Judging a Photo Competition

Tuesday evening I was asked to judge another "projected image competition" for the Harrisburg Camera Club. This is the digital extension of their slide/print competitions of days of film. Actually doing the judging is a quite an experience. You are seated in the front row of a room of about 40 people behind you. The slideshow of photos alternate every 4 seconds. After you see all 75 images and get an idea of them, you get to go through them again. The next time through the slide show you rate the image with a number score of 1 through 9 (9 being the best).

So between me and the other Judge, Carl Socolow, the total score could be 18, with the expectation that 12 would be an ideal "good" score. I reserved 1-3 for varying degrees of "needs improvement" images, 4-6 for good images but not best, and 7-9 for the "cream of the crop".

Then after the winners are announced, we go through the images one by one and offer up critique on what we felt about the images and what was lacking and what could have been changed to help improve the image. Being an inspector with istockphoto, judging photos is something I do every day… many, many times a day in fact. In front of an audience, if feels a little different though. We offered up some great advice on the images and talked about what could have improved them, pre AND post capture.

I was teasing the host for the evening as he is not a fan of "photoshoping" (yes, I know it’s not a verb, Vincent ;-) Andy gave us a chuckle at the mentions of quick fixes. I know many fine art photographers are firm believers in "the negative" and retaining the true vision of that negative. But I don’t see Photoshop as something evil or bad. Ok, in the wrong hands, there can be some vile stuff created, but in the hands of an artist… it’s an incredible tool.

For years, I’ve heard different photographers comment that the use of Photoshop distorts reality. While that CAN be true, it’s not the only tool in the photographers’ toolkit that warps perception. Adding a strobe or speedlight to an image changes it from "true reality". Changing lenses distorts the compression of the image. Wide aperture settings shift focus to ethereal scenes that our naked eyes can’t see. And last but not least, adding a filter (ND, Polarizers…etc.) to the end of your lens allows your camera to see differently.

Photography is all about seeing with your mind.

Photoshop can help assist that. Maybe Vincent Versace’s new book, Welcome to Oz: A Cinematic Approach to Digital Still Photography with Photoshop (VOICES), is growing on my more then I first suspected.