International Judging & Scoring Systems in Photography – Part 2

Welcome to part 2 in the series…


So, how is a ‘Panel of Judges’ selected and composed? Essentially there must be a minimum of three and maximum of five ‘Qualified’ judges, selected by a Chairman in consultation with any professional organisation or governing body concerned. Above all, that Chairman must use all of his or her skill and judgement to select the best possible and ‘open minded’ range of Judges that are best suited to the task in hand.

Each Judge must have clearly demonstrated that they have an ‘open mind’, able to accept and assess, without prejudice, bias or personal preference, all genre’s of Photography. They must also show a healthy respect for their fellow Judges and be prepared to change an opinion on any given image when suitably presented with compelling or ‘enlightening’ evidence.

Rules? What Rules? Photographers have nearly all experienced a degree of ‘education’ from numerous books, internet resources, so called ‘Guru’s’ and ‘Legends’ in the industry. The monotonous references to ‘rules’ are almost endless. But do many photographers and Judges honestly know what they mean or indeed, their origins? And just how are some of these ‘rules’, that were conceived centuries before the advent of photography, even applicable? Should they be determining, rigid criteria in the scoring of competition images? If a team of Judges are presented with an outstanding image that appears to ‘break the rules’ or simply does not adhere to the principles with which they have been indoctrinated and yet, still score it highly, does that not seriously question the ‘rules’ in the first place? A lesson here is to let common sense and emotion prevail. Common sense in the application of a Judges technical knowledge of the mechanics of photography and the only valid rules…the laws and physics of light. Emotion, in the effect that the contents of the image itself has upon the viewer and invokes a positive response. In essence, let go of life rafts that are full of holes and take the plunge into the unknown in your evaluations.

Above all, the Chairman is totally responsible for the behaviour of the Judges and the effective management of his or her panel. He must be prepared to show discipline and authority if any judge ‘steps out of line’ and only intervene in the process if it is evident that there are prejudicial elements at work.

It is a harsh fact that in the history of Judging there has undoubtedly been evidence of ‘cheating’. Often this is manifested in the conspiracy of one or two Judges who are determined to pervert the natural course. Again, it is the Chairman’s responsibility to be the Policeman and if necessary, Judge, Jury and Executioner by removing any offending Judge who has demonstrated clear evidence of corruption.

In the ‘Mechanics’ section I briefly referred to the advent of ‘Digital Judging’ either by projection or on individual monitors. This in itself presents both the Chairman and Jurors with a whole raft of new problems. The IT backup is essential to make this work. Such problems as incorrect screen resolutions, mismatched proportions or simply files submitted at the incorrect size, add to our problems.

It is essential that the Chairman ensures that the Judges selected are sufficiently versed digitally not to waste time with pointless discussion on some of the issues previously mentioned. It is a hard fact that there will be significant differences in contrast and brightness, let alone colour, on a projected image. And although recent years have seen massive improvements in digital projection technology, it still cannot match a physical print. Therefore, Jurors must be capable of making ‘appropriate’ allowances within clear tolerances, when scoring projected images.


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