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Topic: Toowoomba Photographic society

Time: Sep 8, 2020 07:00 PM Brisbane

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Judge’s comments on September 2020 TPS competition

Geoff Adams    4/9/20

Thank you for the invitation to judge this month’s competition.  Let me say a couple of things at the outset.  Firstly, congratulations to all who entered the TPS competition this month with architecture as the set subject.   It always takes a degree of courage to put your work up for judging as well as for public viewing.

Secondly, as most judges say at the outset, mine is an opinion, but judges shouldn’t hide behind that statement.  By this I mean, that a person should become a judge armed with some knowledge of the subject, and a willingness to build on that knowledge.

How well I succeed in that task tonight is for you to judge.

The starting point for any judge should be to consider the club award and pointscore system, and the set subject guidelines.

Here are the architecture guidelines.

“This includes buildings or structures, interior or exterior, and any part thereof; dynamic images of architecture or architectural details. It includes industrial, bridges, historical sites, buildings, interiors.”

Architecture is a specialised field of photography, and no doubt there are specialised means of judging such competitions for architectural award photography.  This is a club competition which happens to have architecture as its theme.

Hence, I am looking to see how well you have handled your assignment – technically, artistically, originality, your narrative and so on.  The specific technical aspects of the genre are not of interest to me, and I confess to not even having tried to find out what these might be.

However, I have kept the guidelines in mind, and made reference to these on some occasions.

Even though the set subject seems on the surface like a record-taking topic, find a structure and photograph it, I am looking to see how you interpret the scene.  Those who combine a unique or different approach, together with technical excellence, should score the higher awards, or least that was my intention.

Some of these same principles also apply to open images, particularly those that are common place.  Examples might be sunrise/sunsets, water (rivers or oceans), and so on.  You will occasionally hear from judges that they are looking for something just a little bit different.  This means they have seen too many common place images, and are jaded as a result. If you take a common place image, it will score better if it has a less common feature or event occurring.  Birds silhouetted against the sky/on the water, etc.  As photography becomes even more ubiquitous, and images by the thousand flood our daily lives, the result is that the bar keeps being lifted. 

In summary, the exception, or the less usual is what gets noticed.

In this competition I will have commented that some images are technically excellent, but these may not necessarily score the top awards unless I saw something less usual, even unique, in your image.

I am not a particularly “technical” judge, but I would comment that after having witnessed several years of judging, there are some issues that always draw comment.  I have elaborated more on some of these in the references below.

I suggest especially to beginners, to pay close attention to these and address them in your work.  Judges are only human, and if there are obvious technical faults, that provides an instant screening mechanism.  This is more likely to go against you in competitions where may be thousands of images, and judges look for a quick way to get to the final few for higher awards.

Let me give an example in a completely different field – that of quilt judging.  Hundreds can be sent to a national competition.

Quilts are held up quickly and the judge decides almost instantly, which of two piles they will be placed in. Any with an obvious technical flaw are never considered again.

In summary, the first thing all of us can do to give ourselves the best possible chance in competition is to minimise or eliminate obvious technical faults in our work.

Another point is to always read the set subject guidelines carefully.  Some fields such as travel, nature and others have certain conventions or rules of which you should try to be aware.  I have attempted to include some of these in my article “Traps for young players”, but having recently received a set of lengthy guidelines for nature and wildlife, these are a separate and quite specific field, and easy to fall foul of.  I have added this to the references below.   A club may decide to have a nature category for example, but unless the international guidelines are considered or at least brought to the attention of club members, the judge appointed may judge with these wider guidelines in mind, and not the comparatively brief set subject definition.

The next point is that having eliminated obvious technical faults, the process then is a subjective one.  To me, this means making an emotional connection or responding in some way to your image.  As a narrative type of person (which is already obvious), the story of the image is particularly important, and some of my commentary will reflect this.

Lastly, remember that if your particular image did not do as well as you had hoped, try it again in another competition.

In bigger competitions, the “acceptance” rate of images for further consideration is one in four or less.   Experienced competitors try the same image a number of times, but if it still doesn’t gain the award they hoped for, put that that image aside and try something else. 

Lastly, as a judge, I will remember what it is like to sit where you are sitting and remember a line from The Merchant of Venice.

“If you prick us, do we not bleed”.

Hopefully no-one’s metaphorical blood will be on the floor with the results from tonight’s judging.