10 monthly rounds to enter throughout 2023. Your best-placed image in each round will count towards your Amateur Photographer of the Year 2023 ranking.
A black & white image has a certain something that colour photography simply can’t emulate, and the pursuit of a great monochrome picture is something many photographers devote their whole lives to. The joy of this category is that it is completely open – any subject goes, because the medium is equally stunning whether you shoot landscapes, portraits or go down the classic route of street photography. It’s always worth shooting with a conversion to black & white in mind – don’t make it an afterthought. Instead, when taking your images, consider things like form, tonal range, negative space and shape, as these elements become even more crucial when colour is absent. Try to head out on a shoot with the aim of working only in black & white, and you will start to see images that lend themselves to the medium everywhere.
It’s three years since the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, and finally the freedom to travel is back. The exhilaration of experiencing cultures different from our own is difficult to match, and the sights and colours of new places provide almost endless inspiration for our photography. Distilling such experiences into a single image is a huge challenge, as it’s tempting to include as much as possible in the frame, so try to temper the excitement and only include what really matters. And don’t forget that travel isn’t defined by going to countries other than your own – it can encompass new experiences in a neighbouring county or city, so don’t feel restricted if your passport is out of date. It also goes without saying that showing respect for the people and traditions you might encounter is more important than any photograph, so if someone makes it clear they aren’t comfortable with your camera, walk away.
It’s easy to understand why people become obsessive about macro photography. It requires a balance of both technical and creative ability, while providing an insight into the world that is often impossible to appreciate with the naked eye. Patience and understanding of your subject – and ethics, if you are photographing a living creature – are also crucial. If you choose to photograph plants or flowers, we want to see pristine examples (unless their flaws are intrinsic to the composition), and if you photograph animals or insects, then take the time to study and understand their behaviour, so you don’t cause them distress. And don’t feel you have to restrict yourself to plants or living creatures, either. We also want to see abstract landscapes and impressionistic still lifes in the entries to this category. Anything goes, as long as it’s taken in close-up.
There are few greater pleasures than being out in the landscape with a camera. Setting up a composition and waiting – hoping – for the light to come good can be an almost meditative experience. A good landscape shot transports the viewer to the very spot where you were standing when you took the shot, allowing them to drink in the same sights as you. More than almost any other category, landscape is about light, and the two are almost inextricably linked. Good light – whether it’s the sun bursting through a dramatic cloud formation, or the soft illumination that comes just before dawn – has a transformative effect on the landscape, and can lift an ordinary scene to something spectacular. It’s crucial to plan ahead – study apps such as The Photographers Ephemeris to find out the most favourable time to photograph a scene, and be prepared to return to a location several times in order to capture it at its best. But above all, simply enjoy being there.
Whether in the street, at home or in the studio, and be it natural or posed, photographing people will never go out of fashion. A portrait should be a collaboration between subject and photographer, and should reveal something about both. When choosing to photograph in a more formal style, remember not to overcomplicate either the pose or the lighting – simplicity makes for a far more polished and memorable image. Character is also a hugely important element in any portrait; viewers want to have an idea of the sitter’s personality and life experience, and this can be conveyed via clothing and expression, and even light. Whether shooting in natural or with studio light, pay attention to maintaining a catchlight in the eyes, and making sure any shadows enhance, rather than detract from the overall result.
With some 85 per cent of the UK’s population living in urban areas, there’s almost no excuse not to enter this round. From modern city skylines shot at dusk with a long exposure to hidden corners of towns that would usually go unnoticed, this is a category that is restricted only by the photographer’s imagination. Shooting in black & white helps draw attention to form and shape, while using colour gives a true reflection of how the architect might have wanted their design to appear. Most towns and cities provide the opportunity to juxtapose old and new within one composition, which gives a great insight into how an area might have developed, or alternatively you might want to concentrate on filling the frame with the almost futuristic details of a recent construction. And don’t forget that ordinary, everyday houses or flats have just as much potential for an interesting shot as an ultra-modern office block.
The beauty of street photography is that it takes almost no organisation – you simply grab your camera, walk out of your front door and start seeking opportunities for a shot. Sometimes the simple act of having a camera in your hand is enough to start seeing the potential for photographs that might otherwise go unnoticed, and we want to see interactions between people – be that conscious or subconscious – and their surroundings. Shooting with a wideangle lens within the ‘action’ will often produce a dynamic and exciting shot, while a longer lens will allow you to isolate your subject from its surroundings, concentrating on expression and pose. This is very often a genre that photographers are keen to pursue, but find themselves lacking the nerve to attempt. If this sounds like you, why not challenge yourself to enter this category? Who knows – you might end up walking away with first place!
Always one of our most popular rounds, this category reflects photographers’ appreciation of and love for the natural world, with anything from the migration of wildebeest across the Serengeti to tigers in Ranthambore National Park making an appearance. But don’t assume you have to spend huge sums of money on trips to remote safari locations in order to capture an original shot. There is almost endless scope for photographing wildlife subjects in towns and cities, and even our own back gardens. Try telling the viewer a story about the way in which a creature lives by showing it in context – be that an opportunistic urban fox foraging around dustbins, or a seagull stealing chips from a hapless tourist. Or go the other way, and fill the frame with the head of a majestic lion, or the beady eye of a bird. Please note, this is not the category for domestic pets.
Capturing a fast-moving subject in a fraction of a second is certainly a challenge, but when it comes off, you’re guaranteed a shot that will stand out. And there’s more to a successful image than setting the maximum frames-per-second on your camera and firing away. Anticipation and preparation play a huge part in getting a good shot, so take time to work out where your subject is likely to appear and which direction it will take. This applies whether you’re photographing a motorbike on a speedway track, a gymnast on a beam or a bird taking flight across a lake. For maximum stability when panning, hold your lens firmly from underneath and keep your elbows tight into your body. But don’t forget to try something a bit more creative, too, be that shooting in a variety of light conditions or setting a long shutter speed to give the impression of movement.
This is another of our more open rounds in terms of subject matter, and always provides the judges with a wide range of exciting and original entries. Cities are almost the perfect low-light subject, especially when they are photographed in the blue hour, when twilight and artificial illumination balance so beautifully. You could also shoot indoors, in an atmospheric café or using the light of a woodburning stove in the home. It’s a great theme for landscapes, too; when the sun is low in the sky and raking across the scene, it gives compositions an added dimension and brings your subject into sharp relief. And if all that isn’t enough inspiration, why not try shooting in a studio, creating a low-key portrait with careful use of artificial light? Whatever your subject, this is the category for creating a sense of depth and mystery.