Syllabus for 2015 and interesting questions

The syllabus for the 2015 competition year is now up on the site.

Also we have published the ‘competition rules’ that will apply in 2015, and the guidance we intend to give to judges in terms of feedback to members and scoring entries.

With respect to the syllabus, there are a couple of changes from recent practice.

In order to free up time to get outside speakers while retaining as many ‘competitions’ as usual, the committee decided to handle the Wairarapa Theme entries, and entries for Print and Projected Image of the Year, differently in 2015.

In recent tradition, the Wairarapa Theme entries have been pre-judged by members at the AGM meeting, and the top selections sent to the MLT who select the top entry.  Next year have decided to do away with the pre-selection and to send all the entries to MLT.  This will free up the AGM night for a guest speaker.

Print and Projected Image of the Year is supposed to identify the year’s ‘best of the best’ entries.  In recent years the last ‘competition’ meeting of the year has been one where members re-entered what they thought their best images from earlier competitions for a new external judge to consider again.

The committee decided those could be chosen by simply sending the winning images from each of the regular ‘competitions’ to a judge or panel, to select an overall winner.  This will free up another evening for a guest presentation.

This decision provoked some discussion at the meeting earlier this week.  It has been custom for people to re-enter images in Print and ProjIm of the Year that have not been judged best at the regular competitions.  The PoY competition has been a kind of ‘second chance’.  In many cases the image chosen at the PoY has not been one that won its initial competition.  Indeed this year’s result is a rather extreme case in point.

At the meeting some people argued strongly for the second chance opportunity to be retained on the basis that judging “is a matter of taste, and opinions will differ.”  A very good image might be overlooked by the original judge but preferred by the PoY judge.  Or vice-versa.

Others agreed with the committee, that as PoY is supposed to be the ‘best of the best’ selection from among the previous winners makes sense.  The committee’s view was that good judges should generally identify as winners, photographs that most members would agree are very good and that it is not unreasonable to expect the ‘best of the best’ to be selected from among them.

We are decided that there will not be a ‘competition night’ to choose the  Print and Projected Image of the Year.  The question is how should the images be chosen that will be sent for a final opinion.

We would be very interested in members’ feedback on this issue.  Please leave a reply to this post and tell us what you think.


The discussion about this issue raises again the issue of photographic judging.  Is it simply a matter of taste and preference or is there such a thing as an objectively good photograph?

In my humble opinion, the job of every judge of a photograph is to ask two questions:

  • Is it clear what is the photographer trying to do/convey?


  • how effectively has (s)he done it?

Those questions are not about taste or preference.

Shouldn’t a judge  be able to identify a good photograph, even though (s)he may not like it, or like its subject?  For example this photo of the ‘napalm girl’ taken by Nik Ut in 1972 is objectively a good photograph: it tells a powerful story in a technically very appropriate way.  But few people could say they ‘like’ the photograph.

The point is that a judge may have a subjective preference for one good image, over another equally good image.  But a competent judge should not rate an objectively poor image more highly than a better one because of a preference for style or content.

As camera club members, do we not expect judges to tell us something about how successful our images are and, by extension, how we might improve our photography?  Feedback from judges that reflects their tastes or preferences tells us about them, not our work.

Question:  what do you expect from judges?  Leave a reply!



PS:  The Featured Image is “Skeleton Leaf” by Anna Ponting.

4 thoughts on “Syllabus for 2015 and interesting questions

  1. Peter McNeur

    Just a couple of future ideas…

    What about a competition being a ‘wordless’ photo essay on a subject of the member’s choice. Say 6 – 8 images that tell a story. I think it would be an interesting challenge.

    Is there any way we could receive or give constructive criticism from our own member’s on our images? I would be up for this. We have done it in a couple of workshops and I enjoyed this approach.

    Could we have a night on a before and after concept? First effort and second after adjustments made following feedback. Be interesting to see what we all learn from each other and how we apply it. Would need two images. The way Peti Morgan did it on his website (rollover) was interesting.


  2. Jack Ponting

    Hi Tim
    I support John’s idea. Whatever is proposed there will be those to whom it doesn’t suit. But somehow we need to be fair and not trample others’ ideas because of inconsideration of what they value.
    In response to the second question, I am very new to competition and judges’ comments. However, during 2014 I absolutely loved the variation between judges and how they all offered some pointers to help us achieve our overall aim of being club members. That aim is to take better pictures. Mine are improving thanks in part to the challenge and variety of judges’ comments.
    Thanks to the committee for all their enthusiasm in enabling each monthly meeting to be so rewarding. I also like the look of the 2015 syllabus.

    – Jack

  3. rhodesja

    Thanks Tim for another thoughtful post. This reply is to your first question. I favour the ‘second chance’ option. Members could select the winners via the website, perhaps by a system of preferential voting – 3 stars for first choice, 2 for second, one for first. Pic with most stars wins. No need for an outside judge because all pix have already been judged & received feedback.

    1. Tim McMahon

      Thanks John

      A good suggestion!

      My reservation would be that using the web means that the craft of printing photographs gets relegated to unimportance. As a print-only worker, that would sadden me a bit. I discovered a soul-mate in Esther Bunning the other evening: she hoped people actually made real photographs and didn’t just make digital images to hide away on a hard drive or some web site!



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