Behind the shot: secrets of three winning global photo competition images

The CEWE Photo Award competition (opens in new tab) – the world's largest – is open for entries now. 

Each entrant can submit up to 100 images, across 10 categories, and a prize pot of €250,000 ($267,000/£213,000) for 1,000 first-place winners is up for grabs. 

It's therefore one of the most worthwhile global photo competitions to enter, but with over 600,000 images entered in the 2021 edition, how do you make your photos stand out from the rather large crowd? 

We've already heard some insights from one of the judges, Christie Goodwin, but what about the thoughts of photographers who have been successful in the competition? 

At the launch event in London, we caught up with three winners from the UK and Ireland – Lynsey Cleary, Darren Smith and Louise Waldron. 

To find out more about the 2023 competition, and to enter, go to the Cewe Photo Award website

Lynsey Cleary

Cewe Photo Awards 2023 UK winners image 2

Wildflower (Image credit: © Lynsey Cleary)

“This image of the girl with the daisies was taken by the side of the M1 motorway, just next to Luton, in Bedfordshire, England. 

“Everyone says it’s set in India, but it’s not. I drive past this spot most days to get coffee and I was driving back and saw the daisies and thought it looked really pretty. I asked a friend of mine if we could do a little family shoot there. 

“It was pretty quick: we got about 10 images in 20 minutes. I was going to travel to Ireland the next day so I was like, ‘We need to get this done, I need to go and pack!’

“I upgraded to a Canon EOS R6 (opens in new tab) recently but this image was taken on an EOS 6D (opens in new tab). I started out using Nikon but went over to Canon because I love the dreamy colors. 

“One of my friends was using a Canon and asked me to shoot on it and I fell in love. So I sold all my Nikon kit and moved over – I would never go back, or go anywhere else. 

”I love family photography and have been doing it professionally for seven or eight years. After my third baby was born I just needed to get out of the house, so I enrolled on a college course because I love photos and images. 

”And that was it, I set up an anonymous Facebook page and just put images out there and then started getting asked to do some photoshoots and it just went from there. 

”The CEWE Photo Award was the first competition I’d ever entered. I had joined the Guild of Photography and the CEWE awards came up on the Guild’s page so I thought I’d enter as I’d never had much confidence in my work. 

”And look what happened – it has been amazing, the Guild of Photographers and the CEWE Photo Award has definitely made me feel like I’m more professional now, whereas I didn’t feel that before.” 

Darren Smith

Cewe Photo Awards 2023 UK winners image 3

Pizza Man (Image credit: Cewe Photo Award/Darren Smith)

“The building is actually the Tate Modern in London, and was shot during a group photography event. I was with 12 other photographers and they were all looking towards the River Thames and some people playing in the fountains. 

“It was a stunning scene but I didn’t want to take that photo because everyone else was taking it. I was looking around and saw this gentleman walking up the road with his red pizza box; I wanted someone to walk past on the walkway, looking down, and just captured him walking by, minding his own business with no-one else around. 

“I like the layers in the image – it was the red pizza box that drew my eye more than anything else. It could have been an everyday pizza but because the box was red and there was no other red in the image at all, I thought it really stood out. I entered it into the competition and here we are today! 

“During that visit to London, I was shooting specific subjects like architecture and street, but this was just a little bit different; I just got lucky, to be perfectly honest. 

“It was captured on a Pentax K-1 (opens in new tab) with a 24-70mm Pentax lens, and the image was fine straight from the camera – I just cropped it down. Looking at it again now there’s a water bottle which I probably should have cloned out, but it was part of the scene so I just left it in. 

“I don’t really have a preferred genre to shoot; I just like photography. It’s a day release and takes me away – I get to see different places. 

“[After winning the award] people have asked me if I’m a professional. The answer to that is no, because I still have my day job to do. It would be ideal for me to do photography for a living because I love taking photos and have thousands at home, but perhaps at some point in the future I’ll get to see if anyone will pay me to take a photo for them. 

“I haven’t entered many photography competitions but the CEWE Photo Award appealed to me because there’s no fee for entering it and you’re not signing your rights away to a commercial body. CEWE is quite local to me and they print in the UK – I just like its whole ethos, really.” 

Louise Waldron

Cewe Photo Awards 2023 UK winners image 4

Sacred River (Image credit: Cewe Photo Award/Louise Waldron)

“This image was taken in Varanasi in India, while I was on a NIkon street photography course. I had been to Varanasi before on my own as a tourist and had been overwhelmed by it, feeling very much out of my comfort zone. But I went back because I am so fascinated with people and that’s what I like taking pictures of. 

“We got up early and went some way along the River Ganges and I saw this chap. There were other tourists trying to give him money to pose for them but I just ignored it; then they went and then he went back to what he was doing. 

“I just sat there and took that picture of him. It was a misty morning and although I enhanced the effect during editing, there he was – it was calm and there was nobody else about. 

“For me it was quite a special thing, because he had gone there to worship the Ganges river and that was beautiful to me. 

“I shot four or five frames; I didn’t really move very much because I didn’t want to disturb him. He was there for about half an hour, completely on his own, doing his own thing. 

“And that’s why I found him so fascinating, because culturally it is so different from me and from what I know. I would have loved to have been able to talk to him, but of course that wasn’t possible. 

“Photography is a hobby for me and always has been. I didn’t expect to win, in a field of more than half a million people, I didn’t have any expectations, I just enjoyed the experience of entering the competition and choosing pictures. 

“I’d only ever shown photos like this to family and friends, who had said, ‘Oh yes, that’s really nice,’ so to have my picture chosen by CEWE here and framed on a gallery wall is a huge honor, and I’m thrilled to bits. 

“Winning has improved my confidence; I know I can go out and have a go. The thing about this competition is, as [judge] Christie Goodwin said, it’s accessible to anybody and everybody – you don’t have to have expensive gear, you don’t have to go to particular places, you just have to have a go and you might just get lucky… or somebody might think you’ve got a little bit of talent somewhere! 

“I have just moved to mirrorless, shooting with a Nikon Z6 (opens in new tab) and 35mm lens, which is all I use for street photography, but I don’t know a lot about technical details. If you ask me what settings I use, I can’t answer that. 

“To me, photography is just a feeling: there’s a story and there’s a connection somewhere. Everyone loves a sunrise or a sunset but I don’t take those pictures… to me they’re a little bit dull, unless you’re very clever and you’ve got something special. It doesn’t interest me – people fascinate me.” 

Enter the CEWE Photo Award 2023 today

Cewe Photo Award 2023 entry page image

(Image credit: © Cewe)

To find out more about the 2023 competition, and to enter, go to the CEWE Photo Award website (opens in new tab)

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Niall is the editor of Digital Camera Magazine (opens in new tab), and has been shooting on interchangeable lens cameras for over 20 years, and on various point-and-shoot models for years before that. 


Working alongside professional photographers for many years as a jobbing journalist gave Niall the curiosity to also start working on the other side of the lens. These days his favored shooting subjects include wildlife, travel and street photography, and he also enjoys dabbling with studio still life. 


On the site you will see him writing photographer profiles, asking questions for Q&As and interviews, reporting on the latest and most noteworthy photography competitions, and sharing his knowledge on website building.