If you’re aiming to take your photography to the next level in 2015, entering a competition or two can really help shape your focus and potentially bag you some fantastic prizes to boot. Before you get started, it’s worth taking notes from other people’s successes, this will give you an idea of what level you’ll need to reach and also help you identify any current photography trends. Rather conveniently, the winners of one of the most prestigious photography competitions – The National Geographic Photography Contest – have just been announced, so there are plenty of notes you can take from the winners to drive your own photography forwards.

There were over 9,000 entries to the contest this year from over 150 countries. With three categories to enter – people, places and nature – there’s plenty of scope for photographers to focus on individual interests and if your efforts don’t quite turn out to be award-winning, you’ll have some custom canvas print worthy images at the very least.

Judging the competition

The overall winner of the National Geographic comp won a trip to the magazine’s headquarters and the chance to take part in the annual National Geographic Photographic Seminar this month. The judges included photographers Erika Larsen and John Stanmeyer, who considered entries based on the quality of the images as well as the creativity they displayed. The ultimate winner was from the ‘people’ category and highlighted that photography is as much about capturing what is absent from a moment as what is there. It features a commuter staring at her lit up phone on a crowded carriage and though the composition itself is quite simple, the photograph is very much made by the excellent use of lighting, which you can see for yourself along with the other winners here.

So what else can we learn from the winners? Here are a few tips by section to help get you started


Entries that did particularly well showed the context of the shot – the relationship between the people in the shot, the link to the landscape around the people in shot or suggestions of their history or future.


Places shots incorporate atmosphere – they might focus on weather and the elements at work or show a particular architecturally site or event in context.


Nature is a notoriously difficult subject and the winner of the National Geographic Nature section – a photo of a jumping wildebeest – is particularly impressive. Patience is a huge part of wildlife photography, which is as much about waiting out the right moment occurring as being in the right place.

Will 2015 be your winning year for photography? Don’t forget you can put your own photos in the frame with your very own customised canvas prints whether you take home the trophy or not!