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Before submitting your entries to a competition, try to look at them with fresh eyes. Sometimes an important or key subject is really small in the frame or hidden away. This is something that is easy to do because the human eye is very good at zooming in on what the brain is interested in. This is especially so when you look through the viewfinder of your camera and what appears to be quite large to you when taking the photograph, can end up being relatively insignificant in the final image. Get in close with your zoom or macro lens so it's really obvious what the judge is supposed to be looking at, or look at the images you have and crop them so the subject is more important.

 

Of course, making your subject obvious doesn't mean it has to be large in the frame. A car in the middle of a flat desert doesn't need to be large to be obvious. However, a car on a busy city street will be lost with all the other cars unless you move in a bit closer with your zoom, or you crop the image during post-production.

 

Having convinced you that your subject should be strong within the frame, this doesn't mean you automatically crop in tightly and exclude everything else. Space around a subject isn't a problem if the space is subservient to the subject. Essentially, generally we want your subject to be obvious.

 

The 2017 Better Photography Magazine Photo of the Year Award is now on! Entries close on 15 August 2017 (late entries possible until 21 August) and first prize is a cool $5000 cash. Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards will be handed out and every entry will receive a short comment or suggestion from the judging panel. For more information, visit www.betterphotographyphotocomp.com.

 

What type of photographs impress the judges? That depends on who the judges are, what the judges do, and where they live and travel.

 

A few years ago I was showing two audio visual presentations. One depicted the hill towns of Italy and France; the other concentrated on outback Australia.

 

When I showed the presentations to Australian audiences, they loved the Italian hill towns. In comparison, when I showed the presentations to an audience in Italy, they loved the Australian outback best.

 

Judges are the same. Photographs of unusual or special subjects which are not generally seen generally will have more appeal than the commonplace. This is human nature.

 

Of course, something that is unusual for you may be common for the judge - and you simply can't know everything about the judge. Similarly, a photograph of the commonplace presented in a different or special way can astound the judge simply because it is so common.

 

Confused? When you're looking through your photographs to enter, if you have a choice between two images, pick the one that has a point of difference. An African nature shot will probably outscore an Australian one because we have Australian judges. On the other hand, if the Australian shot is simply perfect, it won't matter where it was taken.

 

The 2017 Better Photography Magazine Photo of the Year Award is now on! Entries close on 15 August 2017 (late entries possible until 21 August) and first prize is a cool $5000 cash. Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards will be handed out and every entry will receive a short comment or suggestion from the judging panel. For more information, visit www.betterphotographyphotocomp.com.

 

When judging photographs, I think most judges have some basic expectations: the photograph should be sharp (focused) in the right places (although blurred images can be wonderful in context); they should be correctly exposed (not too light or too dark); and they should be appropriately composed and framed. By this I mean the subject should be obvious within the frame - there's nothing worse than a fantastic subject being overcrowded by unnecessary information or a busy background. Deciding what to leave out of your photographs is just as important as what to leave in.

 

This doesn't mean that I won't award a prize to a blurred image with poor image quality because there could be emotional or pictorial aspects about the image that either justify the blurred image, or override it. However, this is a purely subjective process and so you can never be sure of impressing the judges.

 

However, you can expect to achieve a good score for a high standard. You can aim for a Silver Award and when they are easy, aim for a Gold Award. Don't expect to win a competition the first time you enter, rather look at it as a process of learning so that at some stage in the not too distant future, your work will be good enough to be up there with the winners.

 

The 2017 Better Photography Magazine Photo of the Year Award is now on! Entries close on 15 August 2017 (late entries possible until 21 August) and first prize is a cool $5000 cash. Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards will be handed out and every entry will receive a short comment or suggestion from the judging panel. For more information, visit www.betterphotographyphotocomp.com.

 

The trick to winning a photography competition is to impress the judges. How you do that is a little more complicated, but start by imagining you are one of the judges.

 

Think about what they do. They are presented with hundreds or maybe thousands of photographs. Each image is precious and important to its photographer, but unlike the photographer, as the judge they don't have the same emotional attachment.

 

Many people enter photographs of their children or loved ones, thinking they are the best images in the world. And they are. They are the best images for that person because there is a three way association between the subject, the photographer and the photograph.

 

However, for a judge who doesn't know either the subject or the photographer, that association is lost. All the judge can deal with is the image, not the personal associations.

 

Successful photographs will create an association with the viewer - and the judge. That association is created by choosing interesting or appealing subject matter, by capturing that subject matter with beautiful lighting or in an exotic location, by choosing an unusual camera angle, etc.

 

Successful photographs are usually different from what we are used to seeing. What do you have that is a little different to the norm?

 

The 2017 Better Photography Magazine Photo of the Year Award is now on! Entries close on 15 August 2017 (late entries possible until 21 August) and first prize is a cool $5000 cash. Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards will be handed out and every entry will receive a short comment or suggestion from the judging panel. For more information, visit www.betterphotographyphotocomp.com.

The original image as presented for feedback.

 

Our Anonymous Photographer has submitted a well-thought out and well-executed nature study. In the email, he thoughtfully analysed his own work. "When I saw these birds in their dark surrounds, it gave me a feeling that something sinister was going on.  The birds’ eyes were red (albeit small relative to the frame), but they highlighted something ‘dark’ was going on.  I underexposed the image and put a vignette around the frame to remove distractions.  I selectively lightened the foreground rocks with a gradient filter to lead the eye into the frame.  I thought of lightening the feathers, but I lost detail and it looks ‘too contrasty’.

 

I agree with the concern about contrast. Once you have a JPG (which is what I ask to be submitted), it is difficult to reduce the contrast and maintain detail, so I haven't made any suggestions. However, I do think the image has too much contast and that the vignette is a little 'circular' in shape. However, what interested me about our Anonymous Photographer's message was this: "I would appreciate your comments on the photo and how it could be improved, together with any reference to articles which provide some information of how to use Negative Space".  

 

 

Technically, negative space is any space around the subject, so all of the background is 'negative space'. However, I was brought up to understand negative space as being more than just an expected background - it was an extended background or area that wasn't necessary to show the subject, but improved the balance of the subject within the frame. Negative space is a compositional element.

 

I love using negative space. I also notice when judging with other photographers that it is a very personal concept: you either love it or you hate it. I have waxed lyrical about a photo with lots of negative space, only to have another judge recommend some severe cropping!!

 

 

Now, in a nature competition, you can't add in a background, but in a general competition, you could. The black backgrounds shown here and above are way too dark to make an interesting photograph, but it does show you how extra negative space can have an impact on the composition.

 

When out in the field, I often suggest to photographers to shoot some wider views as well as what they think is right, so they can make creative decisions about negative space later on. There may not have been an opportunity to frame much negative space in this situation, so then you have to decide if you will add it in using post-production.

 

I enjoyed this question! Must take a look at a couple of photos I'm working on now and think about more negative space!

 

Don't forget to enter our annual photography competition! First prize is $5000 and every entry gets helpful feedback from the judging panel. See our competition website for more details - you can find it here.