When you are really delighted with one of your photos, you want other people to love it too. If you submit your amazing shot for critique or judging or enter it in a competition, you quickly find people will take sides. One or two will adore it, most will appreciate it, and a few will gloss over it. Rarely, someone pans it. Sometimes even a bland response is very hard to take. In camera club, despite the gentleness of most judges, there are shocks and upsets. It takes a while to get used to this, but when you become tough enough to take all the ups and downs then you can really start to enjoy things.
There’s no absolute right and wrong way for judging a photograph and different judges are entitled to their different likes and dislikes. Yes, there are important rules of composition, exposure and so on. But the final “like” or “dislike” is still personal.
My photo of a pasque flower is a good example. It is Perfect – it must be, because a judge said so! It won first place in the first competition of the season. The depth of field is exactly what I wanted with the flower head and foreground leaves in focus, the rear leaves and stem just knocking out. The background is completely out of focus and has no distractions. It’s a perfect specimen with wonderful hairs all over, back-lit to show off the texture. The crop is good, the white balance is good, the contrast is good, and nothing is too dark or too light. There’s a hint of spider’s web and the veins in the stem are visible. It would make a nice greetings card – “get well soon” perhaps.
If you’re wondering what went wrong then read on.
Judging it differently
Six months later I entered the same photo in another competition, competing against the same photographers at the same club. Different judge. The photo didn’t get a placing or even a highly commended. Why? There are a few answers to this.
Firstly there are a lot of flowers and insects photographed in this way for camera club competitions all over the country, and there is an element of “oh no not again” when judges see this sort of thing. There’s no action and nothing very unusual to it.
Secondly the other photos in this particular competition just had something which appealed more. In fact, the standard was higher overall for this competition.
Lastly this judge liked pictures of people the best and two of my portraits got at least a commendation.
Knowing that such a photo can go from the top of the charts to near the bottom is actually quite liberating. There is no ideal formula in judging and you’re allowed to like what you like. Be free!
Last week’s post on judging a photograph can be found here