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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!

The Better Photography Photo of the Year Award is judged by the same three AIPP Grand Masters of Photography every year. All three of us have over 30 years’ experience as photography judges, all three have judged amateur and professional competitions, all three have judged internationally – all three still enter photography competitions. And we’ve all won awards over the years as well.

So why have the same judges each year? Why not mix them around?

There are arguments for and against. An argument for using different judges is that the competition is less likely to become stale with the same ‘opinions’ every year, but a look at the variety of winners we’ve had over the years doesn’t support this.

In fact, one of the reasons we keep the same judges is to introduce a level of consistency – so as entrants improve from year to year, it is more likely to be because of their photography, rather than the views of new judges.

And the overall standard? I find that as judges we’re a little more lenient when it comes to bronze awards. If we see aspects of a photograph that are good, we’re likely to award a bronze as encouragement: you’re on the right path, but there is still room to grow. On the other hand, if you earn a silver, you’re on a par with how we judge at the professional awards. And those golds are every bit as good as the professional golds.

And there’s still time to enter with our Late Entry period – the price is the same, but there’s no ‘every fifth entry free’ discount. 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!

Gold Award by Graham Morgan in the nature category, 2016 Better Photography Photo of the Year Award

I have yet to get four gold awards at the Australian Professional Photography Awards. The best I have done is a gold with distinction, two golds and a silver with distinction, but every year, I pack away four gold prints and hope the judges agree with me.

They never have!

I realise I must sound as though I’m big noting myself here, and my apologies, but I wanted to show you that no matter how experienced you might appear, how many awards you’ve won in the past, entering photography competitions remains an important part of your development as a photographer.

My co-judges, David Oliver and Tony Hewitt, are also AIPP Grand Masters of Photography. They also enter APPA every year. And we have a little wager on the side with the lowest scoring photographer buying lunch for the other two.

As judges, we think it’s important to know what it feels like to win and to lose. We all know what it’s like to get an entry with no award. We also remember what it was like to get our first bronze and silver awards. And the excitement doesn’t change with experience.

We’re realistic that winning a category or the overall competition is a matter of luck because we have no control over how good other entries might be. However, we do judge our success by how many silver or gold awards we get. At our level, we expect to get silvers (unless we’re testing something different, which is shorthand for saying we didn’t even get a silver)!

But what about you? If you get bronze awards easily enough, then perhaps your challenge is to get four silvers? Getting lots of silvers? Then welcome to the club in trying to get lots of golds. And if you do find the secret, please remember to share it with me!

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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