New categories coming in Spring 2021

Submissions are currently closed

What Is Family?

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.

Feature Categories

Announcement of new categories coming soon.

➤ The Unconventional Portrait

A portrait represents the photographer’s perspective of an individual during a moment in time.  While our classic environmental portrait category has looked for portraits where the environment plays a role in conveying information about the subject to the viewer, during this round we are opening the door to exploring the idea of a portrait.  The unconventional portrait is an opportunity to submit photographs that capture a person’s essence in a more artful, abstract, straightforward or conceptual way.  We look forward to seeing submissions that reflect different interpretations of this theme.

Classic Categories

From birth to portraiture to real life to images made on your phone, our classic categories allow you to explore all aspects of family life.

Nothing Is better than Real Life

Real life is the authentic, unscripted moments in our everyday life. For some, these are extraordinary events and for others, it can simply be the small moments of accomplishment or defeat. This category is wide open, as an opportunity for you to enter photographs that explore all aspects of family life.


The birthing process includes a depth and complexity that goes far beyond the climax of life entering this world. Therefore, we are looking for photographs that represent not just the final moments of labor but also the supporting events and landmarks that lead towards a child being born. Submissions are open to work from everything leading up to, during, and after the birthing process.

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) category must have permission from any recognizable subjects to use their photos publicly.

Cell Phone Only (photos taken on your phone)

The best camera is the one you have with you and more often than not it can be our phones. This category is about sharing family documentary work both personal and professional, created with your phone’s camera.

Toning: 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.

Photo Series

The Photo Series category gives you the freedom to tell larger stories, show growth and change in your subjects, or simply provide a broader perspective on a topic.

There are no limitations on the timeframe in which the series can be photographed and the timeline and order does not have to be linear. For example, photos can be from a day in the life, a birth, or perhaps from multiple families and subjects over a longer period of time. You can explore a specific theme or present your personal perspective of this genre. These are just examples and we want to encourage creativity in not only the images, but the concept itself.

Do you have a question? Head to our support page and browse our resources or ask a question in our Facebook group.