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 Three attributes to consider when evaluating an entry:
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.
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.