Thoughts on the Sony World Photography exhibition

After my slightly disappointing press view of the Sony World Photography Awards exhibition, when I didn't have the opportunity to take in the photos, I made a return trip to Somerset House yesterday to rectify this situation. I had much more time to wander through both the East and West Wings, admiring the images and pontificating on the judges' choices. Visiting an exhibition that has cherry-picked from vast numbers of photos submitted from across the globe by both amateur and professional photographers gives you the chance to look for trends and fashions, garner some inspiration, and importantly, look through a window into other people's worlds. I enjoyed my saunter through the rooms and Sara Naomi Lewkowicz's l'Irs d'Or winning series Shane and Maggie stands out a mile. I loved Sophie Gamand's wet dogs, which won the portrait prize, Guy Martin's photos from the Gezi Square protests told a defiant story, and I was drawn to the deep and dark photos in Salvatore Di Gregorio's series An Old Fight, which won the sport prize.

Winner of l'Iris d'Or: Sara Naomi Lewkowicz for her series 'Shane and Maggie'. 'Shane and Maggie' attempts to show domestic vilence as a process, as opposed to a single incident.  (Sara Naomi Lewkowicz (USA) Finalist, Contemporary Issues Professional Competition 2014 Sony World Photography Awards)

What, though, were my overwhelming thoughts and questions as I left the exhibition?

The professional category was dominated by black and white images. That is a comment made as neither praise nor criticism, merely as an observation. It is worth noting, however, that l'Iris d'Or winning series comprised colour images and that the photos that have stuck with me are those shot in colour. Maybe it is because they were my preferred shots, or perhaps it is because their colour makes them stand out amongst the monochrome, but it does pay to be different.

Protesters against the government of Tayip Erdogan and his plans for a shopping mall and pedestrianised area in the centre of Instanbul - Guy Martin (UK) Current Affairs Professional Competition, 2014 Sony World Photography Awards

Writing of daring to be different, I think I might've reached Indonesian cow-racing photo saturation point. It's a stunning spectacle that produces stunning images, but there have been examples in the professional or open categories for at least the last three years. It's almost as if their inclusion has become obligatory. I'd appreciate being able to gaze upon something new in future years.

Salvatore Di Gregorio, Italy, Winner, Sport, Professional Competition, 2014 Sony World Photography Awards

Finally, I was surprised by the profusion of manipulated images in the open category. From HDR, to composites, to painterly-type blending, it had it all, and this extended beyond the 'Enhanced' division, which is devoted to manipulated images. As the author of a book on surreal photography, this might be regarded as an unusual comment, but it does present some important questions. First, how much manipulation is too much manipulation? Second, to what degree is photo-manipulation now regarded as an acceptable element of photography? And consequently, at which point does a comeptition become one of photo-manipulation rather than photography? All of these are questions for another day, but ones to ponder.

Wet Dog 2, Sophie Gamand (France) Portraiture Competition, 2014 Sony World Photography Awards

The exhibition runs until Sunday (18 May), and if you have to be in London or its environs, it's worth an hour or so to take it in. I'd love to know what you think.

Sony World Photography Awards exhibition, Somerset House, London, until 18 May 2014.

The RSPCA Young Photographer Awards are open!

'Sandstorm' by Alex Berryman, 2012 Ooh we love to see kids and young people out with their cameras. We also like competitions to inspire and encourage them to take photos. So we're happy to see that the RSPCA Young Photographer Awards are now open for entries!

The RSPCA's Young Photographer Awards opened yesterday and they present photographers aged 18 or younger with heaps of opportunities to submit their work and be in with the chance of winning some great prizes, including an Olympus OM-D and a photoshoot at an RSPCA centre. Very importantly, the competition is free to enter and there's no nasty rights grab for submitted entries. (Although please don't take my word for this and check it out for yourself.)

There are three age categories: Under 12, 12 to 15, and 16 to 18; two themed categories (pet personalities and making life better); a portfolio award; and a People's Choice Award that will be selected from the pet personalities category. And the winners of these categories will be put forward for the Overall Winner prize, too.

Young photographers are eligible to enter five photos in their age category, five in the pet personalities and making life better categories, and they can submit three porfolios comprising five photos each. That's a lot of photos that they can submit!

Being a competition run by the RSPCA, the photos should be of animals, and they don't want photos depicting animals doing anything unnatural or being treated cruelly. There are also rules governing manipulation, submission, and residency.

The registration form is here and you'll find all the information pertaining to the competition on the website, including tips and advice from some pros. The closing date is 26 August 2013. Good luck!

Small freebies up for grabs


If you fancy playing around with HDR but aren’t really sure where to begin, something has just dropped into my inbox that might be what you need.

The dudes over at have given us 10 free image sets (three raw versions of the same image: one under-exposed, one over-exposed, and one at the ‘correct’ exposure) to give away to our readers. They provide a selection of images suitable for HDR manipulation, you choose which ones you like and download them, and then away you go to manipulate until your heart is content. There are also eight tutorials available, exploring what HDR can do to images and explaining how it works.

The first ten people to get in touch with me by posting a comment below (remember to put your e-mail address in the e-mail field. We won’t publish it, but if you don’t, I won’t be able to contact you!) to win the freebies!