these aerial photo contests.

Drone Photo Awards (often simply referred to as Drone Awards) is a worldwide aerial photography and video competition affiliated with Siena International Photo Awards. Created to highlight work set apart from traditional photography, the Drone Photo Awards isn’t exclusive to your average quadcopter. According to their About page, Images captured by “fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, balloons, blimps and dirigibles, rockets, kites, and parachutes” are also accepted.

On their website, you can see a gallery of winners from previous years’ competitions. Photographer Jacek Deneka’s work, ‘A Shoal of Colorful Fish’, earned the title of Photo of the Year and is prominently featured. Below his feature, you can explore the works of the other winners in each category. By clicking on ‘Discover the winners’, you can see the 1st Classified image, the Runner Up, 3 highly commended works, and 7 commended works.

Credit: 2020 Siena Awards

Winning photographers receive a number of prizes. Drone Photographer of the Year wins €500,00 worth of photography equipment. They and the category winners receive the Pangea Prize Crystal statuette. Highly commended and commended photographers receive a parchment onstage. All winners will have their work displayed at the “Above Us Only Sky” exhibition, they will be special guests at the awards ceremony and the gala dinner, and their work will be published in the online gallery.

Credit: 2020 Siena Awards

They will also have their work exhibited during the Siena Awards Festival and receive press coverage “from publications and media outlets around the world”, increasing their chances of being globally recognized. Additionally, it’s important to note that all photographers who participate in the contest retain the copyright for their work, but winners and finalists grant Drone Photo Awards “limited and restricted use of winning photos ...” More details about this are available in the competition rules.

For the 2020 competition, the categories were Wedding, Video, Urban, Nature, People, Animals, Abstract, Sport, Series, and Empty Cities: Life Under Covid-19. The Series category requires a set of 5-9 linking images with the same theme and editing style, and the Empty Cities category is accepting work in both the photography and video formats. The submission period for this competition started on May 1, 2020 and ended June 15th, 2020. The awards ceremony will take place during Siena Awards Festival in October at the Teatro dei Rinnovati in Siena.


Created by DJI, SkyPixel launched in 2014 and serves as "a dedicated platform for aerial photographers and filmmakers from around the world." It is now considered the world’s largest platform for drone and aerial photo and video sharing. Towards the end of 2015, SkyPixel celebrated its first anniversary with the first in a series of annual aerial photo contests. As of this article’s writing, SkyPixel has completed its 4th contest, celebrating its 5th anniversary, and we may see an announcement for its 5th competition in the next few months.


SkyPixel’s 2019 competition was aptly named the SkyPixel 5th Anniversary Aerial Photo & Video Contest with the subtitle ‘Journey Beyond the Sky’. The contest submission period began December 3rd, 2019 and lasted until February 3, 2020. The winners were announced on March 3rd. Each year, the contest has encouraged storytelling, and this year’s competition emphasized it with the addition of the new Aerial Story category.

Submissions are accepted in both video and photo formats. In the video section, the categories were city, travel, nature, and sport. In the photos section, the categories were architecture, portrait, nature, and sport as well. As previously stated, the final category is a new addition: Aerial Story. Its description reads:

“From your first flight to all the amazing places you have explored, share your most memorable aerial story.”

There are two grand prizes, one for each format: the Abbual Video Award sponsored by Nikon and the Annual Photo Award sponsored by Western Digital. Winners of the Abbual Video Award will receive a collection of Nikon equipment with a total value of $11,566. Annual Photo Award winners will receive Western Digital products and an Inspire 2 Professional, a $13,010 value.

SkyPixel also hosts a gallery of past winners on their Contests webpage. 2019’s grand prize winners were NATURAL MYSTIC by Sam Favret Haute-Savoie from France and 爪哇之巅 by Tony Wang from Beijing, China. Prize winners go up to 3rd place, and many other participants were recognized through the 5th Anniversary Prize, nominated entries, and the People’s Choice Prize.

Credit: Aerial Photography Awards

The last contest on this list is the newest. The Aerial Photography Awards is an international competition for aerial photographers. The competition already has participants from over 55 countries, including Mexico, Colombia, Australia, the Philippines, Germany, and Zambia. Their call for entries states that they’re “inviting all photographers, whether they take photos from a high point of view or use tools such as drones, helicopters, hang gliders, paragliders, ULMs, and all sizes of aircraft, to submit their best photographs, no matter where in the world they were taken.”

The Aerial Photography Awards opened for submissions for their first-ever competition on April 10th of this year. They don’t close until September 20th, so there’s still time for you to submit your work! Winners will be announced on October 20th. Originally, there were 6 main categories and 24 sub-categories: Urban, Nature, Fine arts, People, Editorial, and Real Estate. Recently, a new category was added, and it doesn't require an entry fee: World in Lockdown.

Credit: Aerial Photography Awards

Possible placements include 1 Grand-Prix winner, 12 category winners, 92 sub-category winners, and special mentions in each sub-category. The Grand-Prix winner and category winners will receive cash prizes, all winners will have their photos displayed in the online gallery, and every participant will have an opportunity for social media exposure. Be sure to check the contest guidelines for entry fees and submission requirements.

The jury for this year’s competition consists of distinguished members of the aerial photography community from all over the world. There are 12 judges on the jury: Jeffrey Milstein, Daniel Beltrá, Dirk Dallas, Alex MacLean, Benjamin Grant, Peter Essick, Florian Ledoux, Hulia Boz, Abstract Aerial Art, Noura Al Murr Al Neyadi, Costas Spathis, and our very own Elena Buenrostro!

Now’s the time to work on your portfolio and send in some entries!


Tyesha Ferron is a writer based in Atlanta, Georgia. Specializing in digital content, Tyesha loves exploring the new ways technology intersects with culture and how drones make things more efficient and accessible for artists, hobbyists, and industry professionals. As a novice drone enthusiast, she continues to be impressed by what the drone community and industry can accomplish.

Instagram: @tyesha.ferron

Twitter: @Tyesha_Ferron

LinkedIn: Tyesha Ferron


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