Friday, 23 November 2018

‘Optimising Photographs for Competition’ by Marcus Scott-Taggart. 21st Nov 2018


Or the title Marcus said he prefers ‘What the judge expects’! Marcus has a professional background in the subject having worked in a research group tasked with maximising colour and black and white reproduction for newspapers and magazines etc. He was persuaded to join Tandridge Camera Club in 2002 and said he was surprised to find that the quality of much of what he saw surpassed what he had seen in his profession. He attributed this to the fact the club members were doing it because they loved it and not to put bread on the table. He became a judge in 2004, and held the Chair on the Judges and Lecturers Subcommittee of the SPA in 2015/2016. So this is a guy who knows what he is talking about.

One thing that struck him on seeing the work of club members was how many had not done enough editing to ‘optimise’ their photos.

After the ‘first click’, your most important second click is which shot to work on. You need to be ruthless in choosing a suitable ‘competition picture’ before the judge is ruthless on your behalf! Remember, you may have been looking and working on the picture for weeks, but this is the first time the judge will have seen it.

The picture needs impact - the judge will have half-formed an opinion on your picture within 1 to 2 seconds of seeing it in the initial run through or seeing it on the print stand. The kind of features that create impact are: exaggeration of reality, frozen action and humour.

Secondly, the image needs clarity of purpose. However, it is not essential nor important for the judge to find out what you are trying to communicate; a picture can mean different things to different people. A good title can help the judge understand what you are trying to convey.

Thirdly, composition has to be considered carefully. The shape and balance has to be right and careful cropping can be used to make your message clearer.

While on the subcommittee, he was able to analyse the feedback from clubs on the performance of SPA judges. The two most common criticisms were when judges scores did not seem related to their comments on a picture, and when judges allow themselves to drift off the subject to relate personal anecdotes. I guess we have all seen this happen.

He then went on to explain what characteristics a judge should NOT be taking into account. These included:
  • the effort needed to find the subject portrayed
  • the distance and cost of getting there
  • the cost of the equipment employed

He also told us what he considered overvalued ideas: 
  • oblique features are preferable to verticals
  • background features take attention from the subject
  • images should be light at the top and dark at the bottom
  • monochromes are more ‘creative’ than colour photos
  • only ‘creative’ photos deserve high marks
  • a picture showing movement must include something sharp
  • coloured mounts are not a good idea
  • a full range of tones must be evident
  • individual elements in the picture are more important than the whole image
Then he showed one of his own photos with a catalogue of these 'errors', and certainly convinced me that looked at as a whole, the picture worked admirably.
Finally he said that the most important thing about a picture is that it conveys your feelings about the subject at the time you captured it.

There can’t have been any member, beginner or advanced, who didn’t learn something from this unique opportunity to hear from the other side of the competition experience. So thank you Marcus for giving up your time to provide us with such an interesting and memorable evening.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

10 November | Open Projected Image Competition II


This week saw the second part of this year’s PDI competition. The judge, Don Morley provided plenty of robust guidance on the 60 images entered. As such, there was a bumper crop of high marks from the images he liked… And a fair few entrants who probably went home feeling they were robbed!

Salient points taken away from tonight can be boiled down to: 
  • Stop being wordy with your image titles!
  • Think about using a larger aperture (smaller F number) when photographing wildlife to blur the background better
  • Consider whether the image would look better portrait rather than landscape
  • Leave enough space for the image to "move" within the frame - don't crop so tightly!

At level one, Kevin B emerged triumphant with his image Dahlia, narrowly fending off David A’s Oculus:


Dahlia - Kevin B

Oculus - David A

At level two, David H’s Take Off took the winner’s slot, ahead of Mandy B’s Jay in Motion, David P’s Aysgarth Falls, Martin F's The Observer and Dave S’s Burgh Island Hotel:


Take Off - David H

Jay in Motion - Mandy B

Aysgarth Falls - David P

The Observer - Martin F

Burgh Island Hotel - Dave S








Sunday, 11 November 2018

You be the Judge of That!

Have you ever been confused by a camera club judge's scoring ?

Were you pleasantly surprised to hit the magic formula for a "10" or maybe you were quietly disgruntled at why the judge didn't understand your inner genius ??

Well, this week club member, David H gave us the opportunity to score a selection of images for ourselves and also to discuss those scores with the rest of the group.

The images were provided courtesy of an inter club competition held in his previous club. The added twist was that while his previous club is local,  in South London, one other club was from South Africa and the other from Australia. This certainly led to a variety of images and also a variety of presentation styles.

15 images were presented from each club and after a straight run through, we saw each image again in detail to decide on a score. To avoid influencing each other all the scores were written down but kept silent at this stage. 

After the scoring we started from the start again and David shared the actual score the image had received from the original competition judge. Hmm, some very surprising results and it turns out we can't agree with each other either. The images were marked out of 15 and mostly we had a spread of 2-3 points around the judges score, some high and some low. It turns out the image scoring is not as easy as it seems!

At the end of the evening, everyone toted up there scores with spot prizes going to Claire K for getting the most correct scores and Martin W getting the lowest average.

Thank you, David, for such an interesting and innovative evening.



Friday, 2 November 2018

31st October 2018 - Monochrome PDI Competition No. 1

We welcomed David Mendus back to the club for our first Mono PDI of 2018/19.

David opened by telling us he has stepped away from his judging affiliation with the SPA. Whether by coincidence or because David felt suddenly freed from the constraints of following the SPA judging guidelines (I will make a guess at the latter), this writer felt that the evening gave us some of the most consistent comments and scoring across our offerings that I have heard from any competition evening.  

David did not give any new, startling insights into mono photography but he did offer many useful nuggets of information that provided good insight into what makes for successful work:

  • Use the right image if you are editing to mono
  • Be careful when cropping and watch what is on your edges
  • Keep a good balance across the frame and make use of the whole frame
  • Do not overdo post-production

I felt all the comments translated into marking that was always relevant to what was said about the image on the screen. As we all know, we have had many judges that say a lot about an image but then give a mark that bears no relation to the comments made or give marks that vary wildly between similar images.

Enough of my opinion, onto the selection of winners.

Level 1 gave us 20 entries, six held back and three 10s awarded. David was extremely complimentary about what he saw, saying he could see the message each image was giving and enjoying the stories behind each one.

In first place, congratulations are due to Darren M with "Just Looking"



David loved the close-up expression and personality that shone from the subject's eyes. 

Darren achieved his second 10 with "Girls just want to have fun"


Again, David really enjoyed the humour in the image and could see everything had been captured to show the "fun" in the title.

Our final 10 in Level 1 was from Alan M with "The Morning Catch"


The tranquillity and mist in the image really impressed David and he paid special attention to the top of the frame with the trees receding into the mist.

Onto Level 2, where we had 30 entries. Eight were held and three 10s awarded.

David P scooped top place with "Adolescent Angst"


David (judge) commented that this image captured the girl's expression so well and as with the Level 1 images, the story was clear. It was a rare thing to be able to get an expression that gives so much in an image.

To follow Level 1 even more, David P mirrored Darren M with his second 10 being awarded for "Dying for a cuppa"


The expressions of the three people in the photograph all engrossed in making tea caught David's (judge) attention. Another great example of one image giving so much to the viewer.

Our third 10 went to David H with "Motherhood":


David (judge) viewed this as a perfect example of the bond between mother and child, something that can be very hard to put into an image. David H captured a wonderful moment.

All in all, an enjoyable evening and an eye-opening insight into how a "free" judge can both express him or herself and give the marks to match!

See you all later in November!

Brian C