The competition is now closed. The next competition will be announced on this website.
The competition is run on this website. To enter, you must make an account on the website and you will then be able to upload images to your lightbox. When you have uploaded all the images you want to enter you can submit them to the competition. When the competition closes the uploaded images will be shortlisted for the final round of judging. We will contact you if you have been shortlisted and request a full-size image from you online. The judges will assess the shortlisted images when they have been sent in and the winners will be selected. Read through this page to find out more detail about how the competition works and how to prepare your submission.
Using the lightbox facility to plan and edit your submission
The BLPA website is set up to help you choose and enter your best images. When you are registered you can upload images to your lightbox at any time, for free. You can review them online to make sure they look right, until you know what you want to enter, and delete some if you like. Images you keep on your lightbox will not be entered into the competition until you decide you are ready. When you have uploaded the images you want to enter, you can submit your entry to the competition. To do this you will need to buy credits. Use your lightbox wisely to save credits: if you get all your images ready in the lightbox and then submit them in a single batch it may save you money. If you submit them in several smaller batches it will use up more credits. Once the images from your lightbox are entered into the competition, you can't delete them or change the captions. But until the closing date you can always upload images and enter more if you want to.
You can buy credits using a Paypal account. The more credits you buy, the more images you can enter. If you're planning on entering several images we strongly recommend planning your whole entry before you decide how many credits to buy - this will save you money. Once you have bought one lot of credits you can't top them up until you have used them all.
Captions and file names
Filenames are for your own reference only but captions will be available to the judges. If you are shortlisted you will get a chance to submit a full-length caption so for initial entry a short description or title is adequate.
It is important to add a caption to your images when you first upload them, even if you change it later. When you upload there is a box above the 'Choose file' button that reads 'Image Caption'. If you don't enter anything in the box, the picture might be uploading with a blank caption which could cause an error.
If you are entering the documentary and photojournalist category you must include a reference title and number with each image, so it is clear that they form a set. For example, if the title of the portfolio is "Arts Festival" your captions would be "Arts Festival 1: description"; "Arts Festival 2: description" etc.
Original large files
Please make sure that you keep copies of your original large file. Be careful not to accidentally save it directly into a small size for uploading - and then not be able to retrieve the large file again! You can resize your copy image either using Photoshop or your own camera software. Your camera software or imaging software may have options to save images for web use or for e-mail - choose this option as this will be 72 ppi (dpi). Please keep copies of all your original and resized images safe.
Shortlisted Images - file sizes and types
If you are successful in being shortlisted for the final round of judging, we will request your largest high quality file (Preferably TIFF or largest JPEG) suitable for printing in all media, along with the original RAW file or original DNG, JPG, RAW files of any format (e.g. NEF, CRW). JPG files will be accepted as original image files but only if they are straight out of the camera.
Technical guidance: Preparing your digital images
For your initial submission your files should be no more than 1024 pixels along the longest side. We do not recommend that you upload larger images, as they will be resized anyway and very large files may not upload successfully. No borders, watermarks or signatures. If you prefer not to have your images resized by our server then please ensure they are less then 1024 pixels along the longest side. Please note TIFF files are not accepted for the initial round.
While there are no restrictions on the type of camera or phone used, please note that part of the judging criteria will be technical excellence and it is therefore recommended that you use the highest possible quality setting on your camera, phone or digital device. The file should be as large as you can achieve with your equipment. Ideally the image should have been taken using a camera or phone with a sufficiently high resolution to allow the image to be reproduced at A4 size or above (at 300 ppi). You can also submit images that have been scanned from film, print or negative. Please note that a high-resolution scan will be required for short-listed images and should be the biggest file possible ideally at least 30Mb as an uncompressed tiff file, although a high-quality JPEG is acceptable (8 bit, Adobe RGB 1998 colour space). Although the initial online image need not be bigger than 1024 pixels on the longest side, if shortlisted, users should aim to supply full-size image files in 8bit TIFF format, with a file size of at least 30Mb - this size would enable us to make larger prints if desired. We recommend setting the camera to either the RAW file mode or large high resolution JPEG file mode. The colour profile for all digital images should be Adobe RGB 98. Please keep your original RAW, JPEG,DNG and/or TIFF files - these may be requested at any time and will be requested for all finalists.
Processing images and manipulation: digital adjustments permitted
Within the framework of digital image editing the following is permitted. Minor cleaning work including removal of sensor spots and dust, moderate adjustments of: contrast, tonal values, levels, highlight and shadow, colour, curves, saturation, sharpening, white balance and noise may be undertaken. Removal of chromatic aberration, lens distortion and vignetting are acceptable. Cropping is allowed, but please bear in mind that cropping reduces the file size and therefore high levels of cropping could result in the deterioration of image quality, for reproduction needs. Conversion to black and white is fine. Stitched images (combined using digital techniques) where a panorama is created from several images taken from the same location and at the same time are acceptable. This kind of work is comparable to what would be deemed as acceptable darkroom processing techniques. The aim is to achieve a true representation of the event, person or scene. Images where the physical characteristics of the scene at the time of taking have been altered are not eligible. The image should be a faithful representation of the original scene.
Digital adjustments not permitted
Digital collages, sandwich shots and composites.
Photographers' rights: a guide
This is a general guide to the main legal restrictions on the right to take photographs and the right to publish photographs that have been taken. It is not a complete or definitive guide on the law. If you are faced with unusual circumstances, specific issues, concerns or difficulties we advise you seek legal advice.
These links give further information.
- UK Photographers Rights and Guide by Linda Macpherson (download a PDF of this guidance here)
- Editorial Photographers United Kingdom and Ireland (EPUK)
- British Photographic Council (BPC)
- The British Press Photographers' Association (BPPA)
- Wikipedia: Photography and the Law
- I'm a Photographer not a Terrorist
- Police National Legal Database advice page
On the whole, UK law doesn't prevent photography in public places. The UK has relatively liberal laws regarding photography compared with many countries. Although there are some exceptions, the key principle is that you can photograph people and buildings without needing permission, providing you are in a public place.
As long as you're not causing any harassment, you're allowed to photograph other people if they are in a public place.
Public vs. Private
Many of the incidents in which photographers come into difficulty is that many places which you instinctively think are public are in fact privately controlled. This includes some shopping centres, car parks, some parks and play areas (depending on the attitude of the landowner) and various private structures, for example, Millennium Wheel on the South Bank in London. There is a trend for public places to become private, particularly in town centres which are developed with new shopping centres.
In a public place
Taking photos in a public place is not illegal. The only time an offence is committed is if the photographs being taken are considered to be indecent. There is no law stating that you can't take photographs in public. This includes taking photos that include other people's children or taking photos of children directly. An offence will, however, have been committed if the photographs taken are indecent.
"Public Place" is not defined in legislation. A public place is usually a place to which the public are allowed to have access freely and without payment or permission. This includes any public highway or footpath. The inside of a car is also considered as a public place, unless it is parked on private property.
You may take photographs of people or objects (including buildings) whilst in a public place. With a few exceptions the owners of the property cannot prevent you from doing so and people cannot generally object to having their photographs taken.
In the UK you do not have to get the permission from people you photograph whilst they are in a public place. Using and selling images of people in a public place is usually acceptable if undertaken with a view to being used for any journalistic or artistic material.
However if you intend to sell the image commercially or use it for a commercial purpose (for example to promote a product) it is normally recommended to get people to sign a model release form - see below for more about why this is important.
On Private Property
If the person you're photographing is on private land, they could claim a right to privacy, and if you're on private land, then the owner of the land has the right to restrict photography on their property.
How you choose to use the photos later may well be restricted by whether you have a model release or property release, but this is a different matter.
If you are asked to stop taking photographs on private property then it is advisable to do so. The person asking might not have the legal right to do so but it is likely that the actual landowner will side with them rather than you. Additionally you could be accused of trespass.
Property owners or their employees and security staff have no right whatsoever to confiscate, inspect or damage a photographer's camera or insist that images are deleted.
Railways and tube stations generally allow people to take non-commercial photographs as long as you don't cause an obstruction (more likely to happen if you are using a tripod). However asking station staff first is probably a good idea.
Harassment and Invasion of Privacy
It is illegal to harass another person and taking photographs could amount to harassment. This isn't to say that someone could claim they were being harassed just because they were being photographed when they didn't want to be. Harassment is essentially behaviour that causes another person alarm or distress and it refers to a course of conduct, not a single incident. (A "course of conduct" means at least two occasions.) If a photographer stalks a subject in order to get a photograph of them, or repeatedly thrusts a camera in someone’s face, this might be harassment.
The law is not the same throughout the UK. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, harassment is a criminal offence, for which the penalty is up to 6 months in prison, or a fine, or both. A victim of harassment can also bring a legal action for an injunction against the person who is harassing him, and a claim for damages. Breaching the injunction is also a criminal offence. In Scotland, harassment itself is not a criminal offence, but the victim can ask the court for a "non-harassment order" against the person who is harassing them. Breach of the order is a criminal offence.
Invasion of Privacy
Invasion of privacy is a difficult thing to determine in UK law. The UK has never recognised a general right of privacy, but the European Convention on Human Rights gives everyone the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
It is not always easy for a photographer to know whether taking or publishing a photograph might amount to an invasion of privacy.
Taking photographs of a person in a public place would not normally be regarded as an invasion of privacy. The key seems to be whether the place is one where a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. So using a telephoto lens to take a photo of someone in a private place, such as their home, without their consent, is probably an invasion of privacy even though the photo is taken from a public place.
The lack of any coherent law of privacy in the UK means that photographers are not only free to take photographs of people in public places, but they can use those photos as they wish, including for commercial gain. In some countries, individuals have rights over the commercial use of their images, hence the importance of obtaining a model release for the use of an image that contains a recognisable person.
UK law does not, at present, recognise this right. But failure to obtain a model release will seriously impair the commercial use of an image because most photo libraries, stock agencies and the like have an international customer base and will not accept an image of a recognisable person without a release.
Data Protection Act
There is also a possibility that photographs of people may be subject to the Data Protection Act, which controls the "processing" of"personal data", that is, data relating to an individual from which the individual can be identified. The definitions of these terms are complex, but taking a photograph of a recognisable person would appear to fit within them. The Act contains an exemption (section 32) which applies where you are "processing" personal data for journalistic or artistic purposes; you are doing so with a view to publication; and it would be incompatible with your journalistic or artistic purposes to be required to comply with the Act (for example, it would be incompatible if you had to put down your camera in order to ask consent of everyone captured in a street scene). Much photography will probably be protected by this exception.