2022 Photographer of the Year: Tips from the winners

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Earlier this year, we asked some of our 2021 Photographer of the Year category winners to share their tips for a winning portfolio.

As well as these tips, you may also like to read our guide for a winning entry from 2020 judges Georgina Steytler and Drew Hopper, and 2019 judge Sally Brownbill, here, as well as our tips from our winners back in 2019 here. 

Andy Rovenko, Overall winner and People category winner, 2021 Photographer of the Year
Photographer of the Year overall winner and People Category Winner, Andy Rovenko, Rocket Girl Chronicles.
Photographer of the Year overall winner and People Category Winner, Andy Rovenko, Rocket Girl Chronicles.
  • Consistency. Probably the most important quality for any portfolio submission, a consistent theme and look expands on a photographer's work and reinforces it. And while it might be tempting to demonstrate versatility - this is the case where less is often more

  • Originality. With judges generally being industry professionals who are familiar with the world's best work and go through hundreds and sometimes thousands of entries, being able to surprise them with an original idea or execution can go a very long way and have the entry assessed on the merits completely different from the rest of the competition, as it won't fall under considerations of "who did it better?"

  • Story. Images can carry an amazing storytelling power and ability to connect, be it portrait, wildlife or even architectural photography. Harnessing this power, taking the viewer on a journey, letting them use their own imagination, and making them guess what's left behind the frame, is likely to resonate a lot more than a technically perfect, but soulless image

  • There'll always be an element of luck related to the strength of the other work entered into a particular competition and how it might speak to the judges, so at the end of the day - if your entry represents the best version of what you do as a photographer, this is all that really matters.
Janine Dawes, Black and white category winner
Black and White Category Winner, Janine Dawes, Sinister beauty.
Black and White Category Winner, Janine Dawes, Sinister beauty.
  • Dare to be different! Grab the judges’ attention by being creative and unique

  • If you have an idea or concept, trust your instincts, run with the idea and start shooting with that in mind.  Shoot a range of things that fit your concept, you could try different subjects or locations, angles, techniques or even different times of the day, whatever it is that suits your theme

  • Ensure you have consistent editing across all your images and in no time, you will have a portfolio of work that gels well together, that is cohesive and tells a story that is unique to you

  • When it’s time to choose the images to enter, take your time, it’s a tough decision and very personal to you. I found printing my images very helpful to narrow the selection down to a final set of 4. Try printing out your favourites, you could have 8 for example. Lay your images out next to each other, swap them around, switch them in and out. It’s a great way to see which work together best and tell your story.
Heather McNeice, Aerial category winner
Aerial Category Winner, Heather McNeice, Shark Bay from above.
Aerial Category Winner, Heather McNeice, Shark Bay from above.
  • Entering a portfolio competition is not just about choosing your best individual images that fit the category’s theme. It’s also about selecting a series of images that complement each other, both aesthetically and in relation to their subject. Your images must stand out from the crowd if they are to catch the judges’ eye;  especially impotent if you have chosen a familiar and often photographed subject

  • Always read the detail of the competition rules carefully and ensure that you have complied with any specific requirements, including in relation to image size, date taken and permitted post-processing. It would be a shame to get to the final stage, only to be disqualified on a technicality. And most of all, don’t be afraid to enter!
Chandra Bong, Landscape category winner
Landscape category winner, Chandra Bong.
  • First of all, the “connection” of every image that you submit is the key to creating a strong portfolio. Always strive to tell a story in your own unique and original way. The next level is when you can let viewers or the judges feel emotion

  • A solid composition and post-processing skills are so crucial to master in this the new era of modern landscape photography. Look to have well balanced tonal contrast and consistency of colour

  • Keep being you and carefully select and process your images to achieve a harmonious portfolio. 

You can see all the 2021 Photographer of the Year winners here, and enter the 2022 competition yourself here. 

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