IOMPS Courier Report for 15th January

Date Published 
Fri 15 Jan 2021
Courier Report 150121
The Isle of Man Photographic Society is supported by the Arts Council

Well, to quote Robbie Burns – “the best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft a-gley” – and so it was this week for the IOM Photographic Society (and all other social activities) as we were forced to postpone our planned meeting due to the Covid19 situation. 

In the absence of a meeting, we were able to take advantage of a Zoom session organised by the Bridgewater Society in UK with photographer Steven Galvin presenting a range of his images and a commentary as to the role of the judge in photo competitions. This is always a subject guaranteed to provide lots of comment and controversy, and having judged occasionally myself, I’m aware of some of the problems and difficulties.

First off, the title of “judge” can be rather misleading as it tends to suggest a definitive role with a “sentence” at the end of the commentary in the form of a score – whereas the role is more of a constructive appraisal with both positive and negative points explained, together hopefully with some thoughts as to how the image could have been improved for a higher score. This is to be done with good public speaking skills using easily understood terms, not too many cliches, and the judge to show no subjective bias towards any favoured genres but to consider every image on equal terms.

Steve’s main point was that a judge has to balance the technical aspects of any image with the artistic and creative elements and to do it in a positive way, encouraging the photographer to develop their skills. But modern cameras are very capable – auto exposure, auto focus and auto white balance giving a pleasing result much of the time, so a pin sharp and technically competent image should be almost guaranteed. A judge should perhaps therefore be able to concentrate more on the artistry and creativity of any image and to reward those elements accordingly. However, Steve also felt that too many images entered into competition were “snapshots” and not really competition standard – and with too many entries, the judge may be unable to provide a high quality and in-depth commentary to help the photographer progress. The problem there is that as photographers, we have an emotional involvement with our own images – we can recall the occasion of the shot, the location where it was taken, perhaps it was a family holiday or something special such as a birthday – so believe the shot may be equally special to the judge.

And whilst the performance of the judge is always subject to comment, Steve’s final points were that competitors should have some sympathy for them – they are unpaid volunteers doing their best – and unless you have judged yourself, it is unfair to be overly critical.

I have attached several images to this article – Steve Johnstone’s “Last of the Dahlias”, Moira Blyth’s “Lovers” together with Ruth Nicholls’ “Minted Pea Salad” - and all scored maximum marks. Bearing in mind the competition was a “Still Life” assignment, which one gains your decision as to the overall winning image and why?

With the shut-down, readers should check our website or Facebook page for any update of our planned meetings. Our meetings are held the St John Ambulance HQ on Glencrutchery Road, starting at 7:00 pm and are open to the public (non-members with a modest entry fee), and all will be given a very warm welcome. 

By Chris Blyth


IMAGE 01: Minted Pea Salad by Ruth Nicholls

IMAGE 02: Last of the Dahlias by Steve Johnstone

IMAGE 03: The Lovers by Moira Blyth