“The best sports photography allows the viewer to contemplate and consider.” – The World Sports Photography Awards.

Chatting with The World Sports Photography Awards, we take a look at how they began their story and how their motivations have shaped an evolution. Celebrating sports photography and its professional photographers, take a look at this year’s top ten shots.

The only awards for sports photography, The World Sports Photography Awards, are highlighting the importance, impact and emotion of photography in the sporting world. Celebrating the power of photography, talent and dedication of both sports people and their photographers they have fast become credible and trusted by professionals within sport. Revolving around a focus on storytelling, the awards aim to promote and highlight the talent of the sporting industry across its global intersection with culture and society and do so with great artistry. Showcasing some of the best images captured each year, they have given a platform for photographers across all sports disciplines in providing a space where their passion, technique and art can shine. 

Hear about their story and take a look at this year’s Top Ten entries.

Focus (2017) James Gourley
2021 Winner: Focus (2017) | James Gourley

Firstly, how did it all get started and how has it evolved over the years to become The World Sports Photography Awards we see today?

It was an idea in a coffee shop. How did we create a campaign to share the best sports photography in the world and celebrate the incredible art of the photographers? Two editions later we’ve celebrated hundreds of wonderful images and been featured in newspapers, magazines and websites around the globe.

What were the initial goals you set for yourself when starting out the initiative? 

Our initial goal was to ensure we were credible and trusted by professional sports photographers. We want to celebrate the amazing work they create, so it’s important that they see the awards as serious and something that they want to win. 

What was it like starting up?

It was fantastic to see the immediate enthusiasm from judges and photographers. People kept saying to us that they appreciated the cross sport and global nature of the competition. 

The Notorious (2017) John Barry
2021 Special Merit: The Notorious (2017) | John Barry

What do you think the role of sport actually serves in society? 

Sport shows us what practice, endeavor and hard work can achieve. It encourages us to strive to be our best selves. At its best sport is a powerful force for good in the communities it serves. 

How does sports photography play a role in sports unrivalled influence? 

Photography captures a moment. It conveys the emotion and tells the story behind the moment better than video ever can. At its best sports photography is art. An art that celebrates the athletes, spectators and the photographer. 

In The Firing Line (2010) Mark Pain
2021 Bronze: In The Firing Line (2010) | Mark Pain

How has sports photography changed or adapted to the advancement of technology? (Are there any other major factors that have altered sports photography since starting out?)

Cameras, lenses, editing equipment, the internet, advancements in all of these technologies have immediate impacts on sports photography. But probably the single biggest of the last 25 years is the move from film to digital. 

Your ethos is that “nothing captures the emotion of sports like photography” – we agree! What do you look for when judging the sports images that are submitted?

It’s important to say that we don’t look – our panel of judges do the looking! But what’s clear is that they are looking for a “moment” in the story. Where is the emotion? What does the picture make you feel about the protagonists? How did this moment in time arrive? What happened next? How is the talent and hard work that led to this moment conveyed. Sport is frequently about speed. The best sports photography allows the viewer to contemplate and consider. 

Tour de France (2020) James Startt
2021 Special Merit: The Race to the Sun. Paris – Nice Cycling Race (2018) | James Starrt

What were some of the competition highlights for you so far? Any photographs that stand out in your memory over the years? 

We’ve celebrated over 500 images in two editions of the awards and it’s impossible to pick a favorite – they change from week to week! What stands in the memory are the moments we’ve shared images and the athletes involved like Usain Bolt or Rafa Nadal have commented on the image and the moment, because it’s brought back a memory for them. That’s the power of sports photography, it takes you back to a moment and allows you to relive it, sometimes from a different perspective.  

Do you have any tips or advice for photographers looking to start out in the sports industry?

Go to every sports event you can; professional, amateur, the local park and take pictures. Think about angles and light how the action unfolds. Where’s there an unusual view that tells a different story. Look at the work for the top professionals who enter the awards, whose style do you like? What makes them distinctive? What stories can you tell away from the action or about the fans? How can you create your own personal style and approach?

The star of all stars (2020) Yip Lampson Karmin
2021 Special Merit: The star of all stars (2020) Yip Lampson Karmin

Overall, if you had to define one motive for your work at The World Sports Photography Awards, what would it be? Was it the same as when you started out? 

Our motive is to celebrate the power of incredible sports photography and the talent and dedication (on both sides of the camera) that goes into achieving it. Sports and photography have a long and powerful relationship. We want to remind people of why that relationship is important, what it tells us about story-telling, what it tells us about sport and what it tells us about ourselves. 

Simone Biles is the 2016 Olympic individual all-around (2019) MARC ASPLAND
2021 Special Merit: Simone Biles at The Superstars of Gymnastics (2019) | Marc Aspland
Not Today (2014) Daria Isaeva
2021 Special Merit: Not Today (2014) | Daria Isaeva
Paralympic Swimmer (2004) Bob Martin
2021 Special Merit: Paralympic Swimmer (2004) | Bob Martin
Mallory Franklin British slalom canoeist (2019) Richard Pelham
2021 Special Merit: Mallory Franklin British slalom canoeist (2019) Richard Pelham

The World Sports Photography Awards unlocks the amazing power of sports imagery through thestory-telling power of competition.