This week’s guest blogger is Josh Taylor. Josh was one of our presenters and one of our judges in 2010.
It’s an honor to say that I’ve judged photographic competitions at all of the camera clubs in the Metro area. Some camera clubs have invited me back year after year, even though their rules state otherwise. Also, I’ve judged photo competitions online, national media competitions, and was one of last year’s judges for Nature Visions competition. So, from viewing hundreds of images, both print and digital, each year, I’m sharing my judging criteria and hope that this insight will be helpful in selecting images for the 2011 Nature Visions competition.
First and foremost, I try to keep an open mind free of perceived notions and biases. With digital cameras featuring numerous presets and iPhones with high tech camera features and apps, a technically executed image is within anyone’s reach. Entries in photo competitions must rise to the top beyond the classic image. What is a classic image? It can be a landscape photographed front and centered, a portrait of an animal facing the camera with no indication of movement or its natural behavior, or a flower shot front and centered or from a profile position with mostly every part in sharp focus. However, there is still a place for classic images and some will win in competitions.
Here are my basic criteria for judging landscapes, animals, and flowers. This is not a definitive list of all the criteria used and competition categories. When selecting a landscape image for a competition, one must ask himself/herself this question. How will this image stack up against others in the competition? The landscape should have some unique quality, such as dramatic lighting or weather conditions, an unusual view of the familiar, and it should leave no doubt what the photographer intended for the viewer to see, experience, or imagine. Glorious light and a good subject create joyous images. Good light, composition, and photographic skills go hand in hand. One cannot exist without the other.
For animals and other critters, my first cut in judging is to look for sharpness in the eye closest to the camera, whiskers, and fur/feathers. Also, a catch light in the eye(s) is most important. This gives life to the subject. Usually, an animal displaying some type of behavior wins over the straightforward portrait. Once again, good lighting and technical execution are important. The background should complement the subject and not compete with the subject for the viewer’s attention.
There are two schools of thought on flower photography. The classic approach shows the flower as a portrait or a close-up, and the other is the artistic approach showing the flower in a creative fashion. The artistic approach often has limited depth-of-field with only certain parts in sharp focus, backgrounds that are enhanced, in-camera manipulations which are sometimes used, and enhancement software that is often used to create a fine art image. Whether it’s a classic or artistic image, the background should enhance the subject. Which image wins in a competition is in the eye of the judge. However, select an image that will rise to the top of the competition and will immediately grab and hold the judge’s attention. Look out! An image taken and processed with an iPhone might be the next competition winner. Therefore, don’t settle for something safe in a competition but think outside the box (camera).