How Competition Levels Work

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This page is a chapter in the book Competition Information.
Competition levels on AusPhotography are a way of setting the relative photographic skill level of each member.
Your Competition Skill level is only used for our competitions; it does not affect your access to the site. These
levels were introduced in August/September 2010 when existing members were asked to select their level.
Since then, all new members have to specify their level when they join AP.

There are three levels we use to determine a member’s skill:
  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced

Beginner level is for those who are new to photography and are still learning the basics – both of their
camera, and of what makes a good photo. Somebody who is new to a digital camera but who has years of
experience with a film camera would not be classified at a beginner skill level. Someone who has been doing a
bit of fun photography with a Point & Shoot camera who has just upgraded to an SLR may still be at the beginner
level because there’s a whole new way of taking photographs! If you have been a member of AP for more than
a year and have been practising photography on a regular basis, we will almost certainly classify you as
Intermediate (but of course, there may be exceptions!).

Intermediate level is for those who have progressed beyond the basics and are competent in taking photos
in a few different situations. They may not yet fully understand all the workings of their SLR, but they can apply
what they have learned consistently and are steadily improving.

Advanced level is for those who consistently take good to very good photos and who may be considered by
their peers as expert in certain genres. These members have a very good understanding of their camera and
their craft. Even though they may not be expert in all genres, they can apply what they know from one
genre to produce good photos in another genre in which they are not so proficient.

How long each member spends in each level varies, depending on a number of factors. The amount of
time a member spends learning and taking photos will depend on their personal situation. How quickly a
member can learn will vary from one member to the next. As with any other skill in life, there will be those
who take to photography like a duck to water, and there will be those who have to struggle to master the
skill. Each person has to work out what they need to put in to be able to move up the learning curve.

Now, what exactly do these levels mean in AP? They are used to create a level playing field in competitions.
There can be a significant difference between the skill level of a beginner and an advanced member, and
when they’re up against each other in a competition it would be very unusual for the beginner to come out
ahead of the advanced member. This can be very disheartening for a beginner if they think there’s no
way they will ever have a chance in a competition if they are always up against people at advanced levels.

We created levels to make a fairer system in competitions for just this reason. Of course, as AP grows, it also
makes it harder to adequately judge all competition entries across such a diverse range of skills. Having a
beginners level competition means that all those who are new to photography are competing only against those
of the same relative skill level. It’s not necessarily about how long they have been doing photography –
it could be 2 weeks, 2 months or even 2 years, but if they are all at the same perceived level, then they all
have an equal chance. Likewise with intermediate and advanced.

So, what are the triggers for moving up a level?
Firstly, the competition management tool we use at AP has the ability to automatically notify
us when a sequence of events has taken place. This could be a member having made top 5 over a number
of weeks, or winning. The actual limits will vary as we fine tune this process.

A second trigger is a review by the mods looking at both competition entries and photos posted on site.
This is done periodically, but it may also arise from a comment by a mod that a certain member has
shown improvement recently.

Another trigger is yourself! You can actually choose to move yourself up to the next level any time
you like by changing the setting in your profile. However, if you want to move yourself down a level
you will need to ask a mod to do it, and we will only move members down after a thorough review and if
we accept your justification for doing so.

If you have been moved up a level by a mod following a review, you will receive a PM explaining this.
You might disagree with the change, but before you respond, think about this:
  • It’s not about how long you’ve been taking photos
  • It’s not about how long you’ve been a member on AP
  • It’s not about how many votes you have or have not received in competitions
  • It’s not about how many competitions you have won
  • We mods have a great deal of experience between us – if we think you deserve a move up it’s because
    we think your skill level justifies it
  • Levels ONLY applies to competitions (and currently, not all competitions) – it is not used anywhere
    else on AP
  • Isn’t it a compliment to have other people think sufficiently well of your photos to move you up a level?

However, no doubt there will be some who still think they should not be moved up. If, after considering the
list above you still feel strongly that you should not be moved up, send a PM to a mod (or to Rick) explaining why.
You will need to convince us, and we probably won’t be swayed if your justification falls into one of the points
listed above.
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