The Photography Blog: The winner takes it all

Alex Hare

Welcome to the Independent’s new photography blog. Here we’ll be discussing everything that’s current and topical in the photo world keeping you up to date with the latest news, trends and competitions.

We’ll be asking you for your opinions on these issues and you can always join in the conversation by posting your comments after each post.

This week we’re looking at the latest big photography competition asking to see your work and examining what it takes to be a winner. If you’ve got a stack of images sitting on your hard drive collecting cyber dust then competitions are the perfect excuse to dig them out and get them seen.

With big prizes up for grabs and, potentially, the opportunity to kick start a photography career, the Landscape Photographer Of The Year (LPOTY) carries much allure amongst amateurs and pros alike.

Although there are hundreds of photography competitions to enter at any given time, some stand out as carrying particular appeal and this is certainly one. First prize is £10,000 and all the top entries feature in a book and an exhibition at the National Theatre.

There are a variety of categories to enter encompassing every possible angle on landscape photography so check these first to guide your selection process. Beyond these categories there are also three ‘floating’ prizes to be won for images across the categories that fit the choices of the competition’s major sponsors-a nice added twist to the normal competition format.

The deadline for entries is 15th July 2012.

TAV Fulton The Photography Blog: The winner takes it all

2011 LPOTY winner Robert Fulton - Winter Field, Stirlingshire, Scotland.

What are the judges looking for?

A review of previous winners of LPOTY suggests that whilst there is no particular trend the judges are leaning towards in terms of location or style, they seem to be very keen to avoid anything that risks being visually unbelievable.

The most famous case of a spectacular winner being stripped of his prestigious title has to be the 2009 Natural History Museum Wildlife Photographer of The Year. In that case the photographer was deemed to have used a tame wolf in his winning image, breaking competition rules.

LPOTY rules do allow good leeway for common digital post production techniques. However, on reviewing previous winners, the judges appear keen to place an emphasis on creative use of light and composition and avoid any risk of someone walking away from viewing a winning entry at the exhibition muttering something about the dark arts of Photoshop being employed.

Of all the previous winners, only the 2009 winner may have required some advanced digital editing due to the high key nature of the light captured by the photographer. Even then, the result is striking but calm and, crucially, believable.

TAV Coupe 72ppi The Photography Blog: The winner takes it all

2009 winner Emmanuel Coupe - Sunrise over the Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Choosing photographs to enter into any competition is tough but a big one like LPOTY requires stringent quality control over your submission.

Ruthless editing of your work for anything that is not technically perfect followed by a second round of checking for creative and aesthetic strengths should provide a nice, tight shortlist.

Wonky horizons, soft focus, low res images or poor composition are all no-no’s. It may even help to ask friends and family to choose their favourite image in your collection-you might be surprised what they pick!

Even if you don’t enter, the competition’s annual exhibition is worth paying a visit and will be open from late November. Just keep tabs on the Take a View LPOTY website for final confirmation of the date.

Competition Calendar

Each year there are a number of big competitions to consider. In addition to LPOTY, there is Travel Photographer of The Year and Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Perhaps the biggest of all, open to both amateurs and professionals, are the Sony World Photography Awards.

You and Your Photography

Have you won a photography competition before? What do you think plays out well in front of a judging panel? Do you think ‘believability’ in landscape, travel or wildlife photography has suffered in the digital age or has it opened up new creative possibilities? What did you think of the leaping wolf image that was disqualified?

We’d love to hear your views, just post a comment below.

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  • Kugelschreiber

    I tried to take a photo of a tramp once, you know, the typical sort of tramp with a great beard and a rope belt.

    But my husband pulled me back and stopped me “He might be dangerous!” he hissed

  • Kugelschreiber

    One of my favourite ever photos is one my brother in law took of his dog, a little half-breed black n white fox terrier.

    He put a great pair of sunglasses on the dog and rested its little white front paws on a Roses box (it was Xmas).  So cute!

    You’d have to KNOW this dog to  completely understand the cuteness of this photo though.

    He was a timid, nervous little creature, but whenever the fire alarm used to go off when my sister was cooking, he went crazy, made great howling-singing sort of  noises & kept trying to jump up to the ceiling where the fire alarm was

  • Pete Loud

    Although there are hundreds of photography competitions to enter at any given time, . . .

    Many apparent photo competitions are nothing more than publishers or agencies trying to build up their stocks of quality photographs to sell around the world, from which the photographer does not receive a penny.

    It is important that photographers carefully read the terms and conditions of photo competitions. Often the T&C will say that the photographer keeps the copyright, but is giving the competition organiser the right to sell on the image in any way they like.

    There are often similar T&C when submitting images to national media in Britain.

  • Alexander Hare

    Very good point, Pete.  The ideal scenario is they should only reserve the right to use your pic in connection with the promotion of the competition, as LPOTY does, but often they can go a lot further.  It’s also worth checking the T&C’s for dates; sometimes an image has to have been taken within a certain period of time, e.g. the last five years.  Another tricky issue can be the amount of digital post production work.  The last time I checked, TPOTY did not allow exposure blending but did allow the use of filters, whereas LPOTY is more open to this fairly common digital processing technique.  The point is, it would be a tragedy to be told you’re a winner and then lose your award on a technicality like this…

  • redbeardtravels

    To be in the running for the Taylor Wessing photo prize, your portrait needs to feature one of the following:-

    A group of lack-jawed disaffected teenagers staring into space;
    A poor foreigner smiling through their adversity;
    A frowning actress;
    A woman with long flowing hair standing in the woods;
    A burn victim or someone with a birth defect, preferably naked.

    Entries now open!

    I’m bookmarking this blog and look forward to seeing how it develops (pardon the pun). I hope there will be more photographs, critical essays and interviews with photographers.

  • zaggiphoto

    What did you think of the leaping wolf image that was disqualified? ………. You could admire the technical ability and was it any less of a picture of a wolf? Is a picture of a Lion in a zoo still a picture of wildlife? I guess though it contravened the spirit of the competition. As far as the LPOTY I have visited and even bought the book but find the results edging towards impossibly colourful. That ’saturation’ slider again …..!

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