Underwater photo contest

Peoples' Vote


Cuttlefish, Zeeland, The Netherlands.
By Filip Staes
posted (4 days ago)
26 votes

Safe navigation
By Salvatore Ianniello
posted (6 days ago)
21 votes

Flaming Hairy Frogfish!
By Edison So
posted (6 days ago)
19 votes

plumose anemone or frilled anemone, backlighted. Zeeland, the Netherlands.
By Filip Staes
posted (3 days ago)
17 votes

All eyes on me
By Doris Vierkötter
posted (2 days ago)
17 votes

Xena Crab
By Billy Watson
posted (last week)
16 votes

light shower
By Taner Atilgan
posted (5 days ago)
16 votes

Flower
By Jérome Mirande
posted (5 days ago)
16 votes

big eye
goby (Bryaniops amplus) on whip coral
By Lars Oliver Michaelis
posted (3 days ago)
16 votes

canon 5d mark 3 sea&sea housing ysd1*2 100mm f/18 1/200 ISO 400
By Ming Wen
posted (3 days ago)
16 votes
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How to win our photo contest!

Despite being limited to only one entry per day per person we still have more than 1,000 entries per month  to our photo contest (2006 figures) - making us the World #1 underwater photography contest.

Our contest is definitely the one to win – but HOW do you win?

Get the right Attitude

Don’t be put off by the sheer numbers of other entries. You can stand out from the crowd. I was an active contest photographer and, now I’m sitting on the other side of the judging fence, I can tell you there are some tricks guaranteed to get noticed. I'll share them below...

Get the right gear

Don’t be put off entering by the quality of the competition. The great thing about U/W photography is that it is a great leveler. Camera technology is so far advanced that you don’t need great technical expertise anymore. The complete beginner can beat the pro’s and get the winning shot simply by being in the right place at the right time!

The more you spend on kit, the better your chances. Don’t forget, we can help you with the right camera

Gain the Knowledge

You can increase your chances by employing a bit of strategy.

Our photo course gives you more detailed advice about strategies (and it’s free when you buy gear from us).

The #1 secret to winning is ‘Know your contest’. Get a feel for what the judges are looking for and exploit the contest structure.

We have three main groups of people to impress and you should tailor your entry accordingly…

Winning our Monthly Contest

Firstly, you must impress me! I judge the monthly 'hotshots' and I employ some unusual criteria.

The process involves me looking at the 1,000+ images entered last month very quickly, picking out those that catch my eye for whatever reason (humor, class, unusual subject and other whims I don't even consciously understand!). I pick images on their photographic merits alone (I don’t have time to read captions or notice the photographer’s name – no favorites).

I like to see a varied bag in the hotshots - a wreck, a nudibranch, a shot we haven’t seen before. No, that's too structured - I have no real rules, just great shots.

I rarely choose overall monthly winner straight away. I shortlist all hotshot images then look at them next day. This is an old trick to give you a bit more objectivity when assessing images.

I view the hotshot shortlist as both thumbnails and previews (using the combo by the search panel on the contest page). Why? The winner must work at both resolutions it is displayed at so check your entries before entering. Of course, when you zoom the winning image must knock your socks off!

Can I be bribed? No one has tried yet but I do have a numbered Swiss Bank account...

The Annual Contest

This is the tough one!

To win one of our medals an image must stand out from tens of thousands of other images. So who are the judges and how do you impress them?

The annual awards are judged by the previous World Champions, trusted members, and industry professionals (anyone we can rope in!). They select gold, silver, and bronze medals in each of the categories.

I have as much idea as you do as to how they select images. They could conceivably vote for their buddies but I doubt it. To understand their motivation you must do your research. There may be a pattern to emerge over time. Then try and enter shots that have been winners before.

take a look at previous winners

Getting into the hotshots is important because not all the judges will look at all 12,000+ entries in a given year. They don’t get paid so why should they! They will probably use the ‘pre-judged’ hotshots as their starting point and only delve deeper on a random basis. Having said that, many follow the contest year round!

Another trick to getting a medal in the annual awards is to enter in the least subscribed categories. You may be up against 5,000 other images in the macro categories, compared to 500 in the over/under category!

World Champ

This is the pinnacle of underwater photography.

The World Champion is awarded annually to the individual who has the most consistent entry over the year. As such it is a portfolio award. Great portfolios are simple. A great image to start, a great image to finish, and great images in between!

A good balance of entries across all categories is requisite. Then throw in some X factor!

The winner will have the almost unanimous acclamation of their peers. They will almost certainly have been a hotshot and their names will probably have been extensively mentioned in our forums.

My opinion is that it doesn't matter how long you've been a member it's image quality that counts. It's not just about posting good shots but also about not posting bad ones either. Nothing casts doubt more than a weak shot. Consistency is everything.

Quantity is also a factor. Theoretically you could post one per day in November and December and have enough entries to win - but previous winners have posted 100+ spread out over the whole year. It takes that long to get noticed by your peers (who ultimately decide the winner).

The Grand Master award doesn't have quite the same parameters. You can become a GM for a speciality - if you dominate e.g. Manfred Bail's photoshop work.

So, think you’re tough enough?

It may take a couple of years of entries to get to this level. The good news is, if you’re not crowned World champion this year you can be next.

Ben Sutton

Other tips...

  • Play by the Rules
  • Don’t shoot yourself in the foot: If hi rez images are not available at time of judging the entries will be disqualified. If we can’t contact you, you won’t win so keep your email address up to date.
  • Uploading: images get resized by our server (using Persits JPEG resize) using an algorithm that sometimes makes images soft. We have been told by many entrants that sharpening before upload helps. You need to try a few entries to get your formula right. Also note that images are resized to 450 pixels so try to upload a version at this size.