Want to be a winner?
You've taken what you think is your best photograph. You've chosen which photography competition(s) you want to enter.
Before you press "submit," get a leg up on the competition with advice from some past and current judges of the Sony World Photography Awards and some insider tips from the World Photography Organisation.
Scott Gray, CEO, World Photography Organisation
“The judging for the Sony World Photography Awards is always anonymous, and the World Photography Organisation is impartial to the process. We work with industry-leading experts to ensure the artists who enter their images to our Awards are given the best opportunity to be seen. Having sat in on the judging of all 11 editions of the Awards, I would recommend the following to anyone entering any photography competition:
Self-Editing - this is absolutely vital. If, like our Professional competition, you need to enter a body of work make sure that every image in the series is strong, and you aren’t adding in weaker images just to pad out the work. Does each image tell the story you want to share? What does each image add? If it doesn’t add anything, take it out.
Feedback - your photographs are your pride and joy, but does the image communicate what you want to others? Whether it is a trusted friend or an online community, getting feedback on your work is always really helpful to guarantee you enter your best images.
Description - most competitions require you to submit a description with your image/images. Make sure that the purpose of the image is clear and whatever you write is clear. Remember, it is likely that the judges do not speak the same language as you so don’t overload your writing with flowery statements or complex jargon.
Does it fit the brief? - judges will often see amazing work, but they can't reward brilliant images that are in the wrong category or don't fit the competition brief. Read the requirements of the competition, and then read them again. Does your image really work well for that competition, or is it better elsewhere? For categories which have a looser interpretation, such as the Discovery and Creative categories in our Awards, make sure your supporting statement outlines why your images fit that specific category.
Lastly, entering photography competitions can be a fantastic way to gain exposure and recognition, so make sure that whatever you present to the judges is to the best of your ability.”
Mike Trow, (Chair, 2019 Professional competition)
“For 2019, I hope the standard is even higher. I think more environmental and political work is important as it highlights major current global and local issues that affect everyone. The Still Life and Landscape categories I hope will continue to gain more and more innovative entries. My main hope is that photographers from all nationalities apply and submit their best works. It is a global competition and the judges are excited to see entries from across the world that tell stories that might take audiences out of their comfort zone.”
Jason Baron, Creative Director of Photography at BBC Creative (2019 Student competition judge)
“I’d like the students to not think too much about the images they enter. If they really believe their image has something to say about the truth, then that’s what I want to see. I don’t care too much about technical know-how or clever stuff. It’s mostly all tricks. Sometimes tricks are marvelous, but only if they shed light on a truth that’s never been photographed before. The other thing is that I used to be a comedian, so I like funny things because I’m not funny anymore. Awards are often full of very serious pictures of serious subjects, and I get a bit fed up with all of that. Some levity would be good.”
Jeff Hamada, Founder and Editor, Booooooom (2019 Student competition judge)
“I’m really excited to see what gets submitted to the 2019 Awards. I’d like to see work that demonstrates a firm grasp of the fundamentals of photography and a consistency, but more than anything else, I’m looking for a unique eye.”
Erin Barnett, Director of Exhibitions and Collections at the International Center of Photography in New York (2019 Professional competition judge)
“From my experience, a good photography series uses great storytelling from a unique perspective. I am particularly keen to see fresh images of interesting (or even mundane) subjects. I want to be surprised. While it is important to look at the work of other photographers, make work that the wholly and uniquely yours.”
Brendan Embser, Managing Editor of Aperture Magazine (2019 Professional Competition judge)
"I always look for two things: strong content and strong concept. The content can be very timely and worthy of attention, but if it’s not framed in a thoughtful, rigorous way, it’s not memorable. On the other hand, the concept can be brilliant and novel, but it needs to be connected to a topic that’s somehow urgent, and therefore addresses a newsworthy event or cultural theme with style, voice, and commitment."
Emma Lewis, Assistant Curator at Tate and a writer specialising in photography (2019 Professional Competition judge)
"What advice would you like to give to the photographers entering the Awards? My advice to photographers entering the Awards c would be: familiarise yourself with the competition you are applying to and its remit, and take other's opinions when deciding what to submit -- but don't ignore your gut instinct!"
Zelda Cheatle, Curator (Chair, 2018 Open, Youth competition and National Awards)
“In choosing the winners, the images all had to have something special - whether it be composition, impact, skill, a portrayal of a unique event or informing in a new way. Above all else, each winner had to be an exceptional photograph."
Dewi Lewis, Publisher, Dewi Lewis Publishing (2018 Professional competition judge)
“For me, the most important thing is that a photographer develops their own voice – that their individual qualities and personality come through. This ultimately means finding a theme / a subject that they really believe in and that they really care about.”