Images that Photographic Club Members produce are of greatly varying standards. Those that do well usually fit certain criteria or they must have a compelling reason to be outside the basic rules. The problem for the average photographer is that there is a subjective element to any judge. There is also the difficulty of consistency while judging a large number of images which is seldom achieved. This is a good argument for presenting images in random order instead of in the same sequence each meeting.
Judges have the problem that they have to judge what is in front of them and they do not know what experience the photographer has. A picture could have been taken by a beginner or a PSSA accredited master photographer or anyone in-between, so they have to judge what they see. The photographer knows exactly the circumstances how the photo was taken and what they were trying to achieve but this is not always clear to a judge. Some judges tend to compensate for this by over scoring images so as not to upset people, but this does the photographer no favours as they end up with a false impression of their work and are dumped down emotionally when another judge scores what the image is actually worth. Perhaps judges should be informed what level the photographer has achieved within the club? Remember that accredited judges have been through a a course of lectures to enable them to more accurately judge images.
Club members submitting images should at very least take a look at the following aspects of a photograph before submitting it:
Technical – this includes focus, exposure and post processing
Composition – Here the so called rules apply, the rule of thirds, point of interest, leading lines, S curve, colour harmony, tells a story and has a third dimension. Most images will not have all these points but the picture should include some of them.
Balance – this is often overlooked as most images need balance whether it is points of interest or colour.
Visual Impact – Your image can be technically perfect and follow all the rules but to be a great image it needs impact or in other words the WOW factor.
Creativity — This is where your individuality and imagination come in. Very few photographs have not been taken before so if you can add another dimension to it that fits in with the subject and shows something different it can lift the image from the mundane.
Technique – This is really how the photographer makes all the different aspects of the image fit together.
Distractions – this is part of camera technique, composition and post processing and is looking for anything in the image that distracts the viewer. This is best corrected before the photograph is taken but some things can also be done in post processing.
The aspirant club photographer should examine all these aspects in the images they submit and decide if the photograph is a worthy contender. Many photographers fall into the trap of choosing the best photo they have available at the time and it is not really suitable.
There is a case for clubs to have workshops for members to discuss how and why images are scored. If members are given the opportunity to score images themselves they will better understand the process. It is also an option to have three judge giving scores and then average them because this highlights the subjective differences and one can look at any scores that are vastly different. Clearly the two extra judges would have to come from the club members as people willing to judge are few and not always available.
Don’t blame the judge for a low score but try to learn from what is said and go away and experiment to see if you implement the suggestions the image is improved. Feeling hard done by if your image does not receive a favourable score is human nature but why are you part of a club if not to learn how to take better photographs and to see how you measure up against your peers. Take photographs that please you and don’t worry about what they score and if they do well at club level view it as a bonus.