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Entering photography awards- why I do it

If you’ve ever wondered about professional photography awards and competitions, how they work, and why I enter, keep reading! Today, I’m sharing a bit about the world of professional photography awards. And I promise, I’m not writing this just to talk about the fact that I’m an award winning photographer – but I am  😉

I have been entering a range of professional photography competitions over the last decade. I have also had the opportunity to judge at a national level for the past 5-6 years. There are a huge variety of competitions out there – some giving away prizes, some giving away titles. Some exchanging prizes for what we call ‘rights grabs’ (where they have an okay prize, but they then get to use your images however they like). Some that purely dish out bragging rights and allow you to call yourself an award-winning photographer!

So, if you’re a professional photographer looking to enter some awards, I would say the first thing to do is have a good, thorough read of the terms and conditions. Because of this, I usually stick to our New Zealand national awards, and occasionally the Australian national awards. This year, however, I decided to take a break from entering and judging the national awards. And try something new by entering the RISE International Photography Awards. (

Run by Australia-based photographer extraordinaire Kelly Brown, and her education platform The Newborn Posing School. The RISE awards have quickly become recognised as one of the toughest and best professional photography competitions in the world. They have some truly incredible judges and prizes, and on top of this, the judges provide written feedback on all of your entries. I found it such a valuable critique of my work, offering a chance for education and professional development. All while having the chance to push my photography practice to the next level.

 Much like any other competitions, the RISE awards have different categories – including portrait, documentary, wedding, and the like. Once you enter your images, they are judged, and can be awarded bronze, silver or gold. The highest scoring 20 images are named as finalists. They then enter another round of judging, where the first, second and third place awards are dished out. Gold awards are truly rare – while the competition received over 8000 entries, only 14 gold awards were given. while about 900 silver were given.

Now for the award winning photographer part ;). With all that 2020 has thrown at us, I (like many other photographers) didn’t get much opportunity to create new images specifically for these awards. Luckily, the hosts extended the time frame that images could be taken in. Previously images had to be less than two years old, but they moved this to five years instead. This allowed me to enter a few of my favourite images that would have otherwise been outside the allocated time frame.

All up, I entered around 20 images, 17 of these having previously received awards in other competitions. I received 14 awards (10 bronze and 4 silver), 3 of which were included as finalists in their categories.  And one image scored second place in the wedding category. Needless to say, I was over the moon! I’ve never been great at tooting my own horn – but I’m so proud of this achievement. 

Photography is so subjective. Many competitions have their own certain aesthetics, and the judges of the RISE awards are drawn to a very finished, polished look, including highly visually balanced images. Elements that I as a photographer am also drawn to. However, for me, the most powerful element in any image is the emotional connection, and that sense of being in the moment. Receiving awards in the RISE competition was truly significant to me – being able to capture both those real, emotional moments, while executing a polished final image.

My biggest priority in creating images, however, has not changed. I aim to capture images that my clients love. Any awards achieved in the process are just icing on a very satisfying cake!

 Check out my awarded images below and remember you can checkout more about me wedding work here and my portrait work here.