Anyone is capable of taking a great photograph. Not by fluke, but with intent. I’ve seen outstanding results from novices on many occasions. There is quite a lot of pressure on me to take good photos because I’ve trained and had work experience in photography. But still most of the time I find it incredibly hard! I make technical mistakes; some lighting situations I find I cannot conquer and subjects who freeze in front of the lens. I am glad to have left portrait work largely behind. The thing I miss tremendously is my camera club.
Camera clubs run competitions several times a year with visiting judges. Each member may enter a few prints or digital images (perhaps 4) and places are awarded from 1st to 4th with a few more highly commended images too.
The judge gets to see the photos about a week before the competition evening, to mull them over. Then on the night, each image is displayed in turn and the judge gives a critique. These judges are polite but nonetheless it can be brutal to have your photo spoken about in any negative way! They do praise images of course, but you’ll never learn anything unless s/he tells you your mistakes. It is subjective, especially picking the winners, but you can really earn your stripes doing these competitions.
I’m starting a series of blog posts discussing how some of my past competition photos are judged, to give an idea of how critics look at images. I’ll also show some editing. I can’t get to my club these days because it clashes with other family commitments. I hope this series will help fill the gap a little, and my skills have plateaued so I need a push.
This photograph “West Park” didn’t get placed or commended but it got some nice comments. How did I edit it? Well, the contrast is increased and it’s partly de-saturated. I used the flare from the sun on a hazy day to frame the church spire.
The spire is on the vertical third line the cars above the grass also mark off a horizontal third line. If you have a clear group of objects, like the three tree trunks, it’s better to have an odd number of them. The contrast in the picture runs from fully black to fully white and the foreground has some texture. You can see a hint of pale grey buildings back right, and these have clear definition with sharp focus throughout. There’s a lovely effect of the branches in front of the spire. The traffic light looks a bit like a carbuncle on the tree and the top left area of the picture is large and white with no interest. The edges of the tree branches become quite wobbly around the middle, perhaps too much contrast here.
There are some areas of special interest in the picture, like the spire, but they are not really very big. If I could have walked a few paces forward, the framing would have been a bit better but I would have been hit by traffic! With the road disappearing off to the right in front of the trees, the image has a nice flow but there’s no particular impact apart from the spire. It’s a successful image but it was beaten in a contest.
Have you ever tried standing in a shadow to take a photograph of light coming out as a flare from around a tall object?
Continue reading the Judging a Photograph series by clicking here.
Other blog posts I’ve written about photography include this tour of a dismantled slr camera.