CBRE UPOTY Awards – Chairman’s views

imagesI’d like to share some questions and answers in relation to my participation as Chairman of Judges of the Worldwide CBRE Urban Photographer of the Year Awards or UPOTY for short….




  1. Do you have a favourite photographer?

Not really although who wouldn’t be impressed with artists like Seb Salgado et al. Looking backwards I’ve always admired the simplicity and honesty of Irving Penn.

  1. Why do you like their work?

Salgado as a documentary photographer applies his distinctive processing style adding continuity of presentation while Penn was a commensurate lighting technician who emphasised the mastery of natural, directional light.

  1. What is it you enjoy about the UPOTY competition?

It’s uniquely defined brief that focuses the mind with singularity. Cities at work can be interpreted in so many ways and asks the question – what is work and requires a fundamental difference from observation ‘travel’ photography.

  1. Do you have a favourite camera?

My favourite camera? The one between my ears that enables me to conceptualise, analyse, assess and create. As for the mechanics, give me any camera as it’s just a tool.

  1. Do you have a favourite city? What is it?

I have always loved the ancient cities of this world but M’dina on Malta would be right up there.

  1. Why do you like that city so much.

The history and culture within its high, fortified walls. To me it’s a bastion of culture and not simply an exquisite walled city with centuries of stories to tell.

  1. What have you noticed that has changed in cities in your lifetime?

Overcrowding! As our world continues to overpopulate, as an image maker I feel forced to watch people more than the environments we inhabit.

  1. What do you think has stayed the same in cities during your life?

This is a difficult one. I see so little that has stayed the same in a modern city. Take Dubai for instance. It’s a constant metamorphosis that even in its tender years continues to sweep away the old in favour of the new. That’s why I love our ancient cities where modern architecture has been forced to harmonise wherever possible with the new.


For further information and to enter UPOTY 2015


International Judging and Scoring Systems in Photography – Part 5

PART 5 – The “10 Category Assessment System

6. Lighting… “The use and control of light refers to how dimension, shape and roundness are defined in an image. Whether the light applied to an image is manmade or natural, proper use of it should enhance an image.”

7. Colour Balance… “Supplies harmony to an image. An image, in which the tones work together, effectively supporting the image, can enhance its emotional appeal. Colour balance is not always harmonious and can be used to evoke diverse feelings for effect.”

8.Technical excellence… “Is the print quality of the image itself as it is presented for viewing. Sharpness, exposure, printing, mounting and correct colour all speak for the qualities of the physical print.”

9. Photographic Technique… “Is the approach used to create the image. Printing, lighting, posing, ‘digital negative’ exposure, film choice (If used), digital output to file, paper selection and more are part of the technique applied to an image.”

10. Story Telling & Subject Matter… “Story Telling refers to the image’s ability to evoke imagination. One beautiful thing about art is that each viewer might collect his own message or read her own story in an image. The subject matter should always be appropriate to the story being told in an image.”

My Personal Professional Targets for 2014

I have decided to share my Personal Photographic Targets for 2014 and two years beyond. Having made a number of New Years Resolutions, it seems logical to put some realistic aspirations into place and as a firm believer in Continuous Professional Development, here I go!

  1. PPA (Professional Photographers of America) with whom I serve on their International Committee and having been honoured in 2013 with the ‘Warren Motts Service Award’ for outstanding contribution to the international photography community, the current situation is I still have 15 ‘banked’ Merits after gaining a second bar to my Craftsmans Degree in 2013, of which 4 are Print Merits and 11 service Merits. Now I have asked my good friend and Texas School of Photography Director, Doug Box, to be my ‘Mentor’, I have targeted of a minimum of 4 Print Merits per year for the next three years.
  2. Re-Join the BIPP and undertake to do a BA (Hons) in Photography. I have discussed this at length with BIPP CEO, Chris Harper and Kevin Wilson who will be in the difficult position of mentoring me! I’m signing up for this one at the beginning of February.
  3. I have decided to assist Mike Weeks with the establishment of an assessment system for the Event Photographers Society as they desperately need recognition for the abilities of Event Photographers who conduct their work under extraordinary conditions.
  4. Obtain my Masters in Portrait Photography with MPOC (Master Photographers of Canada) as well as assisting in Mentoring and Judging in their new awards.
  5. Finally in cooperation with Ross MacLennan of Wildhighlander, I will assist with continuing to build the CBRE Urban Photographer of the Year competition into a world leader. Now in its 6th year this award deserves a poll position in the photography community and with my considerable experience its a key goal.

Perhaps ambitious but I believe its important to have goals that drive your personal ambitions and are a source of inspiration to others. Here I go and watch out world!

International Judging and Scoring systems in Photography – Part 3

Welcome to part 3 in my series. I hope you all find the scoring matrix a useful tool…


So what exactly do the scores received relate to? I hope that in the matrix below the terminology may shed light on some of this mystery. This matrix that may be used to gauge the scores you may receive in an image competition but the descriptions and point breaks may vary slightly but nevertheless is pretty accurate worldwide.

Image Competition Judging –  Average Formulae across multiple bodies

0  –  49   Below acceptable ‘Professional’ quality in any area

50 – 59   Very poor but with evidence of some potential

60 – 65   The beginnings of understanding required technique

66 – 69   The absolute basics of technique are understood but largely ignored

70 – 75   Competent in the expectations of professional quality

76 – 79   Well crafted and demonstrating potential

80 – 90   Images of particular distinction

91 – 100  An image of outstanding quality


In many countries a score of 80 points would be the mark at which an actual award is made and may be called a ‘merit’. The achievement of a ‘merit’ may honestly denote the ‘Artist’ as an ‘Award Winning Photographer’ but certainly not below this internationally recognised benchmark. As to what constitutes a score of 80 and above is concerned, that will always be a ‘moveable feast’ dependent on the general overall quality of submissions into any given competition. A skilful and experienced Chairman will always run the previous years winning entries (if available) in front of his current panel of Jurors to ‘warm them up’ to the judging process. It is therefore essential to set the benchmarks as early as possible to ensure a smooth and effective judging.


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.

International Photography Awards

The 3rd season of the HIPA Awards has come to a close and I personally wish all those entrants who have crossed my path in 2013 the very best of luck. I understand that the judging will commence in Dubai on the 11th January when a mostly new team selected by the Emirati’s will roll their sleeves up and work incredibly hard after their internal team have whittled down the entries. Unfortunately this year I am not a part of that process, but well understand the onerous task they face. To those Judges I say ‘Good Luck!’ To HIPA I say ‘Thank You’ for the experience of two years assisting them with their goals, introducing them to key resources in the industry and gifting them with my invaluable experience. I wish my true friends who work tirelessly there towards its goals, every future success.
The CBRE Urban Photographer of the Year Competition closed in the late Autumn of last year and the magnificent books with their ‘signature’ laser cut cover, are winging their way to those featured in the 2013 Awards. I’m proud to have served as Chairman of Judges since its inception and at this point I believe I will continue in that role and work hard to develop and promote UPOTY in its already established position as a World leader in Photo Awards. My huge thanks to CBRE & Ross MacLennan at Wildhighlander for putting their trust in me and recognising that consistency is a key to success. Details of the 2014 Competition will be released in the not too distant future.