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Written by Ron Mouser   
Tuesday, 10 February 2009 03:47

 Judging & Critiquing for Show & Tell


Note:  A large portion of this article was taken from “Some Thoughts ON Photographic Judging” by Gilbert Hill, FPSA

 “There is no better place to learn to really look at pictures than acting as a judge, charged with the job of pushing the buttons and making the decision.  Because they are not your pictures, you are free to decide whether or not they “click”—and why.”  Most people join camera clubs to learn more about photography and have others critique their photos.  That means that everyone is going to have to learn to judge and critique as well as deliver and accept constructive criticism.  “Judging is creating better photographers who are learning to evaluate their own work objectively.”  

 In the ancient past the Lubbock Camera Club met twice per month with the first meeting a program and the month’s entries were entered.  A panel of three judges would meet during the two weeks before the second meeting.  The second meeting was the results and critique of the entries.  Over the years the club has found it necessary to meet only once per month and competition (Show & Tell) is judged during alternate months.  Everyone that attends the meetings is allowed to fill out a judging sheet and be involved in the critique that follows.  However, only the judging sheets of paid members are used to score for the monthly competition.  Only members are allowed to place in the competition and are eligible for the annual all around competition.
 The Lubbock Camera Club judging method is taken primarily from the Photographic Society of America with some small changes.  As written in “Some Thoughts On Photographic Judging” the components of a picture are (1) technique, (2) impact or interest and (3) composition.  That is the PSA suggestion for guidance in inter-club and other competitions.  We have added a 4th component, subject or category.  So, let’s study what is meant by these terms.
 “First, technique; is the picture sharp, or if not did the photographer know what he was doing to get a specific result?  You’ll be looking for something called “print quality”—two light, too dark, or “muddy”—without clearly defined tones because of improper processing or printing.  In color prints the most overlooked factor seems to be the lack of “color balance” – which is within the control of the photographer who does their own processing or digital darkroom work.”  Technical qualities like correct exposure, effective depth of focus, expertise with equipment all add to making a great photo. 
 “Second, impact or interest; quality that captures the viewers’ attention and holds it such as: size, strong color, dramatic design, action and others.  This is where prejudices are really revealed and forces an objective judge to really look at a photo in front them.  There are subjects that different judges have no interest in.  Therefore these judges need to be careful that their scores are not swayed by disinterest.  Impact or interest is far more than subject matter.  It is the total effect of the photo, trying to see what the photographer saw, the reason  for making the photo, and to see if there is any possible interest there for anyone else.”
 “Impact or interest can be created by dramatic back or cross-lighting of even familiar subject matter.  It can be the  angle from which the photo was made, or the expert use of lenses to create dramatic distortion, or a different view which lends to impact.  It can be a surprising silhouette, or a beautiful high key effect.”
 “Third, composition; and books have been written on this subject.  Yet composition is nothing more than a pleasing arrangement or perhaps, effective arrangement is more accurate, because it may not be too pleasing.  But, if subject arrangement makes you understand what the photographer is trying to say, it is effective.  Good composition accents the positive, literally forces you to see what the photographer intends you to see.  It can offset less than perfect technique, if it gives you some feeling of emotion, by sheer arrangement of the material in front of the camera.  You’ll hear about patterns, the S-curve, the triangle, circle, or square, verticals, and movement of lines as to what the “form” implies.”
 “Most judges just look for a “center of interest”, and its placement within the frame not because of a rule, but because observation has produced a “guide” that works. The center of interest really gets the attention—dominates.  We learn that the center of interest rarely should be in the center of the picture.  Out of this knowledge has grown the so called “rule of thirds,” which isn’t a rule at all but an extremely handy guide.  You simply divide your picture into thirds by drawing two lines vertically, then drawing two similar lines on the horizontal.  Your center of interest almost always is most noticeable if placed somewhere near one of the four points in the frame where the vertical and horizontal lines cross.  This helps give space, for instance, to a portrait, by placing the back of the head near the edge, and gives the eyes “room to look out.”  Or, to place a boat with the rear nearest the edge so that it gives an illusion of movement.  Of course this proves the failure of the rule approach to photography, since highly successful pictures are made occasionally without a real center of interest.”
 Fourth, subject; competition subjects or categories are selected by the membership to help members assign themselves something different to photograph than what they normally would photograph.  It requires individual members to go out and learn to shoot something that they might ignore if it were not an assigned competition.  There are times when it is difficult for some judges to see how a picture fits into a subject or category.   Even though an entry may be an outstanding photo it needs to fit into the assigned subject matter.  It is up to each judge to make that decision and judge it accordingly.
 Individual judges have their own way of judging.  More experience judges will usually have a method using the 5 point system that works for them.  For instance a possible code described by Gilbert Hill, in “Some Thoughts on Photographic Judging goes something like this:

 3 - Ho-hum or average.
 4 - Hey really pretty good
 5 - Wow great, excellent, I love it.
 2 - I’m not impressed and can see several problems.
 1 - Rarely used but all judges want it available in case something is in bad taste.

Not all judges start with a 3 and work from there.  Some vote higher, some lower, but tend to average out.  All this assumes that judges are all objective and stop to take a good look at a type of subject not particularly appreciated.  Judges need to be determined to vote on how well the photographer did what they set out to do.” 
 In summary “be honest with yourself and everyone else, when you are offered an opportunity to judge others’ work.  They are really counting on you and the more you work at judging officially or unofficially, the more you really help yourself become a better photographer.”

 


 


 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 February 2009 04:31