This is how to impress photo competition juries, says top judge Christie Goodwin

CEWE Photo Award 2021 listing image
Manfred Voss's photo was a winning in the 2021 Cewe Photo Award (Image credit: © Manfred Voss/Cewe Photo Award)

Leading music photographer Christie Goodwin is reprising her role as a jury member on the CEWE Photo Awards. 

The fifth (2023) edition of the international photo competition is open for entries now and organizers CEWE is hoping to top the record-breaking number of entries – more than 600,000 – it had in the previous edition of the competition. 

The Cewe Photo Awards are open to both enthusiasts and professionals: entries are accepted in 10 categories, and each entrant can submit 100 photographs. So with €250,000-worth of prizes to be won, and no cost to enter, why not make a start selecting your best shots today? 

To find out more about succeeding in winning photographic competitions, we sat down with Christie Goodwin to discover more about the judging process and what the judges actually look for… 

‘Soy Sauce Making’ by Azim Khan Ronnie (Bangladesh); Aerial photos category winner 2021 The dedication with which the cooks make the sauce, according to a recipe that is over 400 years old, fascinated Azim. (Image credit: © Azim Khan Ronnie/Cewe Photo Award 2021)

As a judge on the world’s biggest photo competition, what advice do you have for making photos stand out?

It’s very important that you capture something that you like, and that you don’t start copying something else that you’ve seen. Because once you do that, you lose the essence of the picture. 

So capture something you really love – if you’re passionate about shooting birds, shoot birds; if you’re passionate about squirrels, shoot squirrels; or if it’s photographing houses, then go where your passion lies. 

If you have the passion for something then you will be able to capture the soul of it; this is the thing that will be expressed in the picture and people will be able to see the passion in the picture. 

Of course you have to be careful – the image has to be sharp, there are some little technical details that you have to keep in mind – but overall it is the impact the whole picture has on the viewer. 

When we judges stand over the pictures, there are pictures that you’re drawn to immediately, that just capture your eyes, because of the coolers or sometimes because of the composition – perhaps there’s no one straight line – but something that draws you in immediately. 

And that’s what you need to have in your picture, something that captures the viewer when they look at it. You have to seduce the viewer, basically, and you can best do that with something that you’re passionate about. 

Music photographer and Cewe Photo Awards judge Christie Goodwin, pictured at the launch of the 2023 competition (Image credit: Cewe/Professional Images/@ProfImages)

How many images do you have to view for the Cewe Photo Awards?

The competition gets a lot of entries [there were over 600,000 last time], so there is a pre-selection process, but about 200-300 pictures are left over from that which we then look at. 

The jurors will have common favorites and those are then picked out. Then we will start talking, “Why is this our favorite, what draws us in, is this actually worthy of being the best one?” 

We have discussions and sometimes when you hear somebody else’s view, you might change your mind about the picture. Sometimes these discussions can be quite intense, but always positive… it’s never like an argument but sometimes we have very interesting debates! 

‘Frozen Lighthouse’ by Manfred Voss (Germany); Landscapes category winner 2021 “For two weeks,” says Manfred, “we had a cold winter in the north of Germany, with -10 to -20 degree temperatures and stormy north winds. It formed this beautiful ice sculpture of the lighthouse.” (Image credit: © Manfred Voss/Cewe Photo Award 2021)

Do certain types of image ever make a really big impression on you?

Well, I often say “I wish I had taken that picture.” But that’s just me – there are some winning photos that I sometimes feel I could never have taken. 

‘Frozen Lighthouse’ [by Manfred Voss, the Landscapes category winner in the 2021 CEWE Photo Award] is a fairytale picture, and the minute I saw it I was like “Wow!“ 

After we had done the selecting – you don’t know anything about the photos beforehand, and only got to hear the story about the shot afterwards – we discovered that he went to the location very early in the morning, in the cold, and sat and waited for that moment. 

I remember thinking that I could never have done that, but he’s passionate about it; he goes to that area all the time and shoots there a lot and that really shows in the picture. He knew what he was doing and he knew what he was waiting for.

It has to start with shooting what you’re passionate about. Shoot what you really love, and not about what will win a competition, and then the pictures will speak for themselves. 

‘Der Clan Kuschelt (The Cuddling Clan)’ by Josef Schwarz (Germany); Animals category winner 2021 Josef has been to South Africa’s Addo Elephant Park many times. There are always a few groups at the watering hole in the centre. When a group leaves the watering hole, they stop some distance away, move together and stay in ‘cuddle mode’ for a few minutes. (Image credit: © Josef Schwarz/Cewe Photo Award 2021)

What are your top tips for winning photo competions?

  • Shoot what you’re passionate about – don’t shoot for the judges.
  • Try to have photos that are clear and crisp because that’s what attracts the eye – you want to be sucked in.
  • Tell a story – and remember that you don’t have to travel anywhere exotic to be able to tell a story with a photograph. 

‘Straßenfußball (Street Football)’ by Andreas Bauer (Germany); Sport category winner 2021 Andreas spent his parental leave in Cuba and lived in Havana for several months. He often wandered the streets with his little daughter in a baby carrier on his chest and camera in hand, photographing what fascinated him. (Image credit: © Andreas Bauer/Cewe Photo Award 2021)

To find out more, and to enter, go to the CEWE Photo Award website

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Niall Hampton

Niall is the editor of Digital Camera Magazine, 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.