Listener Photo Essay Competition

by Listener Archive / 10 January, 2013
$2000 of prize money is up for grabs in this year’s <em>Listener</em> Photo Essay Competition.

Sorry, this competition is now closed.


To view the winner's photo essay, click here
To view the runner-up's photo essay, click here
To view the Photo Essay Competition gallery, click here

Photo essay contest - A week’s worth: at the settlement of Huia on the Manukau Harbour
A week’s worth: at the settlement of Huia on the Manukau Harbour, photo David White


In these days of digital wizardry and mind-boggling animation, all the clever software in the world is unlikely to trump a single beautifully lit, superbly composed slice of real life – and even more unlikely to trump an entire portfolio of such images.

So, we are pleased to announce that following the success of last year’s inaugural Listener Photo Essay Competition, we have decided to repeat it. This year the winner will receive $1500, and the runner-up $500, to spend on photographic equipment of their choice.

Last year’s competition proved that despite – or perhaps because of – the ubiquity of amateur photography these days, there are some incredibly talented individuals who can still force you to take a fresh look at a familiar world. Last year, our two prizewinners both featured documentary-style shots taken in foreign countries. This year, we are restricting entries to photographs taken in New Zealand.

We have reprinted last year’s tips on what makes a good photo essay to show what we are looking for. To enter the competition, see the conditions below, and click here for full details. We look forward to posting your entries on our website and to publishing the winning essays.

Essay contest terms and conditions – click here for full details.
The Listener Photo Essay Competition runs until February 10, 2013 – all entries must be received on or before this date. The winners will be announced in the Listener’s March 2 issue. All entries are to be emailed to essaypics@listener.co.nz or sent on a disc by post to: Photo Essay Competition, NZ Listener, PO Box 90783, Victoria St, Auckland. All images must be submitted as jpegs.

Each entry must be the contestant’s original creation and must not have been previously published.

  • You may submit only one entry.

  • All essays should contain from five to a maximum of 10 images, all taken in New Zealand.

  • Entrants retain copyright of their essays, but by entering this competition, contestants consent to the use of their name, and/or essay or parts thereof in the Listener and/or on the Listener’s website.

  • All contestants who submit an entry are deemed to have accepted these terms and conditions.


Tips of the trade


Listener picture editor and professional photographer Neville Marriner has 10 simple tips for how to make your photo essay stand out. A photo essay is a collection of images placed in a specific order to tell a story of an event or of a concept.

  • Select a theme with a strong visual element – local food markets or stock auctions are good examples – but ensure you have images of small details as well as big-picture material.

  • Research your subject and get to know the area you are shooting in and where the light falls.

  • While shooting, keep your kit simple and make sure you are familiar with it. Don’t miss pictures because you’re fiddling with a new gadget.

  • Select a style and stay with it all the way through; shooting half in black and white and half in colour is confusing to the viewer. Also, try to avoid trickery in angles or in Photoshop as they detract from the storytelling.

  • Start early and finish late; the more time you give it, the more you will get from it. Remember the best light is in the early morning and at dusk.

  • Engage with your subjects. If possible, spend time with them before getting the camera out. When you start shooting, work quietly and quickly.

  • Look for inspiration. There are lots of books and internet examples of essays that work well. Shots taken by such greats as James Nachtwey and Henri Cartier-Bresson are plentiful.

  • Keep the lighting simple. If you have to use a flash, use a diffuser to soften the light.

  • Place the images in an order that best tells the story. Between five and 10 images should be sufficient.

  • Above all, enjoy it. If you fail to get a frisson as you shoot, take up knitting.


To view an example of a photo essay, click here to view our photo essay feature.
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