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You can learn a lot by looking at other people's photographs, especially when they are winners of The Independent / Wanderlust travel photo of the year competition.

Crucial to the success of every photo is the quality of light when you press the shutter. Light is used cleverly by Marie-Laure Stone in "Bears Fighting". The bears trade punches in a circle of light reflecting off the water, with spray glinting like shards of glass.

Traditionally, the best times to photograph are just after sunrise and just before sunset, when the sun is low and golden in the sky. "Quechua Boy" is bathed in a warm orange light and could have been taken at either time.

Both photographs have extra, winning qualities. Portraiture is difficult because subjects are often self-conscious and posed. But "Quechua Boy" looks natural and at ease with his cheeky grin caught on a candid camera. The photographer, Paul Franklin, has focused on his eyes and controlled depth of field to ensure that the background doesn't detract from the main subject.

Photographing wildlife is not easy, either. You must have patience and plenty of time and luck. Getting close enough to your subject is another consideration, particularly if you don't fancy becoming dinner.

Grizzly bears are solitary animals and seldom aggressive, making "Fighting Bears" a rare close-up action shot. "Hanoi Market" is striking because of its unusually low viewpoint. Most photographs are taken at eye level but this shot would have been taken by the photographer, James Reeve, sprawled on the ground, his camera at street level tilted up towards the base of the hawkers' wicker baskets. Also unexpected is the semi-silhouette of the bicycle wheel which hogs a full third of the overall scene. This fraction is important when composing successful photographs: the Rule of Thirds recommends placing the key elements of a picture one-third of the way from its edges.

This rule is employed by Nick Bellis in "Flamingos on Laguna Colorado", where the main strips of horizontal colour appear at roughly one-third intervals. The main attraction of this work is in the pattern made by the linear blocks of colour, which are more reminiscent of an oil-painting than a photo.

Panning - following the action in a way that emphasises movement in a still photograph - is a tricky technique, but it is used very effectively in "Pigs in Transit". The vehicle is sharply in focus but the background is blurred. The results of panning are unpredictable, so photographers usually need plenty of time and film to get good results. Because the subject-matter is so unusual, Damian Prestidge had only one chance to get this shot - and he did.

vThe prize for James Reeve, who won the professional category, is pounds 5,000 plus a contract with the Travel Library. The four amateur winners won photographic assignments to Australia courtesy of Tourism Australia. You can see the winning photographs at Destinations 2005 at Earls Court Exhibition Centre in London, today and tomorrow.