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 Judging & Scoring Systems in Photography – Part 1

Over the course of may years, I have been faced with a huge number of questions questions regarding image competitions. If I had a pound for every time someone asked me “Martin, why didn’t this score a Merit?” (A ‘Merit’ is an image scoring 80 points or more in the system of most well known photographic organisations in the World) then I would be an incredibly wealthy man with no aspirations on winning the lottery! But perhaps I can at least go into the criteria and scoring systems as adopted by the majority of the professional and vocational bodies in the world together with reputable worldwide, international and national competitions and shed a little light on what should not be one of the great mysteries of our age. The true aim of this is to enlighten those who aspire to Qualifications and Distinctions or simply want a fighting chance in an image competition!

Thus follows a 12 part series on the science, systems, magic and mystery of International Judging and Scoring Systems in Photography…


So how are images judged? Well this too varies considerably but in those countries who have adopted the numerical scoring system images are ‘judged on the box’, which is to say using five judges who enter scores on a keypad attached to what is essential a big calculator that averages out the scores that are announced by the Chairman of the panel. If there is a significant variance in the average scores by a margin of 10 points or more the machine goes into overdrive, begins flashing and alerts the Chairman of the anomaly. At this point an ‘automatic challenge’ takes place by which the judges are called upon to justify their respective scores. This process is certainly one of the most valuable and entertaining in ‘open judging’ where so much is to be learned by an eager and enthusiastic audience hoping to glean words of wisdom and interpretation from esteemed ‘experts’ that constitute the panel of judges.

Wherever and whenever an electronic system is unavailable then there is an option to score manually, using an Excel Spreadsheet or similar to undertake the calculations. This is quite straightforward.

Some countries are in the process of developing or having already developed systems to function as “Apple iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch applications that basically equate to the old ‘electronic box’ option as originated in the USA.

These are the ‘Mechanics’ of judging and scoring a traditional ‘Print’ Competition, but the world of digital presents many new challenges. In essence, the methods remain the same but the Judges MUST be sufficiently experienced to understand the limitations of digital projection or online assessment on unmatched monitors in multiple locations.*


On Photography 2

“Is a picture really worth a thousand words? What thousand words? A thousand words from a lunatic, or a thousand words from Nietzsche? Actually, Nietzsche was a lunatic, but you see my point. What about a thousand words from a rambler vs. 500 words from Mark Twain? He could say the same thing quicker and with more force than almost any other writer. One thousand words from Ginsberg are not even worth one from Wilde. It’s wild to declare the equivalency of any picture with any army of 1,000 words. Words from a writer like Wordsworth make you appreciate what words are worth. 

Jarod Kintz

Now this is a contentious one! Claims that Nietzsche was a lunatic seems pretty rich and perhaps a little ‘misled’ considering the arrogance of the source and clear elitist position of artists with a pen being eminently superior to those with a camera! I well remember a tutor of mine saying “Art is Art. There is no such thing as bad art. Its just a matter of taste”. To this I add a quote from a friend who when talking about photography and image makers said, “Beauty is in the eye of the cheque book holder”.  The moral of this tale? Well its all a matter of interpretation…

What you see is what you get…Or is it?

As I prepare for this years travels and teaching I’m having a good sort through archives and having a bit of a cathartic clear out. I came across this image shot on a reception desk in a hotel in Thessaloniki during one of the very first programmes I delivered for what is now PWS Greece  (Photo Wedding Stories). My self imposed task was to shoot with the light available to me and ask the viewers to look hard and not simply accept what is on the surface. As a bit of mischief I changed the sign on the counter from ‘Reception’ to ‘Deception’. The moral of this story…Take a little time as attention to detail is what makes a great photographer.

MGD_0663 ret

An Educational Ebook just for you…

I have spent this evening looking back through my archives and have found some previously unreleased content from a few of the courses I have taught in the USA over the last few years. This was a ‘Fusion’ programme of Photography and Video on a DSLR examining the opportunities of this genre. I hope some of you find this useful, productive and an inspiration to experiment.

On Photography 1

“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”

Ansel Adams

As I begin working collaboratively on illustrating a collection of deeply insightful and emotive poetry, I chose this, the first quote on my blog of 2014 to amplify the vital importance of pre-visualisation and absorbing life’s experiences as the aide memoire to imaging.

Martin Grahame-Dunn

A Taste of Things to Come

During 2014 and beyond I will be constantly re-evaluating and refining my training programmes which are delivered  on a Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced basis, covering such subjects as:-

  • Essential Camera Craft (Lighting, Posing, Composition, Camera Control)
  • Natural Light Photography
  • Studio Lighting Techniques with iLux Lighting
  • Off Camera Flash on location
  • Simple Image Enhancement with Adobe Photoshop using plug-ins (Nik Software, onOne Software, Snapheal Pro & Intensify Pro)
  • Chromakey Lighting and production techniques with iLux, Westcott & FX Home’s ‘Photokey 6’ Software
  • Command & Control – The Art of Creative Direction
  • Enhancing your Creativity – A Programme for Masters of Photography
  • Art & Photography, Beyond the Lens  – Another Programme for Masters of Photography

For more information or to use the list as a ‘framework’ for either a One2One or small group day with me, call me on 07854 249710 for an informal chat and together we can take your photography to new heights.