Photo Feedback

Most people enter photography competitions ‘to see how they go’. By this, I believe they would like to see if their entry is worthy of a bronze, a silver or even a gold! That in itself is useful feedback, especially when you’re learning the ropes and looking to improve, but even better would be a comment about where you’re going wrong. How could you improve your entry?

One of the benefits I introduced to the Better Photography Photo of the Year (and which has been picked up by a number of other competitions) is feedback from a judge. It’s not possible to give every entry an in-depth analysis, but it is possible to make a single suggestion that could be very helpful.

Over the years, I realised that 90% of entries could be helped with the same 20 or 30 comments. Sure, every entry has its differences, but for example, there are a lot of entries that could be improved if the photographer had just changed his or her camera angle at the time of capture, or if they had lightened up an entry because it was too dark. These may seem like very simple observations, but they can be incredibly powerful because, as entrants, we don’t easily see what can be improved with our own work.

I now have around 60 comments that I use. I can also customise the comments, but generally they are specific enough to give most entrants some direction for improvement – if it is considered necessary. I rarely make suggestions for gold awards and many silver awards don’t need further help either. And I’m hopeful that my suggestions will be useful at least 90% of the time.

I realise there are some limitations in this system, but short of a personalised critique, it’s the best that’s available and, better still, it’s included as part of your entry fee.

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!

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!

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