Photo Feedback

The 'infamous' tree photographed on Easter Island many years ago by Peter Eastway.

Some photographers enter competitions without much success and then give them away. They say the judges don’t know what they’re talking about or don’t understand them – and that could be true. However, I remember one of my early ‘misses’ which started on Easter Island.

One evening I found a wonderful gnarled tree sitting atop a low cairn of rounded rocks with a beautiful sky behind. Back home, I had a custom print produced and I was in awe of what I had created.

I entered the photograph into APPA and sat in the judging room, waiting for it to come up. When it did, the judges gave it a quick score of 74 (well below the Silver I had hoped for) and one of the judges said it was ‘just a nice little travel snap’.

I couldn’t believe what had happened. I was disappointed in capitals. Why couldn’t the judges see what I saw?

Five years later, I’m cleaning out my studio. I find a bunch of old print entries and start throwing them on the rubbish pile – when I grab back my Easter Island print and look at it with fresh eyes. My view has completely changed and I actually think the judges were overly generous.

I might not have earned silver that year, but in the continuing process of entering competitions, it was a great lesson.

Maybe you weren’t successful in previous competitions, but if you look back at your work, do you now agree with the judges? We won’t always, but one or more set-backs in our competition careers are to be expected – and they can actually help us improve in the long run.

Perhaps it's time to give competitions another go?

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!

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!

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