Travel Photographer of the Year (TPOTY) awards are run by photographers for photographers. TPOTY is truly global – wherever you live in the world and whether you are amateur or professional, beginner or expert, young or old, Travel Photographer of the Year is for you!
TPOTY is also about more than prizes but thanks to our hugely supportive sponsors there are some fantastic prizes to be won. This prestigious award offers massive exposure for your work through our media activities, books, photographer profiles and exhibitions.
TPOTY-winning photographers have had their work showcased around the world: established photographic careers received a huge boost, new careers have been kick-started, and people who never thought they’d see their photographs in print have had a happy surprise seeing them in web galleries and exhibitions around the world!
The awards are judged by leading photographers and experts in the field, whose distinction and integrity add greatly to the prestige that comes with being one of our winners – or even being shortlisted.
But whether you’re a winner or not, it’s also about fun – the fun of challenging yourself to shoot to a theme, to look at your images with fresh eyes, to measure your photography against that of your peers and to be a part of the TPOTY experience. To be part of the adventure!
Inspirations and aspirations
How it all started
The TPOTY story began in 2002. Chris Coe – a professional travel photographer – was increasingly frustrated by the limited perception of travel photography amongst image buyers and picture editors. Many photographers were taking great images, but these weren’t being used because they didn’t conform to the predictable ‘pretty pictures’ most publications preferred to illustrate travel-related features and books.
Listening to the radio, while returning from seeing picture editors in London, Chris heard a BBC radio presenter describe travel photography as ‘…it’s all just pretty brochure shots and Photoshop. Anyone can do it!’
That was the trigger – he realised it was time to do something to change this perception and to showcase the best travel photography and photographers. With his partner Karen, Chris decided to create an award that would celebrate and recognize the diversity and breadth of subjects covered by travel photographers, while demonstrating the creativity and skill required to take truly outstanding travel photographs.
Launching an award
To launch an award needs support and prizes. Fortunately the idea of a major new travel photography award captured the imagination of potential sponsors, such as Adobe, Fujifilm and Plastic Sandwich, and Travel Photographer of the Year attracted respected judges from the outset – from experienced photographers and editors to picture buyers and technical specialists.
The first Travel Photographer of the Year award opened for entries in February 2003. This was pre-internet, as we now know it, but it rapidly caught the attention of photographers around the world; in that first year, entries were received from 34 countries – no mean feat for a new independent award. What Chris and Karen couldn’t tell, until the entries started to arrive, was the standard of images that TPOTY (“tea potty” as it soon became referred to) would attract. Happily, as sack after sack of prints arrived in the post from around the globe it soon became clear that some very talented amateur and professional photographers had taken up the TPOTY challenge.
Photography is not, and never has been, about whether you’re an amateur or a professional photographer; it’s about the images. Travel Photographer of the Year has always been for everyone and, with no age limits, from the start has always included a category for younger photographers. We have received images from photographers aged from five to 88 years old.
First winner, first book
The overall winner in that first year was Peter Adams, a professional photographer from the UK. Sadly Peter is no longer with us but his superb shots, along with the other winning entries, set the bar high, and the photography world really started to take notice. In 2004, TPOTY had its first amateur overall winner – Pang Piow Kan from Malaysia, whose vibrant images have remained great favourites with TPOTY fans over the years.
The first winners were followed by the first portfolio book of the best images – Journey One – which TPOTY self-published. The beauty of this series of books is that they remain timeless and together they make a fabulous collection of contemporary travel photography and an anthology of how travel photography has reflected a changing world over the years.
Diversity of Styles & Imagery
TPOTY winning images have covered a wide range of subjects, and a vast number of countries, reflecting the diversity of travel photography. Some photographers have a keen eye for the quirky moment – you can see many of these in the Journey portfolio books – and a sense of humour always catches the judges’ eye. There have been some lyrically beautiful images amongst the winners over the years, but there’s a harder-hitting side to travel, too. New Zealander Glen Howey picked up an award in 2005 for a portfolio depicting survivors of land mines in Cambodia, while Australian Jason Edwards’ conservation images in 2019 were a poignant reminder to us all that travel and conservation has a dark side too. Reportage is just as relevant to travel photography as the prettier side of the craft – in 2019 Welshman Kiran Ridley captured the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, and in 2020 Mouneb Taim’s graphic images of life under siege in Syria – a once attractive travel destination – were tremendously powerful.
It’s About You
TPOTY has always aimed to showcase travel photography and the photographers who enter the awards, but also to protect their copyright. The awards are a great way for photographers to show their work to the world and this exposure can generate additional benefits for them. We’ve helped negotiate usage fees for images which buyers have found through the awards, and in 2010 secured a five-figure fee for our teenage 2009 Young TPOTY winner, Courtney Krawec. She used this unexpected bonus to buy her dream camera and pay her college fees. This usage was renewed the following year too!
In 2013 we launched the TPOTY Collection – a selection of superb images available as cards and prints – with photographers receiving royalties. And in 2021 we launched Eye for the Light, our online membership magazine with exclusive articles and podcasts with fascinating leading photographers, looking beyond the technical side of photography to the craft, to inspirations and creativity.
A Global Award
Since 2003 entries have been received from 151 countries and more than 50 nationalities are represented amongst the winners. Our overall winners have come from Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Italy, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, the UK and USA.
TPOTY would be nothing without our expert judges. They give their time and utilise their considerable skills to appraise your images. The panel is international and this year it’s joined by American photographer Elia Locardi and Canadian photographer Chris Rainier, plus conservationist, photographer and TV presenter Megan McCubin.
The best images from the awards have featured in annual exhibitions, entertaining and inspiring millions of visitors at locations across the UK including the London Eye, Royal Geographical Society, Lacock Abbey, Maritime Greenwich, 2018 UK City of Culture, London Bridge City and here in King’s Cross. The exhibition has also travelled to Valletta (Malta), Beijing (China), the World Heritage Site at Sintra (Portugal), the Xposure International Photography Festival, Sharjah and to City Walk, Dubai. It will travel on to Chester later this year.
It’s been an exhilarating and, at times, exhausting journey, but for the TPOTY team, it’s also been a fantastic adventure. We hope that you are inspired by this exhibition enough for you to then pick up your camera and choose to join us for the next step of this amazing journey in this our 20th year.
Enjoy the books, cards and prints…
The beautiful Journey series of portfolio books has helped to take the awards to a higher level, and exposed the winning and other highly placed images to an even wider audience. These books are collected by travel and photography lovers around the world.
We also have a magnificent selection of postcards, greetings cards, mini prints and fine art prints – with the featured photographers all receiving royalties from those sales.
…and the exhibitions….
From 2010 to 2015 our association with the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) saw TPOTY images displayed at a major exhibition in London each summer. Entrants reached an even wider audience, giving them fantastic exposure for their work and an enormous amount of pleasure to our many, many exhibition visitors. In 2016 we moved on to the University of Greenwich in the heart of the Maritime Greenwich UNESCO World Heritage Site for two years. Our first exhibition there welcomed visitors from 165 countries.
In 2016 and 2017 our touring exhibitions were seen by 250,000 visitors. The 2018 and 2019 London exhibitions were at London Bridge City, next to City Hall and close to Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast and the Shard. They seen by more than two million visitors. And in 2020 TPOTY moved to a new London home – the historic King’s Cross, London.
And TPOTY has exhibited internationally – in Sintra (Portugal), on Malta, in Dubai and Sharjah, UAE, and in China.
20 and we’re still growing!
TPOTY is now firmly established as one of the world’s leading photographic competitions but that’s no reason to sit back and pat ourselves on the back. We’re always looking to take TPOTY further.
TPOTY is – and always has been – about images. However without our judges, sponsors and, most importantly, YOU it couldn’t happen. We would like to thank you and, above all, everyone who has entered over the years for the pleasure that their involvement has given to us on this particular journey.
Protecting your rights
We are passionate about protecting photographers’ copyright: your images always remain yours, and we do not request or grant unlimited license to use them. As a result, we are proud to say that TPOTY is an approved award, featuring on the Artists Bill of Rights, Rights-On list.