Club ‘Competitions’

"Rock": Dave Ferguson

“Rock”: Dave Ferguson

A while ago we mused about creative ‘artistic’ interpretation in photography.  We’re starting the New Year going from the sublime to the ridiculous.

The question is:  is photography a sport?  

I suspect that most members will hrrumph “of course not”.

However, like many other photography and camera clubs, we have competitions and points and winners.  What’s that about?

I see the value of inviting a judge to critique our photographs as an opportunity to learn from their considered commentary on the strengths and weaknesses of the images.  Shouldn’t a judge’s commentary  prompt us  to think about whether, or how, the points made by the judge apply to our own photographs, and to think about how our own photography might be improved?

Last year we changed our scoring system for monthly competitions on the basis that, by  allocating points to various criteria, judges would be able to document the perceived strengths and weaknesses in the photographs.  In other words, the scoring system was supposed to provide a record that would help people learn something about their photography.  

I invited all of our judges last year to tell us how they found our judging scheme.  Some were positive:  they felt it helped them.  Some were non-committal.  One very experienced judge was quite critical:  he felt the scoring approach was reductionist and images should be judged as a whole:  how well does the image express the idea it is trying to convey?

A couple of us went to a judging course run by PSNZ at the end of last year.  What we discovered, essentially, is that PSNZ judging is not about teaching or learning, but rather about selecting the best among very good photographs for high profile exhibitions, or top awards.

Awarding an image “Honours” or “Acceptance” on the basis of a very well informed opinion of how well the image works makes sense in that context.  But is it helpful at club level where people are trying to learn and improve their skills?

Nevertheless, the committee is not sure how well last year’s score system worked.  We’re looking yet again at the judging scheme.  Options range from retaining last year’s scheme, to abandoning scores altogether and simply asking judges to be usefully specific in their comments.

We want to continue with scores for each criterion (idea, composition, technique, etc) only if members find them useful.   If members do not find them useful we should go to something simpler because they do create extra work for judges and for our competition secretary.

We would like some indication from members as to what you think.  To help the committee, I’d be grateful if you would click on ‘Leave a Reply’ and let us know:

  • if you often (or ever) looked in detail at the points a judge gave your image for, say, composition, or ‘idea’, and if so whether you think the points gave you helpful feedback; or
  • if you have any other suggestions re ‘scoring’?

I look forward to your responses and seeing everyone at the first meeting of the year.


6 thoughts on “Club ‘Competitions’

  1. Bruce Kirk

    I personally like the current scoring system. Examination of the Judge’s points gives me an idea of not only where I need to improve, but also what I got right in that photograph..
    As with Peter I would like to also have the opportunity to attend a beginners course. Until I came to the club, such things as the Rule of Thirds were something I had never heard of, let alone things like F stops and ISO. THank heavens for Google!!!!,

  2. John Rhodes

    If I were judging, as I do occasionally in other contexts, I’d pick my winners subjectively first, then (if required) contrive scores that fitted my conclusions. Feedback & comments are all-important, and I try to give them within the limitation of time.

    Thanks Tim!

    1. Tim McMahon Post author

      We rather suspect that’s what happened a bit last year. It was clear that a couple of the judges followed the process as intended but for the most part, not so much. On the other hand the judges who made the most useful comments were probably ones who took the score sheet a bit more seriously too.

  3. Tim McMahon

    Thanks Peter. A decent system should stimulate judges to make useful comments. OTOH if there’s no record, only those present get the benefit of the comments. OK? or not?

    Beginner’s workshop a good idea. We’ll get something set up.

  4. Peter McNeur

    As a new person, I find the scoring useful. Comments are also VERY helpful.
    The usefulness of the scoring is a feeling that ‘THAT’ judge found the images worked/didn’t work.
    I actually felt the way a large number of people judge less helpful and rather bland. You get a ‘winner’ but no comments. I felt this when we all judged the winning work last year for the Trust House competition.
    Even though the Judge is only one person’s view, that is the judge for the competition. Judging will always be subjective. We had a judge last year who talked a lot about each image what worked and didn’t work for the judge. I MUCH prefer that system with a scoring. I suspect that even though the judging is split into bits, the judge basically has looked at what they like best if thought this may not be overt to the judge, so effectively the image as a whole is really being scored!

    While I am writing, it would be great to have a workshop for beginners. I would REALLY LIKE to know what I should be looking for when I am buying new kit (tripod…etc), and more importantly why!
    Then I would like to really know how to use my camera!

    Thanks for the way this club is being run. Always seeking to see what can be done to make it better. Great stuff!


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