Our 10th International Competition Is Here!
9th Place Award in the “Environmental Portrait” category. Photo by Kristen Gianaris, United States.

Categories to Enter

11 categories open for submission

The unifying theme of the Documentary Family Awards is the celebration of “family.” Family in all the different ways it is lived, cherished and experienced. We encourage photographers to push the definition of family to be more inclusive of families not just living in the same household or sharing the same lineage, but to acknowledge that family is what we make of it. Family to us means sharing some portion of life with the ones you love; sharing laughter and sadness, tragedy and victory, success and regret, compassion and support. Family encompasses the people we came into this world with and the larger community that holds us together. The sweet simplicities and deeper complexities found in the comradeship of humanity.

Category Descriptions & Guidelines

1. Birth

Single photographs that explore the full birth experience including pregnancy, pregnancy loss, the full birthing process and postpartum.

  • Single photos can be from any year
  • Single photos cannot be posed, staged or directed by the photographer
  • Photo series on this or any other topic must be submitted to the “Photo Series” category

Note: The “Birth” category is uncensored. Share your best work with us and we will share the award-winning photos on the appropriate channels. A reminder that photographers entering this and any other category must have permission from any recognizable subjects to use their photos publicly.

2. Cell Phone Only
#mobilephotography

Single photographs taken using a cell phone that explore all aspects of family life.

  • Single photos must be taken using a cell phone or mobile device camera*
  • Single photos can be from any year
  • Single photos cannot be posed, staged or directed by the photographer
  • Photo series on this or any other topic must be submitted to the “Photo Series” category

*Professional toning of images in this category is not required.  However, if you do want to convert to black and white or add contrast etc, we recommend toning your images with Snapseed by Google (iOS or Android ). However, judges will be more receptive to the toning options available on phones so if your photos have an Instagram filter applied, for example, that is acceptable.

3. Environmental Portrait 

Single photographs executed in an environment that relates to the subject(s) being photographed. The included environment should provide a deeper insight into the personality, emotion or lifestyle of the subject(s). 

  • Single photos can be from any year
  • Single photos can be lightly directed or posed by the photographer
  • Self-portraits are allowed in this category
  • Single photos can also be candid or un-posed

4. Joy

Single photographs that reflect the human experience of joy.

  • Single photos can be from any year
  • Single photos cannot be posed, staged or directed by the photographer
  • Photo series on this topic must be submitted to the “Photo Series” category

5. Nothing Is Better Than Real Life

Single photographs that reflect authentic, unscripted moments in everyday life. This category is wide open to give photographers the opportunity to explore all aspects of family.

  • Single photos can be from any year
  • Single photos cannot be posed, staged or directed by the photographer
  • Photo series on this or any other topic must be submitted to the “Photo Series” category

6. Person’s Best Friend

Single photographs that explore the relationships and interactions of pets and animals with humans.

  • Single photos can be from any year
  • Single photos cannot be posed, staged or directed by the photographer
  • Photo series on this or any other topic must be submitted to the “Photo Series” category

7.Siblings

Single photographs that reflect the dynamics and experience of the sibling relationship(s).

  • Single photos can be from any year
  • Single photos cannot be posed, staged or directed by the photographer
  • Photo series on this or any other topic must be submitted to the “Photo Series” category

8. Teenagers

Single photographs that document the life of or around the teenage experience.

  • Single photos can be from any year
  • Single photos cannot be posed, staged or directed by the photographer
  • Photo series on this or any other topic must be submitted to the “Photo Series” category

9.Water

Single photographs that explore the experience and presence of water in family life.

  • Single photos can be from any year
  • Single photos cannot be posed, staged or directed by the photographer
  • Photo series on this or any other topic must be submitted to the “Photo Series” category

10. Photo Stories (Narrative)

Narrative-based documentary photo stories that include up to 10 photographs exploring various family stories and experiences.

Judges may assess the sequence order, toning continuity, if the overall statement matches the photos presented, series consistency and originality.

We suggest photo series be submitted in either all colour or all black and white, with the exception of a purposeful or creative decision to do so otherwise. 

  • Photo stories can include maximum 10 photos
  • Photo stories can include photos from any year and be taken over any period of time
  • Photo stories cannot be posed, staged or directed by the photographer with the exception of self and environmental portraits
  • Photo stories description required*
  • Photo captions optional*

* Do not include your name in the caption or photo story summary. Judges may or may not read the photo story description and captions to determine if the photos submitted support the overall intent of the series.

11.Photo Series (Conceptual)

Conceptual or experimental documentary photo series that include up to 10 photographs exploring various family themes and experiences.

Judges may assess the sequence order, toning continuity, if the overall series description matches the photos presented, series consistency and originality.

We suggest photo series be submitted in either all colour or all black and white, with the exception of a purposeful or creative decision to do so otherwise. 

  • Photo series can include maximum 10 photos
  • Photo series can include photos from any year and be taken over any period of time
  • Photo series cannot be posed, staged or directed by the photographer with the exception of self and environmental portraits
  • Photo series description required*
  • Photo captions optional*

* Do not include your name in the caption or photo series summary. Judges may or may not read the photo series description and captions to determine if the photos submitted support the overall intent of the series.

The Documentary Family Awards is an international competition in search of the insightful and meaningful ways that documentary photographers explore the interpretation of family.