This Award has been established to recognize and reward independent & freelance photojournalists who endeavour to gather images for the purpose of supporting news stories and bringing awareness to issues of impact from around the world.

Photojournalism is distinguished from other branches of photography by a requirement to comply with a rigid ethical framework that demands that the work be both honest and impartial whilst telling the story in strictly journalistic terms. Stories are presented mainly through photographs rather than words. Free inquiry, free expression, free speech, and a free press are basic principles for photojournalism to function well.

By collecting, editing and presenting visual material for broadcast or publication news stories are made. Visual documents should provide an accurate and fair representation of the scene the photographer witnessed. Therefore, besides keeping ethics in mind, the content of a picture must not be altered by adding, rearranging, reversing, distorting or removing people and/or objects from within the frame.

There are three categories in which to enter an essay of work comprising of a minimum of 5 to a maximum of 12 images

  • Spot News
  • Environment
  • Solutions


The Independent Photojournalist of the Year will receive a $15,000 USD prize, plus a gallery space to display their work at the next edition of the Xposure International Photography Festival, flights, and accommodation to attend the festival with a friend or colleague. The printing, framing, installations, and building of the gallery space will be undertaken by Xposure.

The Runner-up to Independent Photojournalist of the Year will receive a gallery space to display their work at the next edition of the Xposure International Photography Festival, flights, and accommodation to attend the festival. The printing, framing, installations, and building of the gallery space will be undertaken by Xposure.

Online entries will be accepted from 1st August 2021 until 30th November 2021 at 23:00 GST – Gulf Standard Time (Standard Time) is (UTC +4)

* Finalists will be notified week commencing 20th December 2021 (see Awards Rules)

Who may enter?
This award is free to enter and open to all nationalities over the age of 18 who are currently holding a National or International Press Card issued by the International Association of Press Photographers (IAPP), International Federation of Journalist (IFJ), The UK Press Card Authority (UKPCA), National Union of Journalists (NUJ), News Media Association (NMA), European Press Federation (EPF), or other Internationally recognized association, issuing authority, gatekeeper bureau or recognized media bureau.


How to enter
To enter electronically, you must first register online. This process includes submitting your details and a photograph or certification of your press credentials. Your press card/credentials will be verified before your account is activated for your entry submissions.

Entries may only be submitted through our online awards platform at XPOSURE AWARDS  using the Independent Photojournalist Login. You should submit your images in JPG format BUT only if the same mages can later be supported by the original RAW or out-of-camera image files.


The award is open for online entries from 1st August 2021 until 30th November 2021 at 23:00 GST – Gulf Standard Time (Standard Time) is (UTC +4). All entries must be received by the Entry Deadline.

Detail for submissions

  • The preferred image submission size should be close to 5,000 pixels on the longer dimension. We acknowledge that modern digital cameras have settings that can capture images at different resolutions. We will accept any alternative resolution provided they are over 2700 pixels on the long dimension.
  • Digital images should have a long dimension of at least 2,700 pixels and be saved at 300 dpi 28cm, or larger, as a jpeg file.  We can accept the online submission of images that are up to 8 megabytes uncompressed if you cannot downsize the pictures. (Uncompressed is the size you see in Photoshop’s “Image Size” display which represents the count of pixels in the image. It is not the file size on your computer’s hard drive viewable on your desktop.) Images may be colour profiled in sRGB, Adobe-1998, or not colour-managed.
  • DO NOT submit any images that have been modified by moving, cloning, adding, or deleting pixels.


You may enter from five (5) to twelve (12) images into one of the three categories.

  • To qualify, your photographs must have been taken during the past eighteen (18) months at the time of entry.
  • An entry consists of a minimum of 5 images to a maximum of 12 images together with a story description, Captions, Place Taken and Date Taken.
  • Each submitted photograph, in its entirety, must be part of an essay/story of original material taken by the entrant.
  • By entering the contest, the entrant represents, acknowledges, and warrants that he or she has full power and authority to enter the photographs and that the photographs do not infringe any copyright or violate any other intellectual property rights. The entrant agrees to indemnify Sharjah Government Media Bureau from any and all third-party claims arising from the photograph.
  • Entries should not include adding or removing content or staging a photograph to mislead the viewer.
  • Adjustment of levels, colour, contrast, and brightness are permitted.
  • Photographs that include sculptures, statues, paintings, and other works of art will be accepted as long as they do not constitute copyright infringement or fraud, provided that entrants are prepared to submit a release form as described below in “Third Party Releases/Licenses.” When photographing the work of others, it must be as an object in its environment and not a full-frame close-up of another person’s art.
  • Photographs that include a watermark, name or other that is not part of the original image capture will be disqualified.
  • Nominated finalists will be notified and asked to submit RAW files, High-Resolution TIFF, or out-of-camera files. These files will be used for verification before the announcement of nominees or finalists.
  • The entries will be judged in accordance with the Judging Criteria, as defined in judging and awards.
  • Online entries must be made by a user registered online at our awards platform and by the authorized account holder of the e-mail address submitted at the time of entry. “Authorised account holder” is defined as the natural person who is assigned to an e-mail address by an Internet access provider, online service provider, internet domain owner, or other person or organization (e.g., business, educational institution, etc.) that is responsible for assigning e-mail addresses for the domain associated with the submitted e-mail address.


The panel of judges is looking to award the best photo essay submitted.

Judges will award:

  • One winner
  • One runner-up
  • Three Awards of Merit

All submitted images will be screened by the Moderators. Submissions will either be approved or rejected at this stage. All photo entries must be appropriate to the category in which they are submitted and must have been made by the entrant.

Visual documents should provide an accurate and fair representation of the scene the photographer witnessed. Therefore, besides keeping ethics in mind, the content of a picture must not be altered by adding, rearranging, reversing, distorting or removing people and/or objects from within the frame. It is not permitted to alter the basic reality of a photograph.

Standard optimization as in reasonable adjustments to exposure, colour and contrast are permitted.

Judging Procedure
Photojournalism entries are judged singularly and in the context of the entire essay using the following criteria:

Round 1 Criteria
News Value
Subject Impact
Visual Storytelling

Round 2 Criteria
Human Interest
Photographic Quality
Essay Description and Captions

Round One Process

The Award Jury (the “Judges”) will independently review each essay and apply a rating of 1-9 on the basis of each of the Round 1 criteria. The collective ratings from this process form the round one score.

Short List Round One

The 5 highest ranked essays in each category will go forward to round two. In the case that two or more essays are in ranking position 5, all those images with the equal 5th point score will go ahead into round two.

Round Two Process

In Round Two the judges will apply a credit rating on the basis of Round 2 Criteria.

The Judges individually consider the criteria for each image and essay as a whole and allocate credits on each element. The collective scores will determine the ranking. Should one or more images be placed equally in ranking 1st or 2nd, there shall be a final “Tie-Break” round of judging.

Tie-Break Process

If a tie-break is required, the judges will consider the respective images once again based on the criteria of Essay Description and Captions. The Judges will apply a credit rating of 1 to 6 in the Tie Break process. Decisions of the Judges are final and binding.


The three categories for the Independent Photojournalist Award are as follows:

Spot News
Spot news or breaking news journalism focuses on situations that occur unexpectedly – stories witnessing news moments or immediate events.

Environmental journalism captures the degrading of the environment. and changes that you see stories to highlight the change that mankind has directly or indirectly caused to the environment.

Solutions journalism changes the frame of the story from “the negativity bias”.  Rather than focusing on problems, solutions journalism looks for where people are already taking action to deal with difficult issues. A solutions story is the product of rigorous reporting on a response to a problem. (see examples)

  • A response to a problem and how it happened, rather than a focus on either heroes or victims. Stories are told through people, but these individuals are shown doing the work.
  • Drawing on the voices of people working on the ground more than the views of those looking on from a distance.
  • Looking at results, not just good intentions, and provides evidence of those results.
  • Revealing useful insights that society needs — it’s not just inspirational.
  • Taking a critical look at the response, covering its limitations and its failures as well as any success.


Publication of Winning Images Images will be on exhibition at the annual festival, published in the next Xposure Year Book and also on the “Xposure” official website.

Rights Reserved Sponsors reserve the right not to award all prizes in the event an insufficient number of eligible entries meeting the minimum judging criteria are received, as determined by Organisers and Judges in their sole discretion.

Entrant Licenses & Releases
If the photograph contains any material or elements that are not owned by the entrant and or which are subject to the rights of third parties, and if any persons appear in the photograph, the entrant is responsible for obtaining, before submission of the photo. Any and all releases and consents necessary to permit the exhibition and use of the photograph in the manner outlined in these Official Rules without additional compensation.

Third-Party Licenses & Releases 
Copyright holders retain the copyright of their work. For the award, nominated and shortlisted pictures, copyright holders grant the organisers unlimited, non-exclusive use of high-resolution images for activities promoting Xposure in all media. Awarded images will be published in the Xposure Yearbook and the Public Archive.

Limitation of Liability 
By participating, entrants agree to release, discharge and hold harmless Sharjah Government Media Bureau, and each of their respective partners, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising agencies, agents and their employees, officers, directors, and representatives from any claims, losses, and damages arising out of their participation in this Contest or any Contest-related activities and the acceptance and use, misuse, or possession of any prize awarded hereunder.

Organisers and Sponsors assume no responsibility for any error, omission, interruption, deletion, defect, or delay in operation or transmission; communications line failure; theft or destruction of or unauthorised access to Contest entries or entry forms; Organisers are not responsible for any problems with or technical malfunction of any telephone network or lines, online computer systems, servers or providers, computer equipment, resulting from participation, uploading or downloading of any materials related to this Contest.

Conditions This Contest is subject to federal, state, and local laws and regulations of the United Arab Emirate. Certain restrictions may apply. Entries void if the Sponsor determines the entry to not be an original, or if the entries are illegible, incomplete, damaged, irregular, altered, counterfeit, produced in error or obtained through fraud or theft.

Participants also agree (a) to be bound by these Official Rules; (b) that the decisions of the Judges are final on all matters relating to the award contest; and (c) if he/she wins that Organiser / Sponsor may use each winner’s name, photograph, likeness, and/or voice in any publicity or advertising relating to the Contest or future promotions without compensation or approval. Any International state and local taxes, fees and surcharges on prizes are the sole responsibility of the prize winners. If the selected winner(s) of any prize are/is ineligible or refuses the prize, the prize will be forfeited and Organisers, in their sole discretion, may choose whether to award the prize to another entrant.

Prizes that are formed as Educational Programs or Workshops are only available on the date and time specified in the general entry information. Any other physical prizes of any type that may be awarded by sponsors or organisers, shall be collected at the Award Ceremony.

Right to Cancel or Suspend If for any reason the award contest is not capable of running as planned, due to infection by computer virus, bugs, worms, trojan horses, denial of service attacks, tampering, unauthorised intervention, fraud, technical failures, or any other causes beyond the control of the Organisers that corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, or proper conduct of this Contest, Sponsors reserve the right, at their sole discretion, to disqualify any individual(s) who tamper with the entry process, and/or to cancel, terminate, modify, or suspend the Contest.