What makes a Winning Image

First impressions are everything, and if you’re submitting an image or portfolio of images in the physical form then presentation can be the difference between simply entering the competition and winning. Be sure to invest some time and effort on the processing of your images in preparation for print. Also, don’t be afraid to invest a little in the printing process – spending a bit of money on decent paper can improve the look of your images tenfold. Bear in mind size as well – submitting an A4 contact sheet with small thumbnails on it won’t do your images justice, and will make it very difficult for the judges to assess your images properly. Finally, consider that once you post your images they’re out of your hands, and are at the mercy of the postman, with a fair chance that they’ll get creased in transit – why not mount your images on some black card, with the added bonus of making them stand out even more.


What makes a Winning Image

Strong Composition

Travel Photographer of the Year / Darwin Wiggett

Darwin’s portfolio of winning images all featured very strong composition. When considering capturing a landscape, many would focus in on the mountains and have them as the main feature of the frame. However, in the majority of Darwin’s images a strong foreground interest leads the eye through the frame and makes the image leap off the page.

Colour Contrast

Another way of making an image leap from the page is to include a contrast in colour, as Darwin has done in this image. The warm tones in the sky create an excellent juxtaposition for the cool colours on the ice in the foreground, with an extra added element of the oranges and yellows reflecting and creating a striking blend between the two.

Irregular Features

While some may think it’s easy to capture a striking landscape, a different side to a scene is the key to an award-winning image or portfolio. In this instance, Darwin has gone to extra lengths to locate an irregular ice formation and include it adeptly in the scene for extra interest.

Different Subject

You could be forgiven for thinking that the winner of Travel Photographer of the Year award is normally a portfolio of reportage images of far-flung lands. However, Darwin shows that applying some creative thinking to a competition entry can pay dividends and that doing the unexpected can often be more rewarding than following the herd.


Getting the combination of a rare and irregular ice formation and such stunning light isn’t just a lucky coincidence – the stunning scene is the result of hours and hours of extensive research. Darwin regularly visits a location with a ‘shortlist’ of factors he is looking for in a preconceived image, and then hunts for a location, and time of day, that ticks all the boxes.


This image is one of a series that scooped Darwin the top prize, and it features several images taken in the same location. This shows that when it comes to putting together a winning portfolio, the judges will look for consistency of excellent work, rather than a wide range of differing images, as this will often better showcase a photographer’s skill and vision.

Now it’s your turn – other competitions to try:

  1. 1. Your guide to photo competitions
  2. 2. What makes a Winning Image
Page 2 of 2 - Show Full List