Judging Photography

Ben-&-Dave-judging

Exhibition judges Ben and Dave.

 

I have written about judging photography previously, and I have also used the following quote by John Loengard, who worked as a photographer for Life, for Time, and for People magazines.                         “It is not important if photographs are “good.” It’s important that they are interesting”.

I agree with that statement and when I was asked to be part of the jury committee for a local exhibition by members of the Kamloops Photo Arts Club it was Loengard’s words that I first thought of.   I looked forward to a firsthand look at submissions and wasn’t let down by the interesting and creative work.

They entitled the upcoming juried exhibit of photographs taken within British Columbia as “Wild and Wet” and described it as displaying the impact of water on the environment and residents of this region.

To me, the poorest photographs are those that don’t speak to us, it’s those photographs appear boring. I think the viewer should feel something, should feel a level of emotion when they look at the images. A good photograph is one that creates an emotional response.

As I looked at the photographs I asked myself the following five questions that I think are questions any serious photographer should think about, as they are about to press the shutter.

  1. Is there a clear center of interest? In a successful photo, the viewer can immediately identify the subject.
  1. Is the image composed well? There should be a sense of overall organization.
  1. Is the focus tack sharp and is the exposure appropriate? With the exception of photos that intentionally show motion or soft-focus images (both should be obvious), tack-sharp focus is the first thing viewers’ notice about an image.
  1. Does the photo tell a story? The difference between a photograph one remembers and one that is easily forgotten depends on whether the photo tells a story.
  1. Is the approach creative? Creativity in an image involves more than predictable techniques and perspective. The creative photographer handles the subject in extraordinary ways that the viewer normally would not have seen.

I joined photographers Dave Snyder and Ben Verwey in an interesting discussion of the images as we reviewed the photographs. All the show’s photographs are worth taking the time to view and I look forward to the exhibition that will be held from March 12 until April 1, 2015. As this was to be a juried show, we ranked each submission and selected those that, in our opinion, stood out from the rest.

Whether readers attend this exhibition or any other, my suggestion to take along my guidelines and see how they apply. Then think about how the photographs appeal you. Are the photographs interesting and engaging? Do they capture a moment in time and what do they communicate to you the viewer.

I look forward to your comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

Judging Barriere 4H Photography

The Judge

On the Sunday of the September long weekend I spent an enjoyable day judging the Barriere 4H club members photography presentations at the North Thompson Fall Fair.

Although I have taken on the role of judge many times before, I am still slightly uncomfortable in a formal critique. Just looking at a photograph and discussing it, even placing a grade on it, as I did for years as a college instructor, is easier because everyone is competing with themselves. But when choosing a first, second, and third place is a competition about who is better, one has to work very hard not to be influenced by personal feelings, taste, and opinions on the subject.

Most photographers seem to think a photographic “critique” means “to find fault with.” I don’t think that’s right. When one critiques another’s photograph they should be analyzing its strengths and successes. What doesn’t work is important and should be part of the discussion, but the main concern is what works, not, what doesn’t work.

This was my first time with the 4H club. Photography in this instance was set apart from the other events at the North Thompson Fall Fair that included animal husbandry, and the judging was, in my opinion, more about the young member’s personal development in photography and how well they could adhere to the guidelines than how good their individual photographs were. Although unusual, the process was interesting, and I think valuable.

I will say that the quality of the photography was surprising for such young individuals. I was able to pick out specific interests and strengths in each of the young photographers. Yes, like all photographers, I expect those that are serious about the medium will undergo growth as they become more experienced with their cameras, and experiment with the medium of photography in general.

What is a good photograph?

“Life” magazine, “Time” magazine, and “People” magazine photographer, John Loengard, said, “It is not important if photographs are “good.” It’s important that they are interesting”.

Anyone who wants to take better pictures should focus on the fundamentals, and a successful photographer must have an understanding of composition and lighting because what is important for the viewer is how the photographer composes (or arranges) the image, and how the light is captured, both which sets the images apart.

William Reedy, in his book, “Impact Photography for Advertising” writes about how the successful photographer must, “…stop the eye…(and)…set the mood…” I have liked that quote for years. And I am pleased to say that there were some of those young 4H photographers that were able to accomplish that and I hope I get to see their again photography in the future.