Underwater Photographer of the Year

Historically the UK has been home to some of the world’s most prestigious underwater photography competitions. Bernard Eaton kicked it off when he organised the first Brighton Underwater Film Festival in 1965, naming Phil Smith and Underwater Photographer of the Year. But by the 1990s the contest had run out of steam. In 2014, Alex Mustard decided that the UK needed a world class underwater photography competition and wanted to bring back the Underwater Photographer of the Year to mark the 50th Anniversary of that inaugural contest. So UPY was re-born.


Underwater Photographer of the Year at LIDS 2015, with (l-r) Geoff Hardwood (Underwater Photographer of the Year 1966), Peter Rowlands (UPY judge and British Underwater Photographer of the Year 1983), Tim Glover (Underwater Photography pioneer), Mike Busuttili (Underwater Photography pioneer), Alex Mustard, Phil Smith ((Underwater Photographer of the Year 1965), Colin Doeg (British Underwater Photographer of the Year 1968, BSoUP founder).

The inaugural competition, judged by Alex Mustard, Peter Rowlands and Martin Edge was a huge success (Dan Bolt and Saeed Rashid make up UPY he team). Set out to be a competition by photographers for photographers with the rules, judges and ethos that the community really wants. 2015 saw over 2500 images entered from over 40 different countries. The 2016 edition attracted 3500 entries from 54 different countries and in 2017 this jumped again to 4500 entries from 67 different countries. The 2018 edition topped 5000 entries, which is a most impressive number given that underwater photography is a niche discipline. The winning images have been seen by millions around the world in hundreds of press articles. And this is really the prize that money cannot buy, as the winning photographers get their talent showcased by the likes of major newspapers and the BBC, CNN, National Geographic and even Cosmopolitan! The winning prints have been on display at Fox Talbot Museum of Photography, the Chavonnes Battery Museum in Cape Town and the National Marine Aquarium, with many more exhibitions in the pipeline.


Alex Mustard launches the UPY 2015 Exhibition at the National Marine Aquarium.

“This magnificent collection of photographs celebrates life in the sea in all its diversity, splendour and sheer mind-bending oddity.”

Professor Callum Roberts, Professor of Marine Conservation at the University of York


Underwater Photographer of the Year will be back in 2019, visit the website for more details.




From 2017 the award ceremony went online to involve all the winners from so many countries, with category winners sending in acceptance speaches from all corners of the world by video.

The best way to enjoy the winners of UPY are through the free, downloadable Yearbooks:

2018 – http://underwaterphotographeroftheyear.com/winners/upy-yearbook/

2017 – http://underwaterphotographeroftheyear.com/media/1228/upyyearbook2017.pdf

2016 – http://underwaterphotographeroftheyear.com/media/1229/upyyearbook2016.pdf

2015 – http://underwaterphotographeroftheyear.com/media/1230/upyyearbook2015.pdf