AI helps judges select top images for EyeEm contest from 590,000 entries

How do you judge the world’s largest photography contest? With artificial intelligence, of course. On Thursday, EyeEm announced the top 100 finalists in its annual contest. The EyeEm Photography Awards brought in 590,000 submissions, making the event the largest of it’s kind this year.

Judges from National Geographic, the VII photo agency, Refinery29, and the BBC selected the top 20 images from each of the five categories. Those human judges were, however, assisted by EyeEm’s AI software. Inside EyeEm’s app, a feature called EyeEm Selects, uses AI software to recommend the best shots from the user’s camera roll. The company developed the feature by allowing a computer to “watch” actual photo editors sort through photos, marking which ones were good and which were bad. Along with helping out app users, the program also helped the judges sort through those 590,000 entries.

The contest received entries from more than 88,000 photographers representing more than 150 countries. All those images were submitted in just six weeks, between May 3 and June 15. The contest, which was free to enter, allowed photographers to submit through the app or via the EyeEm website.

The top image in each of the five categories, as well as the Photographer of the Year, will be selected from the 100 finalists during the EyeEm Photography Festival and Awards held September 15-17 in Berlin.

The Great Outdoors amassed the most entries out of all five categories, totaling over 229,000 submissions. That was followed closely by The Street Photographer, a category responsible for 136,000 entries. The categories also include The Architect, The Portraitist, and The Photojournalist.

The top photographer will receive a trip to the EyeEm Photography Festival along with mentorship from several senior photo editors throughout the next year. All category winners will also be published globally, EyeEm said.

The jury includes Anne Farrar, director of photography at National Geographic Traveler; Stephen Frailey, co-chair MPS Graduate Fashion Photography Department, School of Visual Arts; Clare Grafik, head of exhibitions, The Photographer’s Gallery; Clemens Poloczek, founder, iGNANT; Toby Kaufmann, photography director, Refinery29; Emma Lynch, picture editor, BBC; Pete Brook, independent curator and writer; Maciek Nabrdalik, photographer, VII photo agency; Elaine Li, art director, Ogilvy & Mather; Zacharie Rabehi, 2016 EyeEm Photographer of the Year.

EyeEm is an app that combines a social aspect with stock photography. A gallery of all 100 finalists is available online.