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Thread: How to judge photographic competition entries

  1. #1
    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    How to judge photographic competition entries

    We have quite a few competitions here on AP, and I cannot recall ever having a discussion on how to judge/vote. We have basically left it up to the members to pick whichever entries they like.

    With the current discussions regarding a 1-10 rating system for voting, where members would have to rate each and every entry in a competition, I thought it might be prudent to raise a discussion on how to judge/vote.

    The information provided below is a combination of my own words, moderators edits, and freely available voting/judging guidelines off the internet.

    A. If there is a theme, consider it when viewing each and every image.
    B. Rank images against each other, rather than against an arbitrary standard, such that the
    best image in the competition (in your view) receives the maximum available points, regardless
    of how that image might fare in a higher standard of competition. The widest available range of
    points should be used.
    C. Therefore, given our idea of a 1-10 rating, the best entry should be given a 10 and all other
    entries ranked down from there.
    Three attributes to consider when evaluating an entry:

    A: What the picture communicates - the 'message' - with a weighting of 50-60%.
    B: The content of the picture - the 'medium' - with a weighting of 30-35%.
    C: The technical aspects of the picture - with a weighting of 10-15%.


    Besides the feelings, emotions and mood, there are three other things that an image may convey. These are:

    A: A statement or a story.
    B: An idea or inventiveness.
    C: Interpretation of the beauty or any other quality of the subject.
    Equally important to the choice of subject is how it is dealt with and that includes:

    A: The choice and control of lighting - one of the most important aspects of a photo.
    B: The saturation of colours (if applicable) are they realistic, over-saturated. Does it work?
    C: What is included in and excluded from the photo.
    D: The choice of background, setting or environment for the chosen subject.
    E: Sharpness or lack of it in the image as a whole or in different parts of the photo.
    F: The interpretation of movement.
    G: The juxtaposition of tones and colours.
    H: Exploitation of perspective.
    I: The critical timing of taking the photo.
    J: The arrangements of the different components of the photo - the composition.
    K: Exploitation of pattern and texture.
    L: The choice of format - horizontal or vertical; and the shape and dimension of the photo.


    Putting all of this together can appear daunting to start with, but if you cut it down, and look at each photo using the simplified guide below, it can make the role of judge/voter not to stressful or time consuming.

    A. Does the photo fit the theme (if any)
    B: Is it a technically well taken photo
    C: Is it well composed
    D: Is the content interesting and original
    E: Is it lit well
    F: Is it processed well
    G: Does it connect with you emotionally
    H: Do you like the photo
    I: If this was your photo, would be be happy with it, or would you do it differently


    Then once you have assessed a photo, be prepared to ignore everything above at times. Occasionally a photo that is not 'perfect' in colour, exposure, composition and processing, will smack you round the face due to its content. Emotive impact from a photo is a powerful tool, and sometimes it is worth throwing out all the rules, and voting/judging something purely for other reasons.

    All of the above can help you decide where an entry fits into all the entries in a competition, and will help you vote/judge effectively. The good thing about learning to assess competition entries like this, is it can help improve your own photography, and you can use the same guidelines to critique other members photography on the forums as well.

    So please, next time you are voting or judging a competition entry (or CC'ing a photo on the forums), don't just vote for the photos that is 'bright and shiny', consider the above and make a judgement. Your fellow AP members will appreciate the few extra seconds spent viewing their entries and casting a vote based on a well thought out assessment, rather than a cursory glance.
    Last edited by ricktas; 16-09-2011 at 12:11pm.
    "It is one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it is another thing to make a portrait of who they are" - Paul Caponigro

    Constructive Critique of my photographs is always appreciated
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    RICK
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  2. #2
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    I passed on Rick's excellent guidance to a friend who is a very gifted photographer but is not on this site (essentially amateur now, but has been professional too). I liked his thoughts and pass them on for interest; they should give heart to many who contribute here:

    "A lot of commonsense here in the shown criteria.

    My simple criteria could be phrased thus:

    I don't care what camera or gear is used
    I don't care whether you have a PhD in Photography
    I don't care if you are a world weary war photographer etc
    I don't care if you are a member of Magnum or such like
    I don't care if you've been published or won awards
    I don't care if the photo is technically 'correct' (whatever that means)
    I don't care if it's colour or B&W or in between - we all have our favourite styles and genres
    I don't care if you 2 or 92 when you took the photo nor your background/skills

    I do care whether the photo made an impression for good or ill on me as a viewer of that photo or photos

    I do care (allowing for circumstance of course, such as war) that you had pleasure in taking the photo and seeing the end result (even if your 'audience' is just yourself)

    That'll do me - I am sure there are much more 'criteria' as each to our own I suppose.

    Though it is helpful looking at what is 'judged' and their criteria is decent/reasonable.
    "


    Ian
    Sony DSCR1 bridge camera; Sony Alpha SLT A57; Sony Zeiss 16-80mm f3.5-4.5 lens; Sigma 10-20mm UWA lens; converted Nikon 50mm f2.0 lens; Filters: ND4,ND8,ND1000, CP; Photoshop CS6. 82.7% of statistics are made up!




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    Some great criteria there Rick and worthy of a lot of discussion!

    This may be nitpicking, but the only criticism I would make is that to weight the technical aspects as low as 10-15% promotes the perception that genres such as abstract or geometric photography (I'm sure there are other genres as well) are less worthy than landscape/portrait/street photography.

    Sometimes there is no 'message', but the photo is purely an exhibition of tonal control and aesthetically pleasing geometry, and in these instances the technical weighting should be much much higher when scoring the photo (as should be the expected standard if you actually want to win with such a photo!!).

    Andrew.
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    Quote Originally Posted by stoogest View Post
    Some great criteria there Rick and worthy of a lot of discussion!

    This may be nitpicking, but the only criticism I would make is that to weight the technical aspects as low as 10-15% promotes the perception that genres such as abstract or geometric photography (I'm sure there are other genres as well) are less worthy than landscape/portrait/street photography.

    Sometimes there is no 'message', but the photo is purely an exhibition of tonal control and aesthetically pleasing geometry, and in these instances the technical weighting should be much much higher when scoring the photo (as should be the expected standard if you actually want to win with such a photo!!).

    Andrew.
    Agree, which is why I said that entries must be judged also on how they meet a theme, and near the bottom of my post, said that you also need to be able to throw all the above away at times and just vote on something completely different that doesn't adhere to the guidelines and suggestions I made

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    A few years ago, Eddie Sethna published two articles on judging in the RPS magazine. I think they should be compulsory reading for all judges. You can find him with Google.
    Alive and still clicking - apologies to PSQ.
    Living and working in the Roaring Forties
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    Thanks for your reading suggestion Stan...I am always keen to develop my skills when looking at others photos and therefore my own skills in producing my photos. I found it worth a read.

  7. #7
    It's all about the Light!
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    An Analysis of Judging
    by Eddy Sethna FRPS AFIAP

    http://www.monolandscapes.talktalk.net/judging.htm

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