IOMPS Courier Report for 23rd October

Date Published 
Fri 23 Oct 2020
The ins and outs of judging photography…

We all like looking at images – it’s part of our everyday lives when reading a newspaper or watching television. And we all know when we see a really striking image, one with that extra “wow” factor that makes an impact, grabs our attention and makes us want to look closer. So judging a photographic competition should be easy, shouldn’t it?

Yes, and perhaps no has to be the answer. Psychologists have a theory called “the blink decision” - that our subconcious reaches an almost instantaneous decision as to liking (or disliking) something we see. But to stand up in front of an audience and explain in a calm and rational way your reasons for liking or disliking an image – and giving a brief but considered explanation as to its quality, and also an opinion on just how the image might be improved, takes knowledge and confidence, an audacity perhaps best described as “chutzpah”.

There are few if any rules as to how to judge a photo competition – though one hopes that the commentary will not result in any of the entrants leaving the room in tears, swearing never to enter another competition. And ideally the commentary will be delivered to be helpful and constructive, emphasising the good points but being honest (and perhaps sympathetic) as to any weaknesses.

Inevitably, a judge will have have a subjective, personal bias - a preference perhaps in their own work for portraits rather than landscape, or nature rather than sports, but it is a bias which the judge must suppress.

It helps if the judge has good photographic skills and can appreciate the techniques required for the many and various genres within photography – perhaps to be able to put him (or her)self into the shoes of the photographer and understand just what the image shows and what the photographer was trying to achieve. Was it successful, and does it tell the story well? Does it demonstrate skill and artistry with a finished image which strikes a chord and the feeling that “I wish I had taken that shot” or “that shot would look good on my wall”?

Taking a picture involves a myriad of decisions by the photographer, so when looking at an image, the judge will be considering a wide range of thoughts – for example, the choice of lens (macro, wide angle or telephoto), the speed and aperture chosen, position of the sun or any lighting used, is the image sharp throughout or just on the main subject, is any blur intentional or not, are there any distractions in the image drawing attention from the subject, is the composition satisfactory or could the image be improved with a crop or a different viewpoint, is the choice of colour or monochrome helpful to the success of the image.

There are additional considerations when judging prints rather than digital images. Modern cameras and lenses, plus some basic editing on the computer, are usually good enough to produce a technically satisfactory image to be digitally projected – but a print creates further difficulties, particularly in the choice of paper used (matt, glossy or lustre), the colour management settings on your printer, and how the print is presented (with a border or borderless, flat or window mounted) - and all of which the judge will be examining carefully for comment. Have a look at these winning images from our Annual Print competition held earlier this month and see what you think.

Our next meeting is on Wednesday 28th October when we will be delighted to host Pat Tutt from the Western Society to judge the digital entries in our delayed Annual Competition. We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Arts Council for this event, to be held at our new venue of the St John Ambulance HQ on Glencrutchery Road, starting at 7:30pm.  Further programme details on our Facebook page or website at

By Chris Blyth


IMAGE 01: 'Shipshapes' by Ron Shimmin won the Best Colour Print in the recent Annual Competition

IMAGE 02: 'Eccentric Framing' by Barry Murphy won the Best Mono Print in the Annual Competition