2021 Chromatic Photography Award winners – Popular Photography

The photography world can put a weird premium on black-and-white imagery as if rejecting color somehow make photos more artistic by default. I know I’ve fallen into this thought-trap before, and it’s certainly easier when you’re starting out to create visually striking monochromatic photos in post-production than it is to capture great color images. This is why I was so excited to see the winners of the Chromatic Photography Awards—a photography competition only for color images.

About the Chromatic Awards

The Chromatic Awards has been running since 2017, so it’s a pretty new competition. 

1st Place: Cityscapes, Professional - Poland Red zone.
1st Place: Cityscapes, professional division – “Red zone.” Marcin Giba / Chromatic Photography Awards

Related: Winning photos from the 2021 Hasselblad Masters competition

Amateur and professional photographers are adjudicated separately in 20 different categories:

  • Abstract
  • Architecture
  • Cityscapes
  • Conceptual 
  • Culture
  • Environmental
  • Fashion and Beauty
  • Fine Art 
  • Landscapes
  • Nature
  • Nudes
  • People
  • Photojournalism
  • Photomanipulation
  • Portrait
  • Sports
  • Still Life
  • Street
  • Travel
  • Wildlife and Animals

Combined with the grand prizes ($2,000 for each professional winner and $1,000 for each amateur winner), there are 42 total categories, each with first, second, and third place awards, and a host of highly commended images. 

1st Place: Photomanipulation, Professional - "Hungary Fighting."
1st Place: Photomanipulation, professional division – “Fighting.” Zoltan Toth / Chromatic Photography Awards

Put simply, there are a lot of great photos to check out in the competition gallery—or in the photobook that will be published next year. At this point, it’s worth touching briefly on the ethics of a competition like this. The prizes are relatively small for a competition with an entry fee, especially one where a book is sold by the organizers afterward. However—the competition is upfront about this. While I personally would not enter this competition, I can’t fault other photographers for taking the chance to win a bit of cash and see their image printed in a proper book, which is why we’re happy to cover it here on Popular Photography.

The winners

Chromatic Photographer of the Year - "Romania Epiphany day."
Chromatic Photographer of the Year, professional division – “Epiphany day.” Felicia Simion / Chromatic Photography Awards

Romanian photographer Felicia Simion picked up the Grand Prize and the title of Chromatic Photographer of the Year for her photo of women wearing traditional colored kerchiefs during an Orthodox religious celebration. 

Chromatic Discovery of the Year, Professional - Czech Republic, "Under the White Sea ice."
Chromatic Discovery of the Year, professional division – “Under the White Sea ice.” Petr Polách / Chromatic Photography Awards

Petr Polách, a photographer from the Czech Republic, picked up the Chromatic Discovery of the Year award (which we think is the top amateur prize). Underwater photography has been winning a lot of awards this year, and Polách’s shot is a great example of why. 

A few of other favorites

There are a lot of photos on display in the online gallery. With 40 categories, each with three winners and upwards of 10 highly commended, it is at least a few hundred photos—if not a thousand. I’d be lying if I said I’d examined them all closely, but here are a few of our favorites that we’ve seen so far.

1st Place: Culture, Amateur - "Mundari Cattle Herder."
1st Place: Culture, amateur division – “Mundari Cattle Herder.” Joe Buergi / Chromatic Photography Awards

I love Joe Buergi’s winning shot in the Amateur Culture category. The super subtle color palette really ties the whole image together. 

1st Place: Photojournalism, Professional division -"Chile Resists."
1st Place: Photojournalism, professional division -“Chile Resists.” Javier Vergara / Chromatic Photography Awards

Javier Vergara’s winning shot in the Professional Photojournalism category is simply stunning. The Chilean demonstrators almost look like they’ve been posed it’s so perfect. 

1st Place: Travel, professional division - "People on train."
1st Place: Travel, professional division – “People on train.” Wei Fu

Wei Fu’s first-place photo in the Professional Travel category made me laugh out loud. There’s something really fun about the composition. 

1st Place: Wildlife and Animals, Amateur division - "Zebras in the Dust."
1st Place: Wildlife and Animals, amateur division – “Zebras in the Dust.” Karin Van Couwenberg / Chromatic Photography Awards

Finally, Karin Van Couwenberg’s winning image in the Amateur Wildlife category is another incredible capture. This is one of those images that could easily work well in black-and-white, but is really so much better in color. 

How to enter next year’s contest

2nd Place: Fine Art, Amateur division - "Mid 70s Mirage."
2nd Place: Fine Art, amateur division – “Mid 70s Mirage.” Sadie Chandler / Chromatic Photography Awards

You can already enter next year’s competition on the Chromatic Awards’ website. Up until July, 17th, 2022, it costs $20 to enter a single image in a Professional category or $15 to enter a single image in an Amateur category. Those prices go up to $25 and $20 on October 23rd, 2022 until the final deadline. Winners are announced on December 18th, 2022. 

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