International Judging and Scoring Systems in Photography – Part 6


Now follows a more in depth look at the ‘Ten’ criteria, but first I want to take a brief look at what I  have described as ‘combination elements’, ‘power elements’ and finally, ‘technical elements’ that all contribute to the decision making process.

The “POWER” Elements

• Impact

• Composition

• Lighting

The ‘Power’ elements combine strongly to become the greatest influencers on any given score. Judges are historically more likely to be more forgiving of certain technical deficiencies when presented with what they determine to be a powerful image. As an example, an image which has what may be described as a Wow! factor will inevitably contain subject matter that invokes a strong emotional response. When combined with great lighting skill, powerful composition and pleasing aesthetics, images of this type result in very high scores and prompt extremely emotive discussion. The question then often begs, ‘Is it creative?”. In such cases where the judges overwhelmingly decide it is then they are immediately inclined to disregard minor technical deficiencies.

On the other hand, the ‘Power’ factor can be extremely negative. This is often manifested where the subject matter itself is deemed to be either shocking and distasteful, evoking powerful negative emotions and sometimes, repulsion. In this scenario, the judges must be very careful to strongly assess the other essential factors. As an example, a powerful documentary or press image of an atrocity that contains vital and important social narrative must not be underscored due to personal revulsion or taste. The maxim, ‘If it tells an important story and must be seen” must be applied and an appropriate score given. Jurors must remember that it is down to the hosting organisation to set the criteria for entry and not for any judge to criticise where the submitted image has been deemed suitable for entry. In such cases a good Jury Chairman will simply instruct his jurors to simply “Judge what you see!”

Judges will have been selected on their ability to assess what is and is not a great use of lighting technique and should be sufficiently versed with the technical as well as innovative aspects of lighting. In digital assessments, poor lighting technique will become even more obvious due to the increased contrast ratios incurred in digital projection.

Composition is a subject that is endlessly debated and an area where Jurors must be extremely careful not to impose their own values and notional ‘Rules’ when making their assessments. Many of the so called ‘rules’ in photography are simply notions that have been translated, moderated, shaped and moulded to fit photography, which in the course of time and art, is still in its infancy. Essentially, great judges ‘feel’ a composition is right without the need to quantify what is almost a genetic imprint of what we as human beings find pleasing or disturbing. Images that demonstrate a great deal of symmetry and balance induce feelings of peace, calm and equilibrium. While poorly composed images invoke feelings of disorder or chaos that we found both displeasing and disturbing.


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