​Photographers of all ages and experience levels are invited to participate.​<br> image

​Photographers of all ages and experience levels are invited to participate.​

Essence of Bellingham Photo Competition Details

​​​About the Competition

Each year, the City of Bellingham and the Whatcom Museum sponsor the "Essence of Bellingham" photography competition. Digital or scanned entries gathered over the previous year that capture the "essence" of Bellingham are showcased and added to a collection documenting Bellingham and the diverse nature of life in our city and county. 

Entries may appear in Whatcom Museum and City of Bellingham publications and in various places such as print, TV, and the Internet.


All residents of Whatcom County are eligible to participate with the exception of those called upon to jury the competition.​


Prizes and special recognition by the Mayor and Bellingham City Council for the following awards:

  • Best of Show - Top three photos of all entries from all categories and classes of photographers

Recognition by the jury and announced on the City's website and news release for the following awards:

  • Best of Class - Top photo from each class of photographer
  • Best of Category - Top photo in each category within a class of photographer (e.g. K-4, Amateur, Professional, etc.)
  • Honorable Mentions - Photos the jury finds exceptional

All entries will be added to the Museum’s photo archives and may appear on BTV​, the City of Bellingham website, and in other City publications.

Current Competition

  • Entries will be accepted Mar 1 - May 1, 2020.​​
  • Past competition results are available online. 

Jury Criteria

A jury comprised of representatives from the Whatcom Museum, professional art community, and City of Bellingham staff will evaluate all eligible submissions received by the deadline. Winning entries will be selected on the basis of the following criteria listed in order of emphasis:

  1. How well the photo captures the “Essence of Bellingham”
  2. Classification of photographer (e.g. K-4, 5-8, 9-12, college, amateur, professional)
  3. Category of subject matter
  4. Photographic quality including light, color, composition, resolution, capturing a moment, etc.

Application Instructions and Requirements

  1. Entries should be appropriate for all ages to view
  2. Entries must be of subjects within or related to the City of Bellingham
  3. Photos must have been taken between Jan. 1, 2019 and May 1, 2020
  4. Entries will only be accepted between March 1 and May 1, 2020.
  5. Entries must not have been entered in any previous Essence of Bellingham photo competition
  6. Photos may be enhanced to compensate for technical quality and esthetics but should not be “doctored” (e.g. adding objects that were not originally in the picture).
  7. Do not include photographer signatures or logos on the images submitted to facilitate an unbiased jury process.
  8. A minimum resolution of 2000 pixels wide is recommended but not required.
  9. A limit of 10 photos may be submitted for each competitor with each photo only being entered under one photographer classification (e.g. you can enter a photo under amateur and one under professional but not the same photo under both)
  10. Agree to the competition terms when filling out online entry form​
  11. Photographer must own all rights to any photographs entered in this competition as well as have model releases when appropriate. Model releases do not need to be included in your submission. See guidance on model release forms below.
  12. Submission of an entry to the competition automatically constitutes the acceptance of all conditions set forth in the above rules.
  13. Incomplete entries will not be included in the competition
  14. Winners will be notified in June.
  15. Complete an online entry form for each photo.

The deadline for entries is 4:30 p.m. on May 1, 2020.​

Entry Forms and Publications

Frequently Asked Questions

How much "altering" is "too much"?
There is a line that falls somewhere between eliminating red eye and adding a building into a street scene where one  does not really exist. Finding and describing that line is challenging! Photos submitted should be a truthful representation of whatever happened in front of the camera during exposure. 

Photos may:  

  • ​Be cropped and dust spots removed
  • Be enhanced to compensate for technical quality and aesthetics, such as through filters, adjustments to color, brightness and contrast
  • Multiple exposures that have been combined to produce a single "High Dynamic Range" image are acceptable
  • Photo stitching and stacking are also allowed (e.g. to create a panorama)
Photos may NOT:
  • Include added objects not present in the original photograph