These are the best photographs of 2023, from across the top photo contests

Epson Pano Awards 2023
(Image credit: Krzysztof Browko)

One of the perks of my job is that I regularly get to write about photography competitions. I love flicking through the winner's galleries to see what beautiful, thought-provoking images have captured the judge's eye and of course, whether I agree. 

There is honestly a photography competition for every genre you can imagine; from aerial and underwater, to portraits, pets, action and architecture, it doesn't matter what your preferred style is, you'll find a competition to enter. While some competitions such as the Sony World Photo Awards (which is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious competitions in the world) are vast and varied, other competitions such as Capture the Atlas' Northern Lights Photographer of the Year are very subject-specific. 

On the whole, I tend to agree with the judging panel's selection however there have been a few times where my eye has been drawn more to a different image. I appreciate that everyone is going to have different opinions on things but sometimes I can't help but think the wrong image has been crowned winner - that doesn't make it a bad image though I'm just drawn to a certain style of photography. 

As we near the end of 2023, I take a look back over all the amazing photography competitions from the past year to bring you my favorite images. So, in no particular order, these are my top 10...

Sony World Photography Awards

(Image credit: © Lee-Ann Olwage, South Africa, Winner, Professional competition, Creative, Sony World Photography Awards 2023)

Choosing a favorite image from the Sony World Photography Awards (SWPA) is incredibly hard. So many talented photographers enter this particular competition in the hope of shining a light on some of the most important humanitarian events, environmental efforts, changes to society and everything in between. 

Lee-Ann Olawage's The Right to Play series examines what happens when young girls are empowered to learn and dream. These powerful images gave me time to reflect on my own privilege and be grateful that secondary school here in the UK is a given - not something we have to fight for. 

NHU Wildlife Photographer of the Year

(Image credit: ©Andy Parkinson, Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

Every year the Natural History Museum Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards opens up voting to the public and this year's shortlist was something to marvel at. Winners of the competition will be announced at an awards ceremony in February 2024, but these well-camouflaged white hare's get my vote!

Aerial Photography Awards

(Image credit: DJI)

This was rightly so awarded the top prize at the DJI Sky Pixel awards. Taken by Khanh Phan it shows hundreds of flowers carefully positioned to look like the skirt of a dress.  There's something special about photos taken from above, they offer a different view than we're used to seeing and photos like this inspire me to use my DJI Mini 2 more often.. 

Ocean Photographer of the Year

Adventure category winner, While surfing North Shore’s famous Banzai Pipeline, a rainbow appears, O’ahu, Hawaii  (Image credit: Todd Glaser)

The Ocean Photographer of the Year awards documents all aspects of our beautiful blue planet - from the wildlife that lives in it, to the people who rely on it for income, to the projects ensuring its future and even the people who use it for adventure and enjoyment. 

Portrait of Humanity

Rona Bar and Ofek Avshalom - Nino and Olivia - Bristol (Image credit: © Rona Bar and Ofek Avshalo, Portrait of Britain Vol. 6 Shortlist)

As a portrait photographer, The Portrait of Britain is one of the photography awards I get most excited about. It's a true celebration of diversity, documenting all the different people who make up the UK and includes everyone from actors to activists, nurses to Morris dancers to fishermen, friends, family and everything in between.  

Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Sh2-132: Blinded by the Light (Image credit: Aaron Wilhelm)

Every year the entries for the Astronomy Photographer of the Year really are out of this world but I have a particular soft spot for brightly colored, beautiful nebulas. I have a a lot of respect for astrophotographers, this image took more than 70 hours to capture and craft - no luck or chance is going on here. 

Comedy Wildlife Photo Award

Picture me, picture me (Image credit: Dikla Gabriely)

The Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards is bound to bring a smile to anyone's face - it's a true reminder of just how funny animals can be if you catch them in the right moment and a testament to the patience of wildlife photographers. 

Red Bull Illume Image Quest

Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2023 - Masterpiece by Sölden Category Winner (Image credit: Lorenz Holder)

Out of all the hundreds of submissions to the Red Bull Illume Quest 2023 this one really stood out. The combination of action photography, complimentary block colours and a minimalist approach makes this photo one I would want to hang on my wall. 

Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year

The Candy Man - Overall winner of Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year 2023 (Image credit: Jon Enoch - Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year 2023)

The Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year Award is a true celebration of everything edible. Every year I'm amazed at the diversity of entries, documenting everything from harvesting, processing, cooking, enjoying and sharing food with people. The Candy Man by Jon Enoch documents a particular street seller working in Mumbai who goes the extra mile to display his sweet good. 

Epson Pano Awards

Church (Image credit: Krzysztof Browko)

There is something so majestic about low-lying clouds and I can't help but be drawn into this image by Krzysztof Browko. Entered into the Amateur landscape category in the 2023 Epson Pano Awards, this image is made so magical by the church steeple just poking up through the clouds. With the mountains and sunrise in the background, it almost reminds me of a scene from a Disney film. 

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Hannah Rooke
Staff Writer

Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specializes in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylized product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.