Six Winning Tips for the Travel Photographer of the Year Competition

Six Winning Tips for the Travel Photographer of the Year Competition

Cat Vinton, the 2007 winner of the Travel Photographer of the Year competition, is photographing the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India later this year as part of her prize.

Polar photographer Martin Hartley was signed to Getty after they saw his work on the TPOTY website.

Two good reasons, if your work is anywhere near good enough,  to enter this year’s Travel Photographer of the Year competition.

The competition’s been around since 2003, and this year some spectacular prizes are on offer, including an Everest Skydive expedition, trips to Cuba, the Ganges and Uganda, a Linhof Technorama large format panoramic camera, Photoshop CS 3 and large cash bursaries.

There are four Portfolio categories – Life, Call of the Wild and Joy of Travel – which require an entry of a portfolio of four images.

There are two single shot categories – Destination Anywhere for all photographers and Wish You Were Here for inexperienced snappers.

There’s also a Young Travel Photographer of the Year category – Journey – for entrants under 17 years of age.

The closing date is September 9, 2008 and I recommend that you check out the entry details, competition rules and entry fees before entering.

The competion winners and runners up, along with other images that catch the judges’ eyes, will all have the opportunity to be exhibited at various venues and published in Journey Three, a high quality hardback book featuring the best work from the competition entries.

Two volumes, Journey One and Journey Two, featuring work from the first four years of the competition have already been published. I’ve seen them both and the standard of the photography is extremely high, spanning all seven continents of the globe from the equator to the poles.

A high profile competition like this, offering amazing prizes and the associated publicity, attracts some big names and an extremely high standard of entries.  Here are my six tips for success:

  • Choose only your best photos. Edit ruthlessly and forget any emotional attachment you have to your images. Try and view them through the dispassionate eyes of a competition judge. Make sure your entries are as technically perfect as possible.
  • Does your photo have impact? Is it amusing, quirky or interesting? Does it make the viewer stop and pay more attention? Put yourself in the place of the judges, they’re going to see thousands of photos and you may only have a split second to grab their attention.
  • Is your photo extraordinary? Does it have an unusual viewpoint, eye grabbing colours or make use of beautiful lighting?
  • Is your photo different? Consider entering in black and white, for example, as most of the entries will be in colour.
  • Learn from the greatest. Find the best travel photos you can find (try starting at National Geographic) and try and figure out what makes them so good. Look at composition, subject matter and lighting.
  • Photograph people. They can be the hardest subject of all but the most rewarding. Including people will bring your travel photos to life. We’re all interested in seeing how people from other countries and cultures look and dress.

This is not an exhaustive list, but thinking through these points will increase your chances of success dramatically.

Feel free to leave any other tips you may have in the comments field.

You can also read my interviews with former winners Peter Adams and Jordan Banks.


Karen Coe, one of the competition’s organisers, sent me the following information:


The Travel Photographer of the Year (TPOTY) awards were created in 2003 by photographer, Chris Coe, with the initial objective of providing an international showcase for travel photography and travelling photographers.

TPOTY is run by photographers for photographers. TPOTY is for everyone. There is no distinction between entrants and they are judged solely on the quality of their photographs. TPOTY is not just for those who are good photographers now, but about encouraging anyone who is interested in photography to develop their skills and get better at making pictures.

There is a special competition to encourage young photographers aged 16 and under – Young Travel Photographer of the Year.

Within just six years, TPOTY has become established as the international travel photography competition, and is now evolving as the focus of an international community for travellers and photographers.

Amateur and professional photographers compete alongside each other for a £50,000+ prize package that includes the latest hi-spec photographic equipment and outstanding travel experiences.

In 2007 alone, TPOTY attracted some 12,000 images, entered by photographers in 51  countries. The youngest entrant to date was aged just five, the oldest 88.

The competition is judged by a panel of photographic experts, including renowned photographers, picture buyers, editor and technical experts.

Since its launch there have been over three million hits on the competition website and this is increasing dramatically year on year.


Helping photographers – As well as giving photographers the chance to win fantastic prizes, TPOTY offers the winners – and other talented entrants – the chance to gain international exposure for their photography, through media coverage, the TPOTY website, books, exhibitions, image library and print sales. To date TPOTY has helped photographers to sell their images, helped photographers to secure commissions, helped them secure exhibitions, advised and encouraged them on making photography a career and, through feedback on their images, enthused them and given them confidence to make their pictures better.

TPOTY portfolio books – In 2005 TPOTY moved a significant step forward, with the introduction of Journey One, the first TPOTY book, which featured a selection of the best images from TPOTY 2003 and 2004.  The book received excellent reviews in the UK and abroad, and sold well internationally.  Journey Two, containing images from TPOTY 2005 and 2006, has been equally successful.

Exhibitions – TPOTY images have been exhibited at the British Airways London Eye, the Daily Telegraph Adventure Travel & Sports Show and at Focus on Imaging at the NEC, Birmingham, and will be exhibited at Photokina 2008 in Germany.  In due course the images will form a travelling exhibition and currently TPOTY is in talks to hold exhibitions overseas.

Photography Courses – TPOTY judges, photographers Nick Meers, Chris Weston and Chris Coe, run photography courses around the country and overseas. These courses are highly interactive and are designed for small groups of photographers of all abilities, focusing on ‘the image’ through a mixture of seminar-based tuition, critiques and shoots.

Travel Shooters – a free online travel and photography magazine from TPOTY, with free prize draws to win film, magazine subscriptions, photography books and other goodies.

TPOTY website – for all the latest news and information about TPOTY.