Picking the winners — it’s one of the toughest things I do
…and this was among the hardest ever, because the entries were just so strong this year. It’s why I’m posting the winners so late today — I’ve struggled all day with picking the right one.

I didn’t want to be swayed simply because an image was taken in an exotic location or somewhere I’ve never been, or never seen — I wanted to pick a photo, simple composition or not, easy to capture or not, post processed  brilliantly or not — that is simply special. Maybe it’s the right light, expression or mood, or story or a combination — I searched for whatever that certain something is that makes me come back to it again and again — and  I want to give every image fair and open-minded consideration.

Each image I considered was already chosen as a “winner” by the walk leaders, from over 1,000 walks all around the world. Narrowing it down to just 10-finalists and one Grand Prize Winner — it’s just so hard, and you second and third-guess your choices along the way because you want to give every image a fair shake.

You could easily make a case for hundreds of images to be chosen as finalists, but you only get to choose 10, and one Grand Prize winner, and you finally just have to make a choice, and that’s what I’ve done today.

Even though this round of judging is over …
We still have our People’s Choice Award coming and we have a Leader’s Competition, and I always list my ‘Honorable Mentions’ (images that are so good that even though they didn’t win a prize, still deserve recognition). So, while this is the official announcement of the Top-10 Finalists and the Grand Prize winner, the competition phase still has a few more components left.

Now, let’s reveal this year’s Top 10 Finalists (in no particular order):

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By Fatemeh Rowshan (Mashhad, Iran)
There’s so much more going on there than you see at first glance. Everything in this image — all the graphical elements — they all work together so beautifully. The round shapes up top, and the triangles below, placing the gentleman in the valley between them — in all that white space — it’s just so graphically pleasing. The color of the sifter, and then his purple shirt and coat (why is he wearing a dress shirt and sports coat in this environment — it’s beautifully out-of-place), and then the green pyramids on either side of him — I just love it.

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By Joonas Radland (Turku, Finland Photo Walk)
I love shots where you just want to know what the story is. Take that, and add interesting light, and now I’m really intrigued and that’s how this shot wound up there. What’s going on in that room to the left? Who are those people? Are they in court? Is it a funeral? A museum perhaps? Who is she texting? I so want to know the rest of the story.

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By Ashwin Chathuruthy (Lambertville, New Jersey, USA Photo Walk)
A lot of folks submitted photos of cute kids, cats and puppies, and this shot of course has a very cute kid, but there’s so much else going on here than just that. The colors are just too perfect — the red and yellow with the green in his sleeve, and his blue eyes, and the super soft-light on his face, and his expression, and the leading lines, and…it’s just a wonderful picture. I’m glad I saw it.

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By Cindy Nielson (Tooele, Utah USA Photo Walk)
Take dramatic clouds, add beautiful color — mountains like an island in the distance and add a wonderful reflection and it adds up to a breathtaking photo. It makes you want to be there, and I think that’s quite a compliment for any image. Nicely done, indeed.

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By Kellie Carey (Georgetown, Kentucky, USA Photo Walk)
The color and composition caught me right away on this shot, and I think the post-processing is spot on. The sun is perfectly placed in the scene and the shadows it casts, and the way it falls makes it almost look like a painting.

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Ana Goncalo (Covilha, Portugal Photo Walk)
This one stopped me immediately with its arresting colors and wonderful composition. The photographer took something so simple and really made it interesting with their sharp angle of attack. Also, the way the window on the left is cracked open — it’s so subtle, but it adds that little extra something. In the end though, it’s the contrast of colors and their bright pop (and those extra bright shingles near the top). Really a cool shot. Wish I’d taken it.

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By Gremaud Thomas (Johannasburg, South Africa Photo Walk)
The light here is just so awesome, and the black-and-white treatment works so well with this picture that you can’t even imagine it in color, and you wouldn’t want to. It may well be up for “Leading lines photos of the year” but it’s much more than that — this is really an image about graphic shapes and light, and it’s beautifully executed. My hat’s off to the photographer.

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By Juan Francisco Mananares (Montreal, Canada Photo Walk)
I would have been tempted to rent a white Rolls Royce and just have it pull up in front of this amazing cathedral so I could make a picture like this. It’s so moody (great post processing), and the way the automobile stands out from the background is just too perfect — like something straight out of a movie. That’s how it feels to me — like the viewer stumbled upon a classic movie scene. That’s quite a compliment.

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By Don Johnson (Boise, Idaho USA Photo Walk)
I generally don’t go for the wild artsy stuff, but there’s just something about this particular shot that I just love. It’s a bit crazy, but not too over-the-top, and I really love the way the curvy lines all work with each other. It’s like the artist showed a certain amount of restraint with the effect — they could have taken it way too far, but stopped in a place that helped a certain amount of realism where it goes between photography and painting. Of course, the whole thing could be a reflection in some other object, in which case, I’m even more impressed, but no matter how the artist got here, there’s something here.

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Mac Oliver Lingat ( Pampanga, Philippines Photo Walk)
I know you may think this type of shot is “done to death” because there’s always a number of shots submitted, and in the running each year that have this dark, smokey, Blade Runner-esque kind of look, but there’s more to this one. I want to know what’s going on, why is there smoke coming in (is somebody running a smoke machine out there?), and I want to know what the numbers mean on the far right, and I just want to know more, and I think that says a lot for the image.

And the GRAND PRIZE WINNER is…

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Lisa Jones (Dallas, Texas USA Photo Walk)
There’s just so many wonderful things going on in what appears to be such a simple photo. From the light, the texture, the contrast in colors — everything just works together, but what I think makes this image so great is the oval shape of the flying dough against this backdrop. Everything in this image is a rectangle — even our subject here in black — it’s all rectangles, from the bricks to the light switches, to the table, to the straight lines of the electrical conduit — then you have this flying oval and that makes this such a captivating moment. It’s just too perfect. Look at the light falling on the flying dough itself. Then, the way the photographer gave room for the dough to move above the dough itself (instead of cropping it too closely) — just very well composed and wonderful timing on the photographer’s part. Add in the “Dallas” tattoo on his arm, and the dough on his apron, and the way the brick wall just happened to turn dark near the top making the dough stand out against it — it’s a very strong image  — one I kept coming back to again and again, and if something keeps drawing you in, there must be a reason.

Congratulations, Lisa — You are our 2016 Worldwide Photo Walk Grand Prize Winner! 

Thanks to Canon USA and all our sponsors
A special thanks to our Premier Sponsor, Canon USA, (who gave us some amazing Canon prizes, and helped us launch our new video category) and to Adobe Systems, Peachpit Press, Tamron, and B&H Photo — thanks for all your support this year and for offering such awesome prizes to our winners. We are very grateful.

Thanks to our Walk Leaders
It’s a lot of work, and a thankless job, so let me be the first to say “thanks.” We couldn’t do any of this without our volunteer walk leaders around the world, who do such a great job of creating the walk; working with the walkers, and making the whole thing happen on the local level, and that means a lot.

A personal thanks and shoutout to this year’s awesome Leader coordinator, our own Jeanne Jilleba, who totally kicked butt keeping the communication flowing and things moving in a 1,000+ cities around the world. Thanks Jeanne!

Lastly, thanks to all the talented photographers from around the world who created such inspiring, creative, and beautiful work, and a special thanks to those of you who contributed to the Springs of Hope Orphanage — it means more than you know.

P.S. We still have the unveiling of the Honorable Mentions (images that didn’t win a prize, but are so good that I felt they needed special recognition), so make sure you stop by tomorrow for that. Don’t forget: Although this phase is over, we still have the People’s Choice Award to pick, and a special competition for our Walk Leaders, so there’s more to come. :)

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About The Author

Scott is the President of KelbyOne, an online educational community for Photographers, Photoshop and Lightroom users. He's editor and publisher of Photoshop User Magazine, Conference Technical Chair for the Photoshop World Conference, and the author of a string of bestselling Photoshop, Lightroom, and photography books.

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