Ocean Art Photo Competition 2019 Judges Comments

By Ocean Art Judges

The Ocean Art Underwater Photo Competition is one of the most prestigious underwater photo contests in the world, attracting some of the world's most talented photographers. 16 different categories ensure a fun competition for all camera classes and disciplines of underwater photography. This year we had two new exciting categories - Blackwater and Conservation.

If you haven't yet, be sure to check out the 2019 Ocean Art Contest Winners.

Ocean Art would not be possible without our esteemed judging panel, who have decades of experience and some of the most prestigious awards in diving, photo, and video industries.

Here is what our judges had to say about this year's competition.


Marty Snyderman


The author of Dive Training magazine's Behind the Lens column, Marty Snyderman has made his living as an underwater photographer, photography instructor, author, and speaker for close to 40 years. He has won many prestigious awards (including an Emmy) and has been featured in many top publications worldwide.


The first thing I would like to say to everyone that entered the 2019 Ocean Art Photography Contest is thank you for your participation. I was honored to be a judge. There were so many wonderful images in every category that it makes judging ridiculously difficult. Certainly, I want to congratulate the Best of Show honoree, the winners and those that were also recognized as place winners in all of the categories, and everyone that received an honorable mention. Kudos to you!

Although I disagreed at times with all of my fellow judges, I have nothing but respect for their skill as photographers and the seriousness with which they take their responsibilities as judges. Martin, Tony, and Scott are a pleasure to work with, and any disagreements we have simply illustrate that even though all of us are professional underwater photographers, we have different styles and tastes and judging is subjective.

If you entered but did not have an image that was recognized, there is absolutely no reason in the world to get down on yourself about it  There were a lot of images that made one judge or another say something like “I wish that was my shot”, and not all of those images were honored in the end. As far as I am concerned, the most important aspect of photography is to enjoy the entire process, not just your processed images. None of us will ever be the finished product as there will always be room for improvement.

With regard to any tips I might have for anyone entering a contest in the future, the following is my two cents worth: Be sure you understand the criteria for each category and abide by the rules. I suggest that you avoid entering similar images, especially similar images in the same category. Be careful about getting too heavy-handed with the vibrance and saturation sliders in post-production. To my eyes, but not always to the eyes of my fellow judges, the colors in a number of images were so “punched up” that the image did not have a natural appearance. Have fun! And please enter again next year. I think I am speaking for all of the judges when I say that we thoroughly enjoy seeing your work and find the images to be very inspiring. So, thank you!

Here’s to a Happy, Healthy, Safe, Photography - Filled 2020 for All!


Martin Edge


Author of "The Underwater Photographer," a best selling book on learning underwater photography.


We (the judges) get to see every single entry which is submitted to the Ocean Art competition, but with so many images to pore over during the first round, your images have to be nothing short of eye catching, stunning, remarkable, and extraordinary all rolled into one. Only this sort of standard will see you into round two.  When you get there you should make a point of congratulating yourself for your achievement. You have done very well indeed!

In the 2nd round, we continue to critique and savor those images, which I may have overlooked but which Tony, Marty and Scott may have picked up on.  Likewise, images continue to be discounted for errors in exposure, focus, composition and obvious signs of critter fiddling and the like.  At this stage the quality is exceptionally high and we don’t go looking for errors as a matter of course, after all, we have championed our own favorites through the process, so small errors tend to find us as we continue to explore round 2 images yet again. 

On our Skype judging day together with a Conference Call’ between the four of us, We agree and continue to disagree but between us we become unanimous for the image voted Best in Show 2019.  I loved this shot from the very first time I set eyes on it.


Tony Wu


Author of a coffee table book entitled Silent Symphony, which received the grand prize for best book of the year at Antibes in 2001. He also won the prestigious Veolia environment wildife photographer of the year award.


Perhaps the one thing that stood out for me the most from this year’s submissions was the high quality of the compact camera entries. For confirmation of that, check out our selection for the rising star photographer—an image of seahorses taken with a compact camera.

No one is going to dispute that there is a difference between a camera that costs $4000 vs. one that costs a fraction of that, but imaging technology has advanced to such an extent that you’d be hard-pressed to find a camera on the market that isn’t capable of producing outstanding photographs.

In other words, the playing field is more level now than it has ever been.

What does this mean if you’re thinking about entering next year? The basics of photography—composition, lighting, originality, general aesthetics, mood, meaning, etc.—are more important than ever. 

It should go without saying that the fundamental principles of creating solid images should be paramount for photo contests, but this hasn’t always held true. For many years, the gap between the top cameras and less expensive ones was obvious, just by looking at resulting images. Not nearly as much now.

I didn’t look at the rising star winning image and think, “That’s from a compact camera.” All I saw was an outstanding image.

Another thing I was happy about was that I did not see many images with obvious manipulation of the photo subject. There were a few. You know who you are. But fortunately, the trend seems to be in the right direction. Let’s shoot for zero harassment next year.

Congratulations to all the winners!

If you’re a glutton for punishment and want to read what I and the other judges wrote in our comments last year, click here: https://www.uwphotographyguide.com/ocean-art-2018-judges-comments

Finally, a big thanks to Martin, Marty and Scott for constructive exchange of views across multiple time zones, and to Nirupam for organizing everything. 


Scott Gietler


Owner of the Underwater Photography Guide, Bluewater Photo, Bluewater Travel, and founder of the Ocean Art photo competition - Scott has been teaching underwater photography workshops around the world for several years.

It was a pleasure to judge this year's competition with the same set of judges we've had for the last several years. Each judge brings a unique perspective, yet we somehow end up reaching an agreement on the best underwater images of the year.

The judges take into consideration beauty, composition, exposure, sharpness, whether the image was over-processed or harassed, and a host of other factors. Some of my favorite categories this year were the behavior categories, coldwater, conservation, and blackwater - I was particularly moved by the emotional impact of many of the conservation entries.

I want to thank all of the photographers for their hard work, training and dedication to the art. For anyone who didn't win a place in the competition, I highly encourage them to continue to enter competitions, because as they say, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder", and that very much applies to judging underwater photos. 



Back to the Ocean Art 2019 Winners page



The Best Service & Prices on u/w Photo Gear


Visit Bluewater Photo & Video for all your underwater photography and video gear. Click, or call the team at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


The Best Pricing, Service & Expert Advice to Book your Dive Trips


Bluewater Travel is your full-service scuba travel agency. Let our expert advisers plan and book your next dive vacation. Run by divers, for divers.