Photo Contest Judging Process

The judging process for the World Press Photo contest involves four specialized juries and a General Jury.

It takes place in several rounds over a three-week period every January. The criteria for judging entries is a combination of news values, journalistic standards, and the photographer's creativity and visual skills. In the case of stories and long-term projects, the edit of the material submitted is also taken into account.

Jury structure

The juries have different names and compositions. The specialized juries are:

  • News and Documentary jury, consisting of five members;
  • Nature and Environment jury, consisting of three members;
  • People jury, consisting of three members;
  • Sports jury, consisting of three members.

The general jury consists of seven members. It is made up of the chairs of each specialized jury, plus three new members. The chair of the news and documentary jury will be the chair of the general jury.

Each jury has a chair responsible for maintaining the integrity of the process, ensuring the deliberations are conducted in accordance with the highest standards, and making certain that all jury members are fully involved in the judging process. English is the sole operating language of the contest and the juries.

Each jury is assisted by a secretary. The secretary is responsible for all procedural matters and ensures the rules and procedures are fairly and properly applied. The secretary does not contribute to debate on the merits of any entry, and has no vote in the balloting.

Organizational support

Once appointed, the jury works independently and the World Press Photo Foundation executive director, staff, board, sponsors and partners have no influence on the outcome of the judging process.

Each secretary is supported by a jury coordinator, who is a staff member of the World Press Photo Foundation. The coordinator is the principal conduit of information between the jury and the foundation on all procedural matters related to the judging. Throughout the judging process, the role of the World Press Photo Foundation staff is solely to manage the logistics of the judging process, including the projection of the pictures, the reading of captions, and recording which pictures are selected for the next round. No member of staff, including the jury coordinator, contributes to debate on the merits of any entry, and no member of staff has a vote in the balloting.

General procedures

The general procedures ensure a fair judging process and must be adhered to at all times.

  • Jury members cannot enter the contest in the year they are judging.
  • Each jury member, whether an ordinary member or chair, has one equal vote.
  • Jurors cannot abstain from voting at any stage of the judging process.
  • All proceedings and deliberations of each jury are conducted in confidence. Jurors are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement to ensure they do not reveal any details of the deliberations, or the identity of winners prior to the public announcement. This means jurors cannot discuss any aspect of the entries, debates or decisions, both during the process and after the announcement of the results, with anyone other than a fellow juror.
  • All entries are coded, with identifying information removed from the pictures so the work is judged anonymously. At no stage of the process - and in no discussion either in or outside the judging rooms - should jury members speculate on, or reveal, any names of participating photographers, agencies or publications.
  • In all categories juries must award a first, second and third prize.
  • The General Jury must award the World Press Photo of the Year prize.
  • If jury members recognize they are personally involved in submitted work, through either a personal or professional relationship, they must declare their interest openly at the beginning of any discussions on the work.
  • Before the beginning of the third round the secretaries of the Nature, Sports and People juries will check the credits of all remaining entries in the contest to see if jury members are required to declare any potential conflict of interest they have not yet acknowledged.
  • Before the beginning of the third round the secretary of the General Jury will check the credits of all remaining entries in the contest to see if jury members are required to declare any potential conflict of interest they have not yet acknowledged.
  • In situations for which the judging procedures do not provide, the secretary, in close consultation with the jury chair and the jury coordinator, will decide how to proceed. If no agreement can be reached, the World Press Photo Foundation, in the person of its Executive Director, will decide on the proper procedure.

Judging rounds

The contest has six voting rounds: the first, second, third, fourth and fifth rounds and the finals.

The voting system and process for each round for each jury, are detailed in the Judging Procedures handbook, which guides the secretaries and is provided to each juror.

The World Press Photo of the Year

The World Press Photo of the Year is the final award judged in the three-week period.

The World Press Photo of the Year honors the photographer whose visual creativity and skills made a picture that captures or represents an event or issue of great journalistic importance in that year.

This award is chosen after the jury has determined all the other awards, and is chosen from a select long list of candidates, comprising:

  • The first-prize picture in all seven singles categories.
  • Any single picture selected from any winning story (meaning any first-, second- or third-place story, in any category, except Long-Term Projects), that is taken in the year of the award.

The World Press Photo of the Year is decided according to the following process:

  • Jurors are presented with the eligible pictures.
  • The total number of eligible pictures is reduced through a series of voting rounds requiring seven votes to keep pictures in the contest, followed by a voting round requiring seven votes to eliminate pictures from the contest.
  • These positive/negative voting rounds will be repeated until no more than two pictures remain in the contest.
  • The final vote requires that two pictures remain in the contest.
  • Each member of the jury can only vote for one of the two remaining pictures.
  • The World Press Photo of the Year award requires a supermajority of seven votes.
  • The final vote will be done by written, secret ballot.
  • The jury will deliberate and, if needed, successive secret ballots will be held until seven votes are cast for one of the two pictures under consideration.