The Best Photography Grants in 2020

For the last century, photographers ranging from Dorothea Lange to Robert Frank, Edward Weston to Gary Winogrand, and W. Eugene Smith to Cindy Sherman, have helped to define our culture—often with a little help from grants from agencies and organizations like the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the MacArthur Fellows program.

Without these programs, some of history’s most significant contributions to photography might not exist.

In 2020, grants and funding for artists remain as important as ever, and this year will usher in some exciting opportunities for photographers of all genres. Here’s a quick look at a few grants and fellowships worth considering in the new year.

Personal Possessions by Josh Caudwell on

What are grants, and why do I want one?

Grants, fellowships, and scholarships are all geared toward providing you with resources. In most cases, this means funding, but not always. When you apply for a grant, you are asking the provider to help you complete a project or seek personal/professional growth. The tricky part is, you’re not the only one out there asking, so you need a strategy to stand out from the crowd:

-Know your purpose
Be able to explain why you are the best candidate for a grant and what you will do with the resources if they are given to you.
-Get comfortable putting yourself out there
There are a lot of grants and a lot of applicants for each one, so accept from the beginning that you won’t win every time.
-Seek growth on your own by building an impressive CV
The best way to demonstrate proficiency is to have a history of it. Take on projects (personal or otherwise) that you are proud to showcase when you seek a grant.

Female photographer shooting outdoors by Igor Stevanovic on

Isn’t it a pain to apply for a photography grant?

Not really, if you understand the process. Look for:

1. The requirements
Are you in the right age and experience brackets?
2. What the organization wants from you
Usually, they’ll want some samples of your work and some writing in the form of a bio, CV, or artist statement. There may also be an application fee.
3. How the organization would like to receive it
Should you upload it on their website or mail it in? To whom should you address your communications?
4. The deadline
If you miss a deadline, you’re out of luck.

There are some additional things you can do to prepare yourself:

Practice writing and speaking about your work
To win a grant, you’ll have to discuss things like your process, your motivation, and your long-term goals. Practice writing an artist statement for each project you do as a type of journaling exercise. This will make you more aware of your own biases and tendencies. You can also look for speaking opportunities at the local level to get more comfortable describing your work to strangers.

A young tourist with a camera in the old town. by Jozef Polc on

Stay on top of deadlines
Once you miss a deadline for a grant application, you could be missing out on serious funding. Even attempting to turn your application in late is a red flag that your time management skills and priorities are not grant-receiving material.

Once you win an award, you may still have to check-in to prove that you are on track with your proposal. There may also be restrictions about how you can use the funding you receive, and you could risk losing it if you don’t stay organized.

Make a dedicated calendar for your grant, fellowship, and scholarship application deadlines so you can see at a glance when everything is due. (Trello with the Calendar power-up is a great way to organize information and due dates simultaneously.)

Which photography grants should I apply for in 2020?

You’re convinced that a grant will help you achieve an important goal, and you’re ready to go out and grab one. Here are 15 great options coming up in 2020.

1. Individual Photographer’s Fellowship
By the Aaron Siskind Foundation

This fellowship is in place to support an active professional photographer. A panel of high-profile judges determines the winner(s) based not only on the work actually submitted for review, but on their past accomplishments in the field and future potential.

Application Deadline: TBA
Fees: $25
Award: Up to $15,000 for each artist selected
Eligibility: For artists at least 21 years old working in photography and photo-based art.
-10 images
-250 word (maximum) Artist Statement
-Career Summary/CV/Short Bio (500-word maximum)

2. Early Career Grant
By National Geographic

National Geographic’s Early Career Grant gives a less experienced photographer the opportunity to take a leadership role for a project lasting no more than one calendar year.

Application Deadline: April 22, 2020 (decisions in August 2020)
Fees: None
Award: $5,000 – $10,000
Eligibility: Applicants must be at least 18 years of age with five or fewer years of experience in their field.
Requirements: You must submit a two-minute video (in English or with English captions) with your application.

3. Getty Images Creative Bursary
By Getty Images

For photographers with fewer than five years of experience and little-to-no budget, this grant is an opportunity to launch your creative potential. See all grants funded by Getty Images here.

Application Deadline: TBA
Fees: None listed
Award: $3,000 – $10,000
Eligibility: Not listed
-Links to existing portfolio of work online
-Summary of project proposal (200-500 words)
-Mood board
-A short essay

*See also Disability Stories, ARRAY Grant, Women Photograph Grant, Chris Hondros Fund Award, and Reportage Grant.

4. IPG Talent of the Year 2020
By International Photography Grant

With no restrictions on genre or subject, IPG Talent of the Year allows photographers to follow their own creative leanings, as long as a cohesive photographic series is submitted with the application.

Application Deadline: July 31, 2020
Fees: None
Award: $1,000
Eligibility: Applicants must be at least 18 years of age, submitting an ongoing project or a project completed within the past three to five years.
-A series of up to 10 images with a common theme
-A description of your project (50 words, maximum) and project title

5. Alexia Professional Grant
By the Alexia Foundation

This grant is for photographers who are working toward positive change through peace and cultural understanding. As it is one of the higher monetary awards, there are some extra restrictions on eligibility, so read the application materials carefully on this one.

Application Deadline: TBA
Fees: $50
Award: $20,000
Eligibility: Must be an individual photographer who has not received grants or awards of more than $10,100 in the previous calendar year.
-Project synopsis (25 words, maximum)
-Written proposal (550 words, maximum) to produce a body of work
-Resume with three references
-Body of work (up to 20 photographs)

6. Firecracker Photographic Grant
By Firecracker

Exclusively for female documentary photographers, the Firecracker Photographic Grant allots printing, mounting, and framing credits from Genesis Imaging in addition to their monetary award.

Application Deadline: TBA
Fees: £10
Award: £2,000
Eligibility: Must be a female photographer seeking aid with the completion of a documentary photographic project.
Requirements: Not listed

7. Project Launch Grant

The Project Launch Grant applies to series’ that are already completed or in progress. The award is intended to facilitate the completion of a project and/or publicize it at a higher level than the photographer currently has access to.

Application Deadline: TBA
Fees: TBA (In the past, $45-$55)
Award: $1,000 – $5,000
Eligibility: Granted to an outstanding photographer working on a fine art series or documentary project.
Requirements: Not listed

8. Artist-in-Residence Program
By Light Work

This grant is a departure from the others featured here, as it is a residency program. The winner not only receives a stipend and support from the funding agency, but also housing, “24-hour access to state-of-the-art facilities”, and support from Light Work staff.

Application Deadline: July 1, 2020
Fees: Not listed
Award: $5,000 stipend and one-month residency
Eligibility: Must be an artist working in photography or image-based media.
Requirements: Not listed

9. Eugene Smith Grant
By the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund

W. Eugene Smith was an American photo essayist (some even call him the creator of the photo essay) whose career spanned 45 years, including during World War II. The Eugene Smith Grant is awarded in his honor.

Application Deadline: TBA (2019’s was in April)
Fees: $50
Award: $40,000
Eligibility: A photographer whose past work and proposed project follows the tradition of W. Eugene Smith.
-A biography (1,500 characters, maximum)
-A professional CV (2,000 characters, maximum)
-Project proposal
-Up to 40 images representative of the proposed project

*See also the Howard Chapnick Grant and the Eugene Smith Grant for Student Photographers.

10. The Imagely Fund
By Imagely

In support of a photographer who is bringing awareness to humanitarian issues and environmental crises, The Imagely Fund is awarded once each year. Details have not yet been released for 2020, but in 2019 Imagely awarded two grants for the first time, one for a humanitarian and one for an environmental project.

Application Deadline: TBA
Fees: None
Award: $5,000
Eligibility: Must be at least 21 years of age.
-One-page project statement
-A link to an online portfolio with at least one complete photo essay

11. Ian Parry Scholarship
Patron: Sir Don McCullin C.B.E.

In 1989, Ian Parry, a 24-year-old photojournalist covering the Romanian Revolution, died on assignment. Friends, family members, and Parry’s picture editor at the time of his death banded together to form the Ian Parry Scholarship in his honor. In 2019, the award was spread across two categories.

Application Deadline: TBA
Fees: None
Award: £3,500
Eligibility: Must be attending a full-time photographic course or under 24 years of age.
Requirements: Not listed

12. Lucie Scholarship Program
By Lucie Foundation

The Lucie Foundation awards four monetary grants each year. The categories are: ChromaLuxe X Lucie Foundation ($3,000), Emerging Artist ($2,500), Photo Made ($1,000), and Photo Taken ($1,000).

Application Deadline: TBA
Fees: None
Award: $1,000 – $3,000
Eligibility: Varies
-Project proposal
-Project description (250 words)
-Project Plan
-Five goals for the project
-Biography (one page) and/or CV
-20 digital images

13. PHmuseum 2020 Photography Grant
By the Photographic Museum of Humanity

Applicants stand to win a portion of the $16,000 in cash prizes from this grant. Some photographers will win portfolio reviews, publication, a solo exhibition, or a projection at the Lagos Photo Festival 2020 in lieu of a monetary award.

Application Deadline: TBA
Fees: $40
Award: $1,300 – $8,000
Eligibility: Varies
-Project proposal
-Project description (250 words)
-Project Plan
-Five goals for the project
-Biography (one page) and/or CV
-20 digital images

14. Emerging Photographer Fund
By Burn Magazine

Both journalistic and artistic projects are eligible for this grant, and/or for the separate, Fujifilm Young Talent Award ($10,000). The two awards are not mutually exclusive, and there’s no limit to the applicant’s age or to the amount of projects a single photographer can enter.

Application Deadline: TBA
Fees: None
Award: $10,000
Eligibility: Photographers with a personal project or emerging career
Requirements: Not listed

*See also the Fujifilm Young Talent Award.

15. Magnum Foundation Fund
By Magnum Foundation

Applicants for this award are selected by invitation, which makes it an excellent goal to work toward as you start writing open call grants. In the meantime, you can look into other grants and fellowships under the Magnum Foundation umbrella: The Photography and Social Justice Fellowship, Arab Documentary Photography Program, Magnum Foundation Fellowship, and Inge Morath Award.

Application Deadline: September
Fees: None
Award: Up to $10,000
Eligibility: By nomination only
Requirements: Not listed

Once you’ve chosen which grants you’ll go for, make sure you meet all of the specifications and get your application in before the deadline. Then, follow through on the grant requirements once it has been awarded to you, and you’re all set for success in the new year.

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