This was posted on Facebook earlier this week – but you may not have seen it, so here it is again
(Please get your favourite beverage…. this is going to be a long posting)
Those of you who have attended one of my club presentations will know that I talk about the 3 images that I submitted in my very first club competition – you will also know how badly they did, they bombed and rightly so. But instead of giving up photography and taking up competitive knitting it made me determined to improve.
Having had that disastrous start in the comping world I learned 3 lessons
1. Ensure that the judge is in no doubt what the picture is all about – if he or she has to guess what it is, then their guess could be wrong. My picture depicted columns reflected in water (Albert Dock, Liverpool). The judge thought it was cricket stumps reflected in a puddle)
2. The judge does not have the same emotional attachment to the picture as you have. So if you have a picture of the landscape from your honeymoon bedroom and it brings back wonderful memories for you – remember the judge wasn’t with you (hopefully – unless you are married to them, in which case they shouldn’t be judging your work !)
3. Lots of judges judge on what they have heard other judges say…. what I personally call “tick box judging” and this is what I my NOTES are about today.
Having sat in the darkness for numerous external and internal club competitions I have been able to carefully listen to the comments of the judges brought in to appraise the prints/digital in front of them. Here are a few of the classic comments :-
It would be better if the @@@@ was on the third
The subject/model should be looking at the viewer not looking down/to one side
There is no connection with the viewer
The subject shouldn’t be in the middle of the picture
The horizon shouldn’t be in the middle of the picture
You haven’t left enough space/room for the @@@@ to move into
You shouldn’t have two catchlights in the eyes
You shouldn’t have the nose intersecting the cheek in a profile portrait
I would have moved a foot to the right/left
You haven’t left enough space at the top/side/ bottom
This @@@@ takes your eye out of the picture
I find this @@@@ a distraction
You’ve cut the models/subjects fingers, foot, elbow off
The model’s head should be tilted to one side
I have photographed this but……… (explains why his/hers is a better version than yours)
Why are we ruled by rules? Please don’t say that we are following the rules of art and artists because I can show you (and I do in my presentation) lots of examples of where famous artists do not adhere to “the rules”. For a start I will point you in the direction of Degas – have look ! Okay, I hear you shout, there are thousands of pictures/paintings that DO stick to the rules and you are right of course, there are . Sticking to the rules could indeed help you when your picture is being judged by someone who is giving out points in a club comp or awarding distinctions.
So, what happens the next time someone composes a picture or puts a composite together with competition in mind…. they try and adhere to the comments of the various judges they have heard and thus produce a picture that tries to ‘tick the boxes’. This then, in my humble opinion, continues to shape what is deemed “acceptable” in competition whether it be internal or external and so it rolls on year after year.
I’ve heard people say…. “I photograph what I like and if the judge likes it ,then it’s a bonus. I only photograph what makes me happy, I do it for my own pleasure” that’s fine, fill your boots but don’t be surprised if the judge doesn’t give high marks to your picture, especially if you enjoy taking pictures of shag pile carpets (or similar). If you are entering a competition you are … to put it bluntly, guess what…..being competitive, so why on earth would you put something in front of a judge that he or she may not like/appreciate and will therefore probably not score well. When I have judged (nationally and internationally) I have seen pictures of people eating hearts with blood dripping out of their mouths, a lady who enjoyed taking nude selfies, pictures of dogs wearing frocks…. but none of them scored very well, even though they were obviously the authors pride and joy – otherwise why send them out to the competition? So, if you don’t know what scores well then I would suggest that you look at the images in the various catalogues and see what IS scoring well.
But, thereby lies the problem – in my opinion, competitions are driven by what is popular…. Because a certain subject matter/genre is doing well people produce the same sort of thing hoping to catch the judges eye. I have seen puffins, puffins with a sand eel in their beaks, puffins with their beaks stuffed with sand eels, kingfishers on twigs, kingfishers diving into water, kingfishers emerging from the water with fish in their beaks, hares, white hares, white hares in snow, snow, snowy landscapes, lone trees, lone trees in snow etc etc etc. Some people it seems, think that if it’s popular and its winning medals then why not clamber onto that particular bandwagon ….. fabulous idea, until that particular picture/genre falls out of favour with the judges “Im sick of seeing that particular model”, “not another bloody kingfisher”, “white horses galloping…. seen it so many times before”, “wizened old ladies ….. not again ” etc etc
I personally have tried not to follow “the rules” and have endeavoured to break them whenever possible – which has been successful for me personally (except for the various club judges who don’t like the subject matter being slap bang in the middle of the picture or the colour green – tick box judging at its best). I will continue to produce pictures that catch the eye even though my pictures don’t have a particular story or have a hidden message. Some will have the subject on the third but most won’t , I will have the subject looking out of the picture especially if its a fine art nude, I will put the subject in the middle of the picture, I will continue to use green, I will carry on being slightly rebellious. But then again I have finished “going for” the various distinctions so don’t have to try and comply with what is deemed as being “acceptable” to the various judges who determine my fate.
Judges are given a hard time and I enjoy being a judge (I like to judge the picture and not “the rules)” and I know I will probably NEVER be invited to be an adjudicator at certain distinctions, but I can live with that. In the meantime I will continue to produce”pretty pictures” that don’t always adhere to “the rules” and bang the drum for other rule breakers too.
Woo Hoo I have had this picture published on 1x which only accepts/publishes 5% of the 1000’s of uploads to their curated site and needless to say I am thrilled.
This is the first of many from my recent studio session and as you might have noticed I have been somewhat inspired by the work of the Dutch Masters…. More of this to come….. dark, moody and lots of ruffs LOL
Thanks to the unknown panel of international judges at 1x you have made my day !
I find myself standing metaphorically at a crossroads wondering which road to take.
I am almost at the end of my BPE Comping journey – I am very very close now to being able to apply for FBPE (fingers firmly crossed – hope I haven’t jinxed everything) and wonder what I will do next, as I have absolutely no desire to try for FRPS or go any further with FIAP distinctions. So here I am kicking my heels, staring up at the sign – This Way, That Way, or Another Way.
So what now?
I still love to create images and will continue to do that for as long as I can put Wacom pen to tablet. I also enjoy helping others to blossom and I get a great deal of pleasure seeing them flourish with just a little bit of encouragement. We all need a bit of help now and again and I am happy to help.
Recently, I have made the decision to study more closely the huge and very interesting subject of composition and the mystical world of colour theory – and it has stopped me in my tracks. I thought I knew this stuff…. but theres is soooooo much more to discover the deeper you delve.
At the moment I have a couple of ideas as to what I would like to produce after being been totally stopped in my tracks by group of artists/photographers/filmmakers that I knew nothing about before I started my studies. Since this this recent discovery I have started to rethink everything again and wonder where my new found knowledge will take me.
I have never (well extremely rarely) pre-planned a photoshoot… I just go with the flow, knowing I could “cobble” something together later on. I don’t produce pictures with a meaning – they are just “pretty pictures” as far as I am concerned. I don’t usually know what my images will finish up looking like when I start out. I usually get an idea (anything could spark it off) and then I just “fiddle and faff” around finding fitting pictures from my huge stock of images (taken over the last 10 years) until something appears and I head off in that direction.
I often liken what I do to making minestrone soup – I throw lots of ingredients (ideas) into the pot (computer) , stir for a while (mess about in photoshop) and then suddenly after lots of stirring (shouting at photoshop) it turns onto something quite tasty (insert your own simile here).
I know I will pick a path, but at the moment I am still collecting the ingredients to put into the pot and hoping that a spark will occur that will get everything cooking nicely.
Yesterday I attended the PAGB Inter-Club Print Championship and I have to say that the prints being judged were of an exceptionally high standard, some of them were simply stunning. Obviously, what I am going to say next is my own personal view of the day…. you may, if you attended, have viewed things differently.
The whole event was, as usual, extremely well organised and my virtual hat goes off to all involved, you did an excellent job, and thank you The planned schedule ran to time – again, due to the fantastic planning of the organisers. The venue was good, plenty of parking, it was warm and the sound system worked well. I understand there were a few minor grumbles about space when the various clubs needed to spread out to review their re-selections at lunch time … but I personally didn’t hear anyone complaining too bitterly. Having the images projected on a large screen is such a great idea and it enabled everyone to see what the judges were viewing and marking. The organisers, it seemed, had a few last minute hiccoughs to cope with but they dealt with those problems extremely efficiently. The raffle prizes were plentiful and my two friends sitting next to me (husband and wife combo) seemed to scoop more than their fair share of goodies – your banned from buying raffle tickets next time !
The judges appeared to favour very pastel shade images for their higher marks (plenty of 15’s) they were mostly minimal in structure and were different genres – snowy vistas, rolling hills, people, nature etc and to my eyes they were exquisite. There were lots of beautiful landscapes that also gained the highest of marks along with some stunning nature shots. There didn’t seem to be many overtly creative images (not referring to the pale pastel shaded images here) and those that were offered up for judging didn’t seem to attract the high marks the authors may have been aiming for. For those people who constantly grumble that creative images “always” win and landscapes are “not in fashion” then you needed to have been there yesterday because there were some exquisite landscapes that deservedly scored well.
On a personal note it was lovely to meet up with old friends from all around the country (and across the water) and chat with them – if I didn’t get round to chatting to you I apologise, hopefully I gave you a friendly wave from the balcony (where I was seated). I have been fortunate to become good friends (and I mean friends) with a number of people I have met through the wonderful world of photography and I am so pleased that I have had the opportunity of getting to know you. So, to all my photograph friends I hope you had a wonderful day and that your club did well, my club (Warrington PS) did well especially as its only the second time they have qualified for the competition. For those people who attended yesterday and are still trying to swallow their own personal “bitter pill” it’s time to grow up and get a life – deliberately ignoring people and bad mouthing others is not a healthy way to live.
Here’s to next year