Dozens of amateurs and professionals became award-winning photographers this week for images they snapped on their iPhones, iPods or iPads. The eighth annual iPhone Photography Awards named three photographers of the year—Michał Koralewski of Poland in first place, David Craik of the U.K. in second and Yvonne Lu of the U.S. in third—and three winners in each of 19 categories, such as portraiture, travel, animals, seasons and food.

“This year’s entries were especially impressive, ranging from intimate, thought-provoking moments to stunning, captivating imagery,” IPPAWARDS creator Kenan Aktulun said in a press release sent to Newsweek. The winners “once again showed the ability of the iPhone to take astonishing photographs.”

6-19-15 IPPA Jose Luis Saez MartinezJosé Luis, an architect living in Valencia, Spain, won first place in the “Others” category for this image. JOSÉ LUIS SAEZ MARTINEZ/IPPA

Aktulun, a designer, photographer and creative director, founded the competition soon after the first-generation iPhone came out, he told Newsweek after this year’s results were announced. He began taking photos with the phone as a hobby and quickly realized that though the early technology didn’t necessarily make for the most technically strong images, the phones allowed people to capture meaningful moments spontaneously.

“I shoot mostly street scenes and portraits, trying to capture intimate moments, the kind that carry a lot of emotions,” said Dina Alfasi of Tel Aviv, whose photo won third place in the portrait category this year. “Love, pain, fear, joy—no matter what emotion, as long as whoever looks at the picture will truly feel something.”

Aktulun declined to disclose the precise number of submissions to the competition, but said that they were in the thousands this year and that the number of photos entered roughly doubled from a year ago. Submissions came from more than 120 countries this year, including the U.S., the U.K., Australia, China, South Africa, Egypt, Kuwait, Germany, Taiwan and Ecuador. Many of those who participate are photographers and other creatives by profession, but the competition also draws hobbyists—a neuroscientist, an aerospace engineer, a pediatrician and an insurance company employee—who have been drawn to photography outside of work.

6-19-15 IPPA Jesse AlkireA photo captured at the Chicago Air and Water Show by Jesse Alkire, a freelance writer and art director, won first place in the “News/Events” category. JESSE ALKIRE/IPPA

“Every year I look at the photos submitted, and they’re getting more personal,” Aktulun said. “People are more comfortable with it,” with smartphones becoming more ubiquitous throughout the world. Not only has the technology improved since the iPhone was first released in 2007, but “the quality of images in terms of composition frame and kind of lighting of subject, or the pictures they’re taking is much, much better.

“People are less focused on using a lot of filters” and more on what it is they’re trying to capture, Aktulun said.

The panel of unidentified judges generally includes professional photographers, creative directors, publishers and media buyers. This year’s group of 12 judges also included a design professor and two architects.

Chris Belcina, a nurse from Cooper City, Florida, whose photo of Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado took first place in the landscape category, said iPhone photography “has taught me to find my own style and helped me think creatively, turning ordinary moments into magical ones, capturing details that we often take for granted.”

6-19-15 IPPA Ahmed Saeed