Competition Details


Ocean Art 2023 Underwater Photo Competition


Thank you for considering entry in the 2023 edition of the Underwater Photography Guide's Ocean Art Underwater Photo Competition! The contest features prizes exceeding $100,000 in value from some of the world's top liveaboard, resort, and photo gear sponsors. 

We have many categories designed to ensure that photographers find the right category for each of their images, no matter how unique. Ocean Art 2023 uses 14 categories total from Blackwater to Conservation to Nudibranchs and more! To ensure that every camera type and level of photographer is represented, some categories are further split between an open category and compact camera categories.

This is a virtual contest - simply upload underwater photos taken anywhere, anytime. Ocean Art 2023 will be accepting registration and entries until 23:59 (11:59 PM) PST on November 30, 2023.

Entry fee is $10 USD per photo. Enter 10 and get the 11th free.

Check out our full list of prizes



Ocean Art 2019 Underwater Photography Competition


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Instructions & Entry Fees

File Specifications

Contest Rules

Category Details

How Prizes are Awarded


Instructions & Entry Fees

  • Entry Fee is $10 USD per photo. Enter 10 photos and get the 11th free (11 for $100), OR pay for 20 photos and get 2 free photos (22 for $200).

  • A single image may be submitted in multiple categories, however each submission requires an individual entry fee. A single image may only place in one category.

  • Submitting images: You will be required to log in. Next, you will be asked to select the number of images you wish to submit, pay the required entry fee and then upload your images. You are able to view your uploads, make changes to photo info, and finish an (unfinished) upload through your Underwater Photography Guide profile (find this near bottom of website left column).


File Specifications


  • JPEG/JPG images only

  • At least 2500 pixels on the longest side

  • Maximum file size 5MB. If you are having trouble uploading your photos, please check your internet and reduce your file size.

  • sRGB color space is recommended

  • Watermarks NOT allowed. Watermarked images will be disqualified

  • Scanned slides are acceptable

  • Finalists will be asked to provide original RAW file

  • Any 'advanced' editing must be disclosed in the photo caption (see rules below). 'Story' captions are not necessary unless notified of advancement to 2nd round of judging.

  • Winners will be asked for high-res jpg files for contest coverage in dive media



Contest Rules 


  • UWPG pledges to run this contest ethically and with utmost integrity.

  • Judges will not see image titles or any other references to photographers. 

  • Images submitted with watermarks will be disqualified.

  • Photos must be submitted with our online entry form. If you have difficulties, please email

  • All photographers are eligible, including amateur, semi-pro, and professional.

  • There is no timeframe for eligible photos; you may submit images shot during any year.

  • Photos taken as a result of harassment to marine life that could be harmful to the subject can and will be disqualified at the judges' discretion.

  • All subjects must be alive and in their natural environment. No captive animals will be considered and no entrapment, or previous entrapment of any kind is permissible.

  • All photos must be taken in a natural water environment like an ocean or lake. No pools, aquariums or controlled environments except for entries in the Underwater Art category, which may be taken in a pool.

  • You must have been in the water when taking the photo (i.e. no pole cam shots). Over-under and split-shots are accepted.

  • AI masking, sharening, and denoise is allowed. Generative AI softwares are not allowed. Generative AI softwares can be defined as softwares that produce artifacts that did not exist in the original photo.


Photo Rights & Judging

  • All images are eligible regardless of past use. However, images that have not previously placed in a major international contest and have not been widely seen in publication are favored by our judges. 

  • Entrants, by submitting images, grant permission to the Underwater Photography Guide to use winning entries for the direct promotion of the Underwater Photography Guide photo contests, including but not limited to Ocean Art. All photo rights remain with the photographer. Any images used for this purpose online will include a watermark with 'Ocean Art Contest' and the photographer's name. We are not interested in taking any other rights for the photo, selling it, making a book out of it, etc. It’s your photo.

  • Winners and prize awards will be announced early to mid January, 2024 on the Underwater Photography Guide homepage and social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter).

  • All judges’ decisions are final.

  • Judges include world-renowned underwater photographers Tony Wu, Marty Snyderman, Mark Strickland, and Scott Gietler. Martin Edge is the author of The Underwater Photographer, a top-selling book on underwater photography. Marty Snyderman is an Emmy winner with work appearing in top publications like National Geographic. Tony Wu is a renowned underwater photographer and author of Silent Symphony. Mark Strickland is a published author, award winning underwater photographer, and photo specialist at Bluewater Photo. Scott Gietler is the owner of Bluewater Photo, Bluewater Travel and the Underwater Photography Guide.

  • Send questions to





  • This is a photography contest, not a Photoshop contest. Photoshop and Lightroom (or similar post-processing software) have become necessary tools for processing images, but it is not a substitute for good photography.

  • Authenticity is paramount. Editing that enhances the photographer's original image is permitted as outlined below. Any editing that misrepresents the scene and original capture will not be accepted.

  • Note that there are no photoshop limits in the Underwater Digital Art and Underwater Fasion categories - everything is acceptable. These categories are designed to let your imagination fly. For these categories only, you can disregard the editing rules below.


  • Global changes: color temperature, brightness, contrast, minor dodge & burn, sharpening, saturation changes, tonal adjustments, color balance adjustments, etc.

  • Non-Global changes: Masking tools to make non-global changes are allowed, including Lightroom's new subject and object selection tools. Changes can include adjustments in color temperature, brightness, contrast, noise, sharpening, saturation, tonal adjustments, color balance adjustments, etc.

  • AI Tools: AI sharpening, AI denoise, and AI masking tools (e.g., Lightroom's new subject and object selection tools). 

  • Rotation, flip and flop.

  • Limited removal of backscatter. This does not include removing divers, fish, bubbles, ropes or painting/burning the background of an image black.

  • Some cropping is allowed but please see the caveat in the supermacro category*. Keep in mind that judges often look down on significant cropping.



  • No composite images (blending exposures in-camera or in post-processing, HDR, focus stacking, etc.), no cutting and pasting sections of other images, cloning or creating objects (i.e. adding divers, fish or glow to simulate a flashlight).

  • Excessive blurring, excessive darkening of background, excessive vignetting.

  • No Generative AI Tools: Generative AI software can be defined as software that produces artifacts that did not exist in the original photo.


Original RAW files straight out of the camera will be requested from all finalists for auditing purposes, as well as a high-res .jpg. An entry may be disqualified if a RAW or original JPEG image is not available. We will be contacting photographers for the RAW and high-res images during mid December, 2023, before our second round of judging begins.


Category Details

Ocean Art categories are loosely defined below. Our very experienced judging panel will use their common sense when choosing winners in a category.

The first 9 categories and the Underwater Art category are open to photos taken with any type of camera: dSLR, mirrorless or compact.

Entries in the 3 compact camera categories must be taken with a point and shoot camera (e.g. Canon G7 X, Canon G16, Canon s120, Sony RX-100 series, Olympus TG-6, SeaLife Micro 3.0, GoPro). A point and shoot camera does not have interchangeable lenses. 



Any photo that shows a wider angle of view than the human eye (35mm focal length), including over-under shots (half in the water, half out), and close-focus wide-angle photos. Currently, stitched panoramas are not allowed in this category.



Any photo where the subject is recorded as lifesize or greater on the camera's image sensor, also known as a 1:1 (or greater) reproduction ratio. As a guideline, macro subjects are generally 6 inches across or smaller and shot with a lens focal length greater than 35mm.


Marine Life Behavior

An underwater photograph showing marine life in action (e.g. feeding, cleaning, schooling, yawning, playing, mating).


Marine Life Portrait

A portrait shot of an animal underwater including fish, sharks, sea lions, octopus, marine birds, etc. A portrait shot usually focuses on a single subject and shows their personality. Portraits can be full body shots or framed tightly around the face/head.


Cold Water / Temperate Water

Any underwater photograph taken in a cold or temperate water environment where the water is below 15C/59F for most of the year AND/OR one of the following destinations: California, New Zealand, UK, Northern Europe, Artic/Antarctic, Chile, Tasmania, Black Sea, Pacific Northwest, and Northern Atlantic. The Mediterranean and southern Australia are not included in this category (Tasmania is eligable as Cold Water). Not sure if your area is temperate? Just ask!



The main subject of the photo should be a nudibranch. Any sea slug is ok for this category. We suggest that the nudibranch(s) is very prominent in the photo. Winner of this category will be awarded the Villa Markisa Resort prize!



Blackwater photos are taken of pelagic subjects (i.e., organisms in the water column - not on the bottom) with a characteristic black background. Most blackwater subjects are macro subjects, though some may be larger, as long as the photo maintains a black background and the subject does not live on the bottom. Most blackwater images are taken at night, though we accept images taken during the day, as long as they have a black background. Photos from both Blackwater and Bonfire dives are both accepted in this category.  Click here for more information about blackwater photography and the difference between blackwater and bonfire dives. 


Black & White

Black & White photos are captured in black, white, and shades of gray. The purpose of this category is to showcase the photographer's ability to capture light and highlight subjects through shades. Initial photographs do not need to be captured in Black & White, but our editing rules listed above still apply.

Underwater Conservation

Photos that inspire a feeling to protect and care for our oceans, lakes, rivers, or any natural underwater environments. Images can be of environmental tragedy or heroic scenes of environmental protection. In this category, the image does not need to be taken underwater, but it should be related to underwater conservation. 


Compact Wide-Angle

Wide-angle photos taken with a compact camera. Wide-angle subjects are generally larger than 6 inches. Compact cameras are definted above.


Compact Macro

Macro and supermacro photos taken with a compact camera. Macro subjects are generally smaller than 6 inches. Compact cameras are defined above.


Compact Behavior

Photos showing marine life in action (e.g. feeding, cleaning, schooling, yawning, playing). Compact cameras are defined above.


Underwater Digital Art

Photos in this category can be captured in any underwater environment and digitally manipulated in any way desired by the artist. The main subject can be anything ranging from an abstract concept to a person (a diver, freediver, model, etc.) to a fish. Commercial photographs are allowed. There are no post-processing restrictions in this category, so let your imagination fly.


Underwater Fashion

Photos entered in this category emphasize people (a diver, freediver, model, etc.). They can be taken in any underwater environment - including controlled environments (e.g., pools, tanks). Commercial photographs are allowed. There are no post-processing restrictions in this category, so let your imagination fly.




How Prizes are Awarded

(see full list of prize descriptions)

Winners will be asked to rank prizes after the judging is completed (but not yet announced) and will receive the highest ranked prize available on their list. Best of Show will be awarded additional bonus points in ranking. 1st place winners will be able to choose before all other winners, 2nd place winners before 3rd place winners, etc. Winners can only receive one prize. Ranked winners will be awarded until available prizes are exhausted. Not all winners will win a prize; only 1st place winners are gaurunteed a prize. The availability of prizes is subject to change based on decisions made by sponsors.  

The exact ranking of the category point systems, which determines who gets awarded their first prize picks, will be determined by the judges based upon the number of entries and level of competiveness of each category.

Winners will learn of their placement and awarded prize when contest results are announced in early to mid January, 2024. All prizes will be awarded.