Photo Feedback

I hear photographers saying that unless they use Photoshop, they could never win a photography competition. And I agree – but I think we are talking about two completely different things.

Generally when photographers complain about Photoshop, they’re talking about highly constructed composites or special filter effects. In the past when these techniques were used, they did impress the judges and won a lot of awards, but these days, overworked photographs can actually score less, not more.

When I talk about using Photoshop – or Lightroom or Capture One – I’m suggesting that every entry can be improved with a little post-production. You might just lighten or darken the image, or darken down a corner – the point I’m suggesting is that successful photographers do not rely on their cameras to deliver the final result. EVERY image can be improved or strengthened with a little post-production – just as we used to do in the darkroom when shooting with film.

The mark of a competent photographer is the appropriate use of post-production.

Entries into the 2018 Better Photography Photo of the Year Awards close on 31 October 2018, so there's still time to enter - and who knows, you could be part of the $17,000 prize pool too! For more details, visit www.betterphotographyphotocomp.com now!

In another competition I’m involved with, we were accused of giving priority to composite images over ‘real’ subjects. When I sat down and did a count of the winning images, 70 percent were single capture photographs of real subjects with ‘appropriate’ use of post-production.

Composites don’t necessarily beat straight shots.

However, there are two reasons you enter a photography competition. One is to test yourself against a standard and you succeed based on the bronze, silver and gold awards. There is no limit to how many of these awards are handed out – it’s based on how good the entries are.

The second reason is to win a prize and that’s hard. You can control how good your own entry looks, but you have no control over how good the competition is. A ‘straight’ photo may struggle to beat a clever ‘composite’, but similarly a composite can look overworked and fabricated in comparison to a beautiful ‘straight’ shot.

My view is that judges today are much more sophisticated and have a good understanding of the techniques and approaches they see in the competition. A strong straight shot, appropriately finessed in post-production, has every chance of winning a high award and first prize as well.

If you’re in doubt, take a look at the overall winner from last year’s Better Photography Photo of the Year competition – a straight nature shot of a humming bird!

Entries into the 2018 Better Photography Photo of the Year Awards close on 31 October 2018, so there's still time to enter - and who knows, you could be part of the $17,000 prize pool too! For more details, visit www.betterphotographyphotocomp.com now!

Photography competitions are based on opinions. And everyone has an opinion, so that’s a good reason to enter photography competitions that are judged by people whose opinion you respect. You mightn’t always agree with the judges, but you have an understanding of who they are as photographers and so you are more likely to be accepting of their opinions.

However, as an entrant, you only get to see one score, the average. As a judge, we don’t get to see the other judges’ scores, so we might score an entry 95 while the other two judges are on 75. What we considered to be Gold ends up as a Silver – and what the other judges considered to be Bronze is elevated to Silver.

If you get a score that is just below a bronze (or a silver or a gold), there’s a very good chance one of the judges thought it was a bronze (or a silver or a gold). But the other two didn’t quite agree. And this is why it is so hard to get a gold award. To start with, there are very few entries a judge will consider gold. Then to finish, you need to have two or more of the judges agreeing it is a gold. More often than not, one judge will be on gold and the other two in the high silvers – with the result a high silver.

There can also be up to 20 points difference between scores, but this is very unusual. It is also unusual for all three judges to give exactly the same score. Generally speaking, I’d suggest there’s a spread of 5 or 6 points between the judges score – so we’re usually in the same area, but it can be the difference between, for example, a bronze and a silver.

However, the good news is that while two judges might drag a score down, two judges often drag scores up as well. The point to note is that a judging score is a combination of well-intentioned opinions.

And if you’re like me, time has a habit of flying past and there are things you wish you’d done a little earlier – like entering the Better Photography Photo of the Year Award. There’s still time in the Late Entry period – the price is the same, but there’s no ‘every fifth entry free’ discount. So, the very last date is 7 November 2018 - and who knows, you could be part of the $17,000 prize pool too! For more details, visit www.betterphotographyphotocomp.com now!

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