Red Bull Illume History

Red Bull Illume is the world’s greatest adventure and action sports imagery contest which has been going on for over a decade. The contest showcases the most creative and captivating images on the planet, while illuminating the passion, lifestyle and culture behind the photographers that shoot them.

In 2006, Red Bull Illume was founded by Ulrich Grill, a passionate photographer and former Red Bull athlete. At the time, he was running training workshops for photographers, and he realized there weren’t any photo contests dedicated to adventure and action sports. The idea for the Red Bull Illume Quest was born – a contest to celebrate not just the images, but the people behind the lens who go to such extraordinary lengths to capture the shot.

Since then, Red Bull Illume has established itself as one of the biggest photography contests around the world. Each year a judging panel of 50 photo editors and digital experts select around 50 finalist images. Then, at the Winner Award Ceremony, the category winners and overall winner of the contest are announced. They are awarded with beautiful trophies and incredible prize packages from our partners!

The winning images then tour the world as part of the unique Red Bull Illume exhibition.In addition, the winning imagery will also be printed in the limited edition Red Bull Illume Photobook, to give credit to the photographers and honor their hard work.

In 2019 a moving image category was added, recognizing evolving trends in the industry for photographers who also shoot video. That edition, thousands of photographers from around the world submitted a record 59,551 images, the highest ever.

The Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2021 is the sixth edition of the contest and is open to professional as well as amateur photographers and free to enter. With the quality of images improving every edition, there is only one guarantee – the winning imagery will leave you breathless.


The first edition of the Image Quest in 2007 resulted in 2,000 established and amateur photographers from over 90 different countries submitting more than 7,500 images. Fred Mortagne’s black and white shot of a skateboarder shot from above was voted overall winner.

Red Bull Illume 2007 Overall Winner
© Fred Mortagne / Red Bull Illume

Category Winners 2007:


The subsequent exhibition tour showcased the 50 finalist images across various incredible outdoor venues in North America, such as the slopes of Aspen and Huntington Beach Pier in the USA.

Red Bull Illume Exhibition Photobook
The winning images gain immense exposure through the global Red Bull Illume Exhibit Tour and the Photobook. © Suguru Saito, zooom (from top to bottom)
Red Bull Illume 2007
The exhibition tour in 2007 showcased the 50 finalist images across various incredible outdoor venues in North America. © Christian Pondella, Michael White (from left to right)


The submission phase of the second edition of Red Bull Illume opened from October 1, 2009, until February 28, 2010. The 50 finalists were unveiled on August 31, 2010, at a ceremony in Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. The overall winner was Chris Burkard whose image of surfer Peter Mendia off Chile's west coast was selected by an international panel of 53 photo experts.

Red Bull Illume 2010 Overall Winner
© Chris Burkard / Red Bull Illume
Red Bull Illume 2010
The 50 finalists were unveiled at an exciting Winner Award Ceremony in Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. © Erwin Polanc, Samo Vadic, Lorenz Richard (from left to right)


The submission phase of the third edition of Red Bull Illume was open from December 1, 2012, until April 30, 2013. The 50 finalists were unveiled on August 29, 2013, at a ceremony at the Avenue of Stars in Hong Kong. The overall winner was Lorenz Holder whose image of snowboarder Xaver Hoffmann performing a jump at a satellite dish in Raisting, Germany, was selected by an international panel of 50 photo experts.

Red Bull Illume 2013 Overall Winner
© Lorenz Holder / Red Bull Illume

Category Winners 2013:


Following the Winner's Award Ceremony in Hong Kong, the images of the 50 finalists traveled the world as an exhibition tour during 2013/2014. The exhibited images were illuminated on 2x2m light-boxes; to showcase this, the exhibition was strictly open after the sun had set. The exhibition toured the cities of Hong Kong, Atlanta, USA, Vancouver in Canada, Göteborg, Sweden, and Salzburg in Austria.

Red Bull Illume 2013
The Winner Award Ceremony took place in Hong Kong. © Markus Berger, Brian Ching See Wing, Chris Stock (from left to right)


The 2016 Red Bull Illume Image Quest was the fourth edition of the contest after 2007, 2010 and 2013. New for 2016 was the Mobile category. A judging panel of 53 photo editors went through thousands of entries (34,626 images) and eventually selected 11 Category Winners and one Overall Winner, who were unveiled at the Red Bull Illume Winner Award Ceremony on September 28th, 2016, in Chicago, USA. Lorenz Holder took home the overall winner title, making this the second time he has won Red Bull Illume Image Quest, as well as winning the Athlete's Choice Award, which was voted on by several of the biggest athletes in their respective sports.

Red Bull Illume 2016 Overall Winner
© Lorenz Holder / Red Bull Illume

Category Winners 2016:


Following the Winner Award Ceremony in Chicago, all 55 finalist images traveled across the world as part of a unique nighttime photo exhibition. They illuminated the capitals of Azerbaijan, Japan, Czech Republic and Slovenia as well as Toronto, Canada, providing unprecedented exposure for the content creators and their images.

Red Bull Illume 2016
Following the Winner Award Ceremony, all 55 finalist images traveled across the world as part of a unique nighttime exhibition. © Lucas Gilman, Dale Tidy (from top to bottom)


The Image Quest 2019 was the fifth edition and has evolved with two exciting new categories; Best of Instagram by SanDisk and the Moving Image category. In 2019, a record-breaking 59,551 images were submitted by thousands of photographers with entries from all around the world. A judging panel of 50 photo editors and digital experts have selected the 60 finalists, 11 category winners and 1 overall winner, which were unveiled at the Winner Award Ceremony at the LUMEN - Museum of Mountain Photography in Italy on November 20, 2019, with Ben Thouard taking the name as 2019’s overall winner.

© Ben Thouard :
© Ben Thouard / Red Bull Illume

Category Winners 2019:


After the unveiling, all finalist images went on display in breathtaking outdoor venues such as Miami, Jackson Hole and Seven Springs Mountain Resort in the USA as part of the Red Bull Illume Exhibit Tour. In addition, the images were also showcased indoors on 2x2m T-shaped lightboxes provided by CCS digital fabric, which traveled trough 14 SES Spar European Shopping Centers around Austria, Italy and Slovenia.

Red Bull Illume 2019
The Winner Award Ceremony of the Image Quest 2019 took part in the incredible Lumen Museum atop Kronplatz in Bruneck-Brunico, South Tyrol, Italy. © zooom


From March 1 until August 1, 2021, content creators could enter their best adventure and action sports images to the the Image Quest 2021. They could enter into 10 different categories:

  • Best of Instagram by Lenovo
  • Creative by Skylum
  • Emerging by Black Diamond
  • Energy by Red Bull Photography
  • Innovation by EyeEm
  • Lifestyle by COOPH
  • Masterpiece by SanDisk Professional
  • Playground
  • Photo Story
  • RAW by Leica

Official partners for the 2021 Image Quest include global computing leader Lenovo, storage specialist SanDisk, creator of mountain sports equipment Black Diamond, German camera manufacturer Leica, and COOPH, producer of photography apparel and accessories.

A judging panel of 50 photo photo editors and digital experts will select the finalists, category winners and 1 overall winner, to be unveiled at the Winner Award Ceremony in November 2021. After the unveiling all finalist images will be presented around the globe providing an unprecedented level of exposure.