When Perfect Isn’t Good Enough – Judging a Photograph #3

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.

Judging a Photograph #3 When Perfect isn't Good Enough. Pasque flower in a photo competition. Different experiences of judging.

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.

Pasque Flower

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 a Photograph #3 When Perfect isn't Good Enough. Pasque flower in a photo competition. Different experiences of judging.

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!

Tips – read about how to take better flower photos.

Last week’s post on judging a photograph can be found here

The Judging a Photograph series can be read from the start here or continue to the next in the series here.




  1. Kerry norris
    7th February 2017 / 8:19 pm

    It’s a stunning capture in my eyes x

  2. 7th February 2017 / 11:17 am

    I can SO relate to this. I am often in turmoil about my photos – I get likes and positive comments from professional photographers on Instagram, yet other submission sites tell me that the photos are “underexposed”, “have an awkward angle” and so on. I let it get to me, when I know I shouldn’t. Photography is like all art forms – in the eye of the beholder and subjective. From now on, I am going to try and take/use photos that I like – afterall, it’s my blog!

    • 9th April 2018 / 12:32 pm

      Yes – it is useful to get criticism but sometimes judges are quite off the mark or fly in the face of the obvious or popular opinion. Developing a thick skin is essential.

  3. 5th February 2017 / 9:31 pm

    Such a beautiful delicate shot! My Mum belongs to a camera club and she says it depends on the panel judging on the day too. #sundayphoto

  4. 5th February 2017 / 9:24 pm

    That’s so interesting, you’d have had such a different perspective if you’d entered the second competition first. I’m going to remember this when I don’t do so well in something, and for what it’s worth I think it’s a fab photo 🙂

  5. 5th February 2017 / 9:17 pm

    I love this photo. It is simple and in focus and it would make a great card #MySundayPhoto

  6. 5th February 2017 / 9:02 pm

    Just goes to show beauty is in the eye of the beholder! This looks perfect to me

  7. 5th February 2017 / 7:21 pm

    Stunning photo.

  8. 5th February 2017 / 4:59 pm

    Ahh the mystery of the judges at camera club. I did 3 years and then left, it was a pointless task as they are only interested in technical ability not artistic talent


    • 5th February 2017 / 8:20 pm

      Oh no that’s such a pity! That doesn’t sound like a very nice group. It can depend on personalities but a good club is welcoming to a range of abilities and also interests. I hope you are able to enjoy photography still.

  9. 5th February 2017 / 2:53 pm

    It just goes to show, doesn’t it? I agree with you, as long as you like it that’s all that matters (I guess unless you’re trying to win competitions :)). For what it’s worth I think your shot is brilliant. I love the hairs. #MySundayPhoto

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