What makes an exceptional photograph: subject-matter, composition, technical expertise? `The Independent' invited undergraduates to snap at the heels of the professionals in the `Student Shots' competition, in association with Olympus. Here are the winners and runners-up in the three categories: Abstract, Attitude and Adventure

Abstract 1st: Graham Tweedie, 20, Nottingham Trent University, BA Graphic Design

This photograph of the Regal Lady, described by judges as "beautifully graphic", was taken on South Bay beach, Scarborough. At the time Tweedie was studying at the town's Yorkshire Coast College for a Btec Foundation Course.

Abstract 2nd: Nicola Kelly (above right)

Judges praised Kelly's image for the clever play of light and for its wry humour, a female image which is powerful yet disembodied.

Attitude 1st: Neil Shirreff (far right), 21, Napier University, Edinburgh, BA Photography, Film and Television

"This was from a college assignment, to promote the Council For the Protection of Rural England. It fitted the brief, but I also think it looks quite natural, and I think the character of the lollipop lady comes through."

Attitude 2nd: Andrew Chaplin, 22, Middlesex University BA Graphic Design

"I was going around with my camera and I saw this street cleaner sit down. I didn't ask his permission beforehand and I don't think he was too happy about being photographed. But I find if you ask people, they pose. Also, I prefer black and white, you get more powerful images."

Adventure 1st: Ruth Wilshaw, 28, Staffordshire University (Solihull College), BA Graphic Design

"I took this just before I started my course. We went to Barcelona for a few days and I bought three of those disposable cameras from Boots - they had a buy-two-get-one-free offer on. This is looking up a stairwell in a tower of Gaudi's unfinished Sagrada Familia cathedral. For me the image says, we're all on a road to nowhere; it's intriguing and abstracted."

Adventure 2nd: Mohamad Rashid Zadeh, 43, Camberwell College of Art, BA Sculpture

"I got my first camera when I was seven, living in Iran. I was so small I kept chopping people's heads off when I took their pictures. My dad was a photographer and that's where my interest comes from. I always carry my camera with me, I must have taken millions of photographs. This image was taken at the Womad music festival in Reading. I was there selling my jewellery to help pay the rent, and in between I was taking photographs. I took this one of the carousel on the last day when they were packing up. I think it's interesting how something which is fun when it's put together fulfilling its function is actually rather sad when it's reduced to its constituent parts."