Tips from a WOW Contest Judge / by Sophy Nathanail

By Neil Zeller

I am a part of the judging team for the Worldwide WOW photo contest. I have been asked to share my tips on what we as judges look for when selecting the winners for this contest. 

First things first, we don’t know who you are. We are presented the images anonymously on a large screen. We start by going through all the images in all the categories in a single pass, as second or two per image, without offering comment or judgement.

Once we have seen all the images we run through them again, but this time offering a majority vote to select what images go forward to further judging. In this round we are looking for images that are simply striking at first impression. The ones that haven’t made the cut are typically ones that have poor focus, confusing subject matter or obvious composition challenges. We get stuck on some images, wishing that the photographer had cropped an image in a different way to avoid unsightly contrasts or eliminated unneeded objects that draw your eye away from the real subject.

After we have selected our majority favs, we spend a great deal of time on each remaining image, within each category. We are each rating these selects on a scale of 1 to 5, in 3 different categories: Technical (composition, technique, colors, etc.), Subject matter (as relates to the category) and Impact.

The group of judges have the liveliest discussions when it comes to the ‘Impact’ scale. We all come from a wide range of backgrounds, styles and professions within the industry. We are corporate photographers, designers, artists, news makers, etc. so we all have a different ‘eye’ for what we are seeing.

The Impact of an image can be anything, really. From something that no one else has photographed, to an image that we have all seen a version of, but technically this is the best one we have seen of this subject. There are moments in time, photographed, that catch our eye, and incredible interpretations of light and shadows that will win us over. We like sharp images, we like colourful images when the image is made best by the color, and we like black and whites when the colors add nothing to a story told.

The images that win this contest are never surprising in the end, even with some images being the subject of a great deal of discussions amongst us, where opinions (these are just opinions) can be swayed too! Some of us are experts in certain fields and can help the others to know how much amazing is in a certain image that maybe others might not understand. I know I have learned a great deal from my fellow judges over the past few years.

The one certainty at the end of the day is the winners are deserving of the prize and all the participants should be congratulated for putting themselves out there to be judged. We appreciate all the work that is put forward and wish only the best to all the participants!

Neil Zeller



Neil Zeller Photography

I see the world in 4×6 boxes

When I can translate what I saw into an image, so that you can see it too. To be able to share a moment like that, exactly like I experienced it, is what photography is all about to me.

Proud Calgarian.

I want to show you what I see, the way I see it.

I am a family man first. My talented wife of 19 years and incredible 8 year old son are my world and the source of my greatest pride in life.

Photography is where I cleanse my spirit, nourish my soul and am truly happy. I see the world around me in 4×6 boxes. My eyes capture wide angles, interesting corners, beams of light and faraway things. My goal is to capture in my camera, the story my eyes could never tell you.