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Judges insight: top tips from our 2020 panel

3 years ago

Wow, is it that time already?! We're just over halfway through the entry period for this year's Awards and to celebrate we thought we'd share some insight from last year's judges. You've got four months until the Sony World Photography Awards closes, which still gives you enough time to put together a really strong submission. To maximise your chances of going further in this year's Awards, we've asked last year's Professional jury to give their insight.

Don't forget! We'll be announcing the 2021 judging panel on Tuesday, 15th September. We're so proud the Awards is now in its fourteenth year, an achievement we feel is down to the rigorous judging process and the importance to include and celebrate all photographers who are passionate to create individual and imaginative work.

Before you submit your entry, we recommend you do a bit of research on the judge(s) reviewing your competition so you can make sure it's the right competition for you and your work. Check back here, on the World Photography Organisation website, to view the jury, or sign up to our newsletter to be kept up-to-date with all our photo-related news. 



Brent Lewis, Photo Editor, The New York Times & Co-Founder, Diversify Photo
Professional competition judge

Why should photographers enter the competitions and what are your three top tips for photographers wanting to enter? 

It comes down to the ability to have your work seen globally. I was kind of shocked to see how many stories come out about the winners and the competitions in general. The work is seen globally, as it is open to everyone. Win, lose or draw, just having your name in that competition is amazing. My three tips:

  1. Do the work that you care about, don’t do the work that you think is gonna win ‘cause believe me, it’s not gonna win. Trend changes, what you think matter changes. Just do the work you’re passionate about, that you care about. And that’s what gonna take you far.
  2. Make it just about the photo. Give me something striking off the back, put your best stuff upfront in your edit. Don’t be afraid of your best stuff. Make the photo matters first. 
  3. Give information, and state where you’re from, it adds an extra layer in my mind. Knowing where this work comes from and where it was shot, as well. 

Claudi Carreras Guillén, Independent Curator, Editor, and Cultural Manager 

What professional experience, expertise and skills do you bring when judging submissions? 

I've been a judge in many other contests. I am usually working in Latin America, therefore I am more of a specialist in Latin American photography and art. I try to talk and cooperate with the other judges to know what has happened in projects they worked on. It’s important for me to know other contests, other realities, to judge with integrity. 


Touria El Glaoui, Founding Director, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair

Why should photographers enter the Sony World Photography Awards?

Photographers, both professionals and amateurs, should definitely enter the competition, especially people who have different views on current events and willing to share it with an audience. The most exciting part of judging was to see all those issues that we are all impacted by to be covered in very unique ways. Don’t share series that are too obvious when tackling a particular topic, show us the diversity of minds when apprehending an issue. And stick to the category you are competing for. As much as we are judging on the quality of the photographs themselves, the discourse and narratives attached to photographs are important as they give us great understanding of the context.

Katie Hollander, Director, Annenberg Space for Photography

What are the advantages of anonymous judging? 

The advantage of anonymous judging is that the quality of the image decides on the winning entries, not based on profiles, nationalities, or even by being colleagues of photographers. It is the best way to discover talents. 

Gwen Lee, Director at Singapore International Photography Festival 

Why should photographers enter the competitions and what are your tips for photographers wanting to enter? 

Understand what you want to present. Be critical when editing your work. When you can only submit ten images, you need to consider: are those images best to represent my ideas? If you don’t have ten good images, remove some: less is better, otherwise bad images will bring down the rest of your work. Many people say that a photo tells a thousand words, but you need to be focused. You need to be clear about the key message, because it will shine through your images and present the best of your intention. 

Mike Trow, editor, photographer, consultant (UK)

What professional experience, expertise and skills do you bring when judging submissions? 

I have been in photography for 25 years, starting off with reportages with agency work, and then working for magazines, covering everything from portraiture to still life. I am used to work with photographers of high level and integrity. Therefore, when I look at work, all the things I have seen over the years and my feelings about photography inherently comes through when I am judging. It doesn’t mean that I am always right, by any means, it is still very subjective. I have a reasonably honest reaction to the work in front of me.