IGPOTY Award Winners for 2021: Our 10 Faves

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By Jill Brooke

Each year we look forward to the winners of the IGPOTY (International Garden Photography of the Year) awards.  As I’ve often written, art is burdened by subjectivity. Therefore, I am just sharing my favorites of this macro series.

This year, for one of the contests, it was an image of the skeletal interior of a flower but not that pretty. Not the last time I will go, “huh?”

But the following ones are beauties so enjoy seeing them and you can see previous winners too.

The International Garden Photographer of the Year is wholly owned and organized by Mirror Plate Media Ltd. It is run in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London. The main exhibition is usually held annually at Kew, with a rolling program of touring exhibitions in the UK and all over the world.

The main competition closes on October 31 every year. Winners are announced over the following year which is why I am now sharing these with you.

There are 9 regular categories each year including favorites such as ‘The Beauty of Plants’, ‘Beautiful Gardens’ and ‘Abstract Views’ plus there are 4 photo projects and numerous seasonal special awards including ‘Captured at Kew’.

Consider submitting your own photographs or just enjoy these.  Petal On.

Petar Sabol

2nd Place

Butterfly Dance

Goričan, Croatia

Two black apollo butterflies settled on this flower head and looked as though they were about to engage in a romantic dance.

Sony α7R Mark IV, Sigma 180mm macro lens, 1/5sec at f/16, ISO 100. Tripod, reflector. Post-capture: use of contrast, white balance and exposure tools, basic RAW image management.

Brian Lee

3rd Place

In the Spotlight

Witney, Oxfordshire, England, United Kingdom

I shot this flower head of Gerbera with dappled lighting via the aid of a colander – this created the effect of spotlights shining on the petals.

Nikon Z6, Sigma 105mm macro lens, 1/4sec at f/13, ISO 100. Tripod. Post-capture: use of crop tool, added colour background, basic image management.

Bernadette Benz


Just the Two of Us

Auenstein, Aargau, Switzerland

A Pulsatilla (pasqueflower) revealed its inner beauty, after a frosty spring night in which the wind had blown away most of the petals; with just two stamens remaining which fascinated me and so I brought them into focus. I liked how the surviving elements resembled the shape of a swan’s neck.

Canon EOS R5, Canon 100mm macro lens, 1/400sec at f/2.8, ISO 400. Beanbag. Post-capture: use of crop, contrast, saturation, radial filter and brushes, basic image management in Adobe Lightroom.

This was one of my favorites. – shows the beauty of cycles of life – even when life is ebbing.

Brian Lee


Let the Trumpets Sound

Witney, Oxfordshire, England, United Kingdom

I photographed this delightful variegated Scabiosa flower, whose burst of petals resembled a mini fanfare of trumpets.

Nikon Z6, Sigma 105mm macro lens, 1/4sec at f/13, ISO 100. Tripod. Post-capture: use of crop tool, added colour background, basic image management.

We were a big fan of this image as well. 

Calvin Taylor Lee

Highly Commended

Orange-tip Butterfly

Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust Messingham Sand Quarry, Scunthorpe, England, United Kingdom

During a warm day at Messingham Sand Quarry, I photographed this fine orange-tip butterfly specimen against coloured card to create a complementary background.

Sony α7R Mark II, Sony 90mm macro lens, 1/160sec at f/8, ISO 200. Flash, diffuser, coloured card backdrop. Post-capture: use of crop tool, basic image management.

The yellow background really made this image pop. And the speckles in the butterfly helped the overall charm.

Claire Carter

Highly Commended

Tulip Bud

Shropshire, England, United Kingdom

Tulips can appear to be rather upstanding and have little character – until you explore them with light. This specimen was back and side lit using two small LED lights to bring out colour and form in the unopened bud. I chose to exclude the top of the leaf to draw attention to the bud nestled within.

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 100mm macro lens, 4sec at f/18, ISO 100. Tripod, 2 x LED lights. Post-capture: use of crop tool, basic RAW image management in Adobe Photoshop.

Okay, remember how I wondered why someone got 1st place? It was Claire for the following image. Yet this tulip above in our humble opinion is so much better and worthier of a higher award.

And if the judges liked skeletal looks at flowers, why not pick Rachele Z. Cecchini, which earned “Commended.” Called “Delicate Shadows,”  it’s of dried Hydrangea flowers as silhouetted through a ripe seed pod of Lunaria, which created a delicate scene full of shapes and shadows.

And even the following image is so much more playful and interesting. Maybe we just respond to bright colors. I think that could be our preference.

Xuedong Bai

Highly Commended

Wait for Me

Shenyang City, Liaoning Province, China

It is very difficult to photograph flying insects. These weevils were no exception – it took me a long time to be successful and produce this work.

Sony α7R Mark III, Laowa 65mm (2x) ultra-macro lens, 1/125sec at f/13, ISO 250. Tripod, flash. Post-capture: basic image management.

Jane Dibnah



Oswestry, Shropshire, England, United Kingdom

The cranesbill flower (Geranium species) tends to point downwards, its beauty going unnoticed but by photographing it in an upright position, it resembled a group of ballerinas.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Canon 180mm macro lens, 1/50sec at f/11, ISO 400. Tripod, reflector. Post-capture: use of contrast and saturation tools, basic image management.

Everyone loved this image. Such a happy picture.

Gillian Plummer


The Delicacy of the Curve

Suffolk, England, United Kingdom

The spiralling fine hair arc of a seed, ready to separate from a Pelargonium flower.

In reality, the seedhead is around one centimetre in size.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon 180mm macro lens, 1/25sec at f/6.3, ISO 100. Tripod, cable release. Post-capture: background changed from green to blue using the curves tool, basic image management.

This image was just interesting and clever. Just amazing.

Tony North

Highly Commended

Banded Demoiselles

Reddish Vale Country Park, Stockport, Cheshire, England, United Kingdom

Two male banded demoiselle damselflies, photographed early in the morning on a stalk of cocksfoot grass, at Reddish Vale Country Park.

Nikon D500, Nikon 105mm macro lens + Nikon 1.4x teleconverter, 1/50sec at f/11, ISO 640. Tripod. Post-capture: use of crop and contrast tools, focus stacking, basic image management.

Last but not least, there was a sweetness to this image. The idea is that romance is always. around the corner.

Let us know your favorites – and look forward to sharing more beautiful photography. with you shortly.


Jill Brooke is a former CNN correspondent, Post columnist and editor-in-chief of Avenue and Travel Savvy magazine. She is an author and the editorial director of FPD and floral editor for aspire design and home magazine