A Kiwi student has been named as a finalist in the prestigious Sony World Photography Awards.

Matilda Fraser beat entries from more than 400 educational institutions across five continents to secure a coveted spot in the competition.

The 26-year-old fine art student, entered an image she had taken of Castle Hill (Kura Tawhiti) after stumbling across the competition online.

Ms Fraser discovered her success, while on a break from work, through an email sent to her by a lecturer at Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland.

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She is one of ten shortlisted photographers from around the world who will be flown to London to compete to win the Student Focus Photographer of the Year title.

Along with a grand prize of £30,000 ($49,000) of Sony photography equipment, she will have the opportunity to be featured by the British Journal of Photography.

Fraser's shortlisted image 'Castle Hill (Kura Tawhiti)' was shot on a drive to Cass, a station near Arthur's Pass, while on a six-week writer's residency in Dunedin. Photo / Supplied
Fraser's shortlisted image 'Castle Hill (Kura Tawhiti)' was shot on a drive to Cass, a station near Arthur's Pass, while on a six-week writer's residency in Dunedin. Photo / Supplied

Wellington-born Ms Fraser said: "I had just started a new job and I got an email from my tutor telling me that I was a finalist and I just broke down.

"At first I thought it was a joke and wouldn't believe it until I had actually spoken to my tutor so after work I marched into Elam.

"Thankfully it wasn't a joke which is amazing. Everyone is stoked.

"I'm just happy to be nominated. It's a really big platform and, to be honest, the whole thing is pretty mind-blowing."

Ms Fraser's shortlisted image Castle Hill (Kura Tawhiti) was shot on a drive to Cass, a station near Arthur's Pass, while on a six-week writer's residency in Dunedin.

It features her friend, George, taking a picture and captures the limestone outcroppings.

Along with the other shortlisted photographers, Ms Fraser must shoot a new series of images using a full frame camera from Sony, given to each shortlisted student as part of their prize.

Their brief is to shoot eight to 10 images that best illustrate their interpretation of "hope".

From this new work, an expert panel of judges will select one winner who will receive ?30,000 of Sony photography equipment for their university.

"The camera they sent me is like putting a rocketship next to a ute in comparison to what I've been using for the last nine years," Ms Fraser admitted.

"I'm excited to see what the other contestants come up with, I think the brief is a positive one and I am enjoying the whole process.

"I am lucky to be part of such a high profile thing and hopefully get an international platform to share my work with the rest of the world."

Ms Fraser's images will be shown at Somerset House, London, from April 22 to May 8 as part of the 2016 Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition and will be published in the annual Sony World Photography Awards book.

Talking about her student's success, Joyce Campbell, senior lecturer, Elam School of Fine Arts says "We are delighted to have Matilda shortlisted for this international prize.

"Her time-based work seems particularly appropriate to this year's focus on millennials. She explores the poetic relationship of language to image and negotiates the fragile fabric that binds people to places, to objects and to each other.

"The award and the surrounding events in London are a wonderful opportunity for Matilda to build networks around the globe that extend her rich social practice, and for our school to connect with other tertiary contemporary art institutions."

The Sony World Photography Awards is the world's largest photography competition.

Its Student Focus programme is a launch pad for many students to break into the photographic industry as well as the opportunity to be recognised globally.