These stunning award-winning pro photos will blow you away


(Pocket-lint) – There are photos, and there are photos. We’ve all taken some holiday snaps at a particularly enviable location, or in a rather picturesque spot, and checked out the images later, thinking that professional photography might not be out of reach after all.

Well, maybe think twice about that – the images you’re about to browse are from the shortlist of Professional shots from Sony’s 2021 World Photography Awards, and to say they’re stunning would be an understatement. 

Black Leopard Under the Stars

Professional photographer Will Burrard-Lucas explained that it took a long time to capture this magnificent image of a Black Leopard. He spent a year photographing leopards in Kenya’s Laikipia County, with many of the creatures being evasive and difficult to photograph. 

The Black Leopard is an uncommon sight as well, which makes this photo even more magnificent. Before this image was taken the creature had apparently not been documented in that area for over 100 years. 

The images he took saw Burrad-Lucas shortlisted in the Wildlife & Nature category in the 2021 Sony World Photography Awards. 

Hvaldimir, the White Whale

This image is part of a series of photos by professional photographer Aleksander Nordahl called Hvaldimir, the White Whale. They not only saw Nodahl being shortlisted but also allowed the photographer to tell the interesting story behind the beluga whale:

“This is the story of a beluga whale called Hvaldimir and a fisherman called Joar Hesten. When the fisherman and former whaler jumped into the ice-cold Arctic water and freed Hvaldimir from a harness that had been fitted to the whale, both their lives changed forever. When this white mystic creature turned up in the Arctic waters of Norway, bordering Russia, American activists turned up. Hollywood called and Saudi money was spent. The friendly beluga whale became an Instagram star. When the fuss settled, Joar returned home down south and Hvaldimir did likewise. In the summer of 2020, he turned up in the fjord neighbouring Joar’s home. During that summer and autumn, the former whaler visited the whale, looking after him and discussed with annoyed fish farmers how they best could protect it.”

Eternal Hunting Grounds

This unusual image is one of the finalists in 2021’s Architecture & Design category. Like many of the other images in this article it shows just part of a thoroughly interesting story:

“The former Drnov military complex has been abandoned for 17 years when two friends, Martin Chlum and Michal Seba, bought the dilapidated facility in order to realise their dream of building a final resting place for pets. Explaining the reason for pursuing this project one of the owners reflects: ‘When my dog died, I found that there weren’t any places where I could take him for cremation or burial’. With the help of Czech minimalist architect Petr Hajek they established what is now known as the Eternal Hunting Grounds, a space comprising a mourning hall, a crematorium and approximately 40 hectares of surrounding land where wildlife can thrive.”

Silent Neighborhoods

Majid Hojjati took a collection of images named Silent Neighborhoods. These images saw this professional photographer selected as one of the finalists in the landscape category. The photos also tell a story of human life, gone but not forgotten:

” Everything in life is made up of impressions from the past and whatever befalls us today. The fabric which took one form yesterday takes on a new form now. All creatures still fight for their survival. Nature is the battlefield. The forces of the world are as they have ever been; the waves of the sea, storms, the earth itself. But ultimately it is humanity, marching everywhere, claiming everything, proving to the world that it will endure. We strove to live, to take and to control, before even knowing what to call ourselves. We think we will last forever so we hunt, build, wear clothes and consume, changing our ideas and our tools over the years but never changing our ways. We chased after more and more and something was always left behind. Homes were abandoned, chairs left empty and clothes unworn, even the buttons of a shirt were lost. We have raced to eternity, knowing life is fleeting, leaving the lights on behind us as if to say that once upon a time we were alive. Here are the silent neighbourhoods: those places free of the presence of humanity. The noise of their silence can be heard everywhere – but here in these places we are condemned to hear nothing.”

The Killing Daisy

Professional photographer, Vito Fusco from Italy uses stunning photography skills to tell an interesting story about an otherwise innocent looking flower:

“The pyrethrum is known as the ‘flower of death’ – a nickname that neatly describes this delicate daisy imbued with murderous power. The pyrethrum is cultivated mainly in the hills of Nakuru in Kenya and is the arch foe of the insect world. When insects encounter the substance they are stunned into paralysis and then die. Used for centuries as a natural insecticide, it was only in the mid-20th century that pyrethrum made an impact on the global pesticides market, earning an eminent position among natural insecticides. During the 1980s, the pyrethrum crisis began, instigated by the chemical synthesis of pyrethroids that led to the manufacturing of cheaper but non-organic products. Today, however, this special daisy is being grown once again on the clay hills of Nakuru at an altitude of over 1,500m. The Kenyan government has decided to liberalise the production of pyrethrum, opening it to private companies in an ambitious attempt to revive the sector and help local farmers meet the growing global demand for organic products. Once sown, the plant provides a yield approximately every 15 days, all year round.”

In one of the photos a young woman is seen happily picking some flowers and no doubt Vito Fusco was equally pleased to be selected as a finalist for the documentary category. 

The Moon Revisited

This image by Mark Hamilton Gruchy shows that not all the photos from the Sony World Photography Awards are utterly serious. Here NASAs images have been edited to fit into the creative category and tell an interesting story of how the Moon has barely changed since the first Moon landing. 

“This body of work is made up of previously unprocessed images from NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. I have made my own images to express not only contemporary issues but also some that were relevant at the time of the Apollo missions. These are sourced from copyright-free materials that I have repurposed, processed and composited to create a conversation about the unchanging aspect of the Moon contrasted with the Earth, which continues to be a dynamic place where change cannot be prevented. With thanks to NASA and the JPL.”

© Luis Tato, Spain, Finalist, Professional, Wildlife & Nature, 2021 Sony World Photography AwardsThese stunning award-winning pro photos will blow you away photo 8

Locust Invasion in East Africa

Another finalist in the Wildlife & Nature category seems to show the battle of man vis beast as a man is surrounded by hundreds of locusts. The collection of images taken by Luis Tato show the sheer scale of the locust invasion and the havock they wreak. 

“Desert locusts are the most destructive migratory pests in the world. Thriving in moist conditions in semi-arid to arid environments, billions of locusts have been feeding throughout East Africa, devouring everything in their path, and posing a huge threat to the food supply and livelihoods of millions of people. Farmers stand by as armies of ravenous insects eat their crops; meanwhile, herders watch the rangelands stripped bare before their livestock can get to them. Extreme rainfall events and severe weather anomalies have created ideal conditions for locust breeding and feeding. Swarms of desert locusts from the Arabian Peninsula began rampaging across East Africa in early 2020, devouring crop and vegetation where they landed. The crisis reached historic proportions, with 10 countries in the Greater Horn of Africa and Yemen experiencing infestations. Some areas of East Africa, such as Kenya, had not seen such severe desert locust outbreaks in more than 70 years. Covid-19 restrictions have significantly slowed efforts to fight the infestation, as crossing borders has become more difficult, creating delays and disrupting the supply chains of pesticides and products needed to prevent these pests from wiping out vegetation across the region and exposing millions of people to high levels of food insecurity.”


The photo is one of a group of images by Frank Machalowski  referred to as Multiexpo. Shown off as finalists in the professional Architecture & Design category, they offer an interesting view of the world through multi-exposure techniques. 

After the Battle

Another fantastic wildlife photograph makes it into the finalists as Graeme Purdy’s series “Raw Nature” shows off a collection of magnificent beasts including lions, leopards and crocodiles. 

“This series of images was taken using wide angle lenses and wireless triggers. With these iconic wild animals, being in close proximity is too dangerous, so you need to be inventive and innovative. This unique perspective is complemented by an aerial image of a hippo pod, as well as underwater images inches away from wild crocodiles. I have aimed for a unique perspective showing the raw beauty and power of the wild; hopefully, through more empathy with nature, we will learn to preserve it. All animals are wild and free.”

Ourense, a Burned Land

Photojournalist Brais Couto’s portfolio of images were selected as finalists in this year’s competition with a range of poignant and dramatic scenes captured on camera. 

From pandemic to forest fires, his hometown of Ourense has certainly seen some sights in the past year. 

Looking Out from Within

It feels like we’ve all been stuck inside desperate to get back out into the real world over the last year or so. Julia Fullerton-Batten’s photos have done a wonderful job of capturing that feeling. With a selection of portrait images snapped with people looking out from inside their own homes:

“Time stands still for most of us. It is a sensitive time; we all feel vulnerable and anxious. I felt numb, but I knew I couldn’t stand around and do nothing, so I decided to document today’s existence as lived now by many people. I chose to capture them in their lockdown isolation, effectively imprisoned behind the windows of their homes looking out onto a different desolate world. My 12-year old son helped carry the lighting”

Mexican Feast

As you might imagine, the still life category is full of wonderfully quirky imagery of all different sorts and shades. But our favourite is this selection chosen as one of the finalists and lovingly crafted by Paloma Rincon.

A collection of vivid, bright and incredibly colourful foodstuffs presented in wonderfully eye-pleasing ways. 

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“Mexican Feast is a celebration of Mexican culture through its gastronomy and its handcraft traditions. In this series I bring these two worlds together in compositions that mix the edible with the imaginary. As a Mexican born photographer, the influences of colour, textures, bright lights and handmade goods form an important part of my style. My images juxtapose Mexican food platters and ingredients with traditional handcrafts and recognisable everyday local props. This series was shot in a studio in Madrid, where I am based.”

Blu Design

It’s not often you see real-world settings bathed in the same colours. Here, Lorenzo Pennati has crafted a series of thoroughly blue images with wonderfully eye-pleasing results. 

“This series was shot for Marie Claire Maison Italia magazine. It is a sequence of photos that represents a selection of contemporary designs reinterpreted in different shades of blue. While creating this series I kept Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky’s quote in mind: ‘The deeper the blue becomes, the more strongly it calls man towards the infinite, awakening in him a desire for the pure and, finally, for the supernatural… The brighter it becomes, the more it loses its sound, until it turns into silent stillness and becomes white.’”

Social (Me)dia

Berenice Riu gives us a photographic view of social media networks reflected in the real world. 

“I see social media as a reflection of humanity, with all its pros and cons, and therefore a way for us to understand each other. There is a great deal of criticism surrounding social media, but we all use it. The important thing is to understand it as a communication channel and remain aware that there’s always another human being on the receiving end. From my perspective, there is little point in trying to escape social media: it is part of our society and an immediate and accessible form of communication . The solution lies in learning to use it in a more honest, kind and humane way.”


Wesley Dombrecht used the inspiration of childhood memories to create some fantastic kitchen-based still life imagery. 

“During lockdown, I dug out an old photo album; it brought back childhood memories of foods that made me happy as a kid. In this series, I created minimalist compositions, with old kitchen implements I found in my grandmother’s barn.”

Dakar lights

We love these shortlisted sports photos taken during the Dakar Rally. Snapped from a helicopter they almost look like tiny little toys rather than real people on dirt bikes. 

“I took this series from a helicopter early in the morning during stage 11 of the 2020 Dakar Rally, which took entrants from Shubaytah to Harad. It was just after sunrise, which created this effect of light and shadow over the desert dunes.”

Russias Face-Slapping Championship

The sport of Face-Slapping is rough and visceral. In the form of photographs 

“The main goal of face-slapping contests is to get rid of stress and test one’s stamina. Even though there is an evident element of violence and repugnance in this sport, contestants are fully aware of what happens when they choose to participate.”

Unbreakable Olympians

We’ve all had a weird time of it during the COVID pandemic. With everyone stuck at home, we’ve all had to adjust to a new way of life. Even athletes have had to adjust. This wonderful series of photos shows Czech athletes in training with limited equipment and space. 

“Unbreakable Olympians captures the training and preparation of elite Czech athletes during the Covid-19 pandemic. During this time, all sports grounds were closed.”

© Peter Franck, Germany, Shortlist, Professional, Portfolio, 2021 Sony World Photography AwardsThese stunning award-winning pro photos will blow you away photo 21

Flashlights From Different Portfolios

As you can imagine, the shortlisted portfolio images from the professional category include a wonderfully varied selection. Some photographers are even more interestingly varied as well. 

We’d highly recommend taking a look at Peter Franck’s portfolio shots as they’re certainly intriguing. 

“The photographs here form part of a larger series of between 20 and 150 images. In my work, it is important to me that the pictures work both as single images and as a series. In all of my pictures, I try to build a bridge – bridges to painting, bridges from analogue to digital. Nothing is just painting or graphics, nothing is just photography. The different genres are interwoven with each other, the points of contact then manifest themselves in surreal picture narratives or parts and flashes of a story. For me, the picture or work of art is my priority. In order to generate this I will not limit myself to a specific genre.”

© Marvin Grey/Marvin Maralit, Philippines, Shortlist, Professional, Landscape, 2021 Sony World Photography AwardsThese stunning award-winning pro photos will blow you away photo 22

Artifacts Beyond the Whiteout

There are some seriously striking images in this shortlist of landscape photos. Wonderfully framed with a snowy backdrop that is brilliantly aesthetically pleasing. 

“Hokkaido is often depicted as the land of ice and snow, and is commonly photographed in black & white. Heading to the region, I expected to do the same. As I travelled across its harsh, snowy landscape, I came across fields as white as a blank canvas. There, I forced myself to see beyond the obvious: beyond just black & white, beyond the chills and blizzards, and beyond my imagination. I saw it as a perfect opportunity to explore my ideas of a calm but harsh landscape; of what it could look like amidst the blizzard and the cold. I exposed the images for five minutes or more to maintain a sense of minimalism and to reduce any distracting elements such as ripples and movement in the sky.”

Facing North

If you enjoy thoroughly serene snowy surroundings, then you’ll fully appreciate Marc Hennige’s landscape photos. 

“The Lofoten Islands are stunning and unique in winter: the freezing cold sea, steep mountains and colourful houses combine to make an absolutely breathtaking adventure.”

© Antonio Faccilongo, Italy, Shortlist, Professional, Environment, 2021 Sony World Photography AwardsThese stunning award-winning pro photos will blow you away photo 24

Lose the Roots

Mankind is destroying the planet we live on. These photos by Antonio Faccilongo show the battle against that. A photographic storytelling of the effect of illegal logging and the efforts being made against it. 

“Europe is close to losing its last virgin forests. Two thirds of these remaining areas are in Romania, and are critically threatened by illegal logging. According to the Environmental Investigation Agency, 49% of all timber cut in Romania is illegally harvested, but other countries such as Serbia, Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic states are also involved. The main consequence of huge deforestation is climate change, but the negative effects on the environment are numerous, and include flooding, loss of biodiversity and desertification.”

Becoming in Isolation

Many people have been on a difficult mental journey throughout the pandemic. Julia Keil has managed to capture this surreal journey in photographic form. 

“I started this series of self-portraits at the start of lockdown in Paris. I wanted to explore this surreal world I suddenly found myself in, which seemed to waver between fact and fiction. Each portrait blurs the lines between reality and surreality, drawing attention to the deeper meaning and symbolism that surrounds our daily lives. Each photo has taken me on a journey of exploration and becoming, and has provided not only a structure and a playground to my days in lockdown, but also a way of connecting with those on the other side. For this series I shot digitally, using a tripod, self-timer and props found at home, editing each image in a way that suits the concept.”

Writing by Max Freeman-Mills and Adrian Willings.

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