Hello all,

We had a good selection of members’ past entries during this season, from both print and PDI, at last week’s meeting. This was an evening where we could get that sometimes hoped for boost or that sometimes unfortunate reaffirmation of our past works marks from a new judge. Where comments and feedback were encouraged and the judge could provide a different insight into what makes an image worthy of getting the best marks.

We were delighted to welcome Jay Charnock, an accomplished photographer in her own right and a respected judge on the SPA circuit. She set out her stall by telling us that she thinks judging is “horrid” but she likes looking at photographs and what better way to be able to see so many different images!

Jay was quick to point out that she does not care for things like “…odd or even numbers…” but prefers to see the mood of the image. Why was it taken? Does it do what the title says? Does it make a personal connection? She also gave many of us some comfort by stating that she has no problems with post-production being “creative” in its use but also warned that by its very nature, there will be some personal preferences in any judges’ comments and marks as it really can’t be helped – you like what you like!

We proceeded through the evening and Jay gave many fascinating insights into how she judges with some of the observations being her own and others reinforcing ones we’ve heard before – going to show that there are certain areas where all judges agree!

In her more conventional judging evenings, Jay said she gives her marks based on peer groups. If she knows the place where the picture was taken, that can be a good thing. In no particular order, here are a selection of Jay’s other thoughts on judging and her own interpretations on how to improve what you present:

  1. Humour in the image will often make a positive impact
  2. When printing, use a small print in a “bigger” mount. This creates a better impact and will make the viewer have to walk up to it to scrutinise it.
  3. As we have heard before, for square prints, put them higher in the mount, if it is not a square one.
  4. Use the mount to enhance your presentation, not detract. Choose the mount colour carefully, especially for monochrome images.
  5. Make sure the mount is cut well.
  6. Print your image in keeping with the subject. think about the impact you want to make – e.g. a more sombre mood will probably be best on matt paper rather than gloss.
  7. It is becoming harder for judges not to suspect some manipulation in the image. Jay suggests that the title can be used to steer the judge, e.g. “Birds in flight, as seen” or event adding “no manipulation” to ensure the message is clear.
  8. Use a title that is suitable for the category the image is being entered for.
  9. Think about the image you enter. Is it right for a competition?
  10. Beware of overdoing post-production. Jay observed that some images had been oversharpened in her view. “too much of something is not always good.”

Jay was honest on many occasions in her judging. She observed that many of the images needed more punch or “ooomphh”. Here, it is important to get the light right and use the background to support the main subject. Another point to bear in mind is to ensure the orientation is right for the image. What is it you wish to show? Even with what you may think is a “landscape” wide image, if the main subject is more upright, crop and use portrait style. The style of the shot can be made too bland with the wrong presentation.

Jay gave an excellent tip for being able to judge the tonality of your image – simply turn it upside down! That way, you are no longer seeing the “correct” view, but simply looking at the image – do the tones in it work together? Is there something that dominates? If so, you can reduce that shade or colour. This works best for monochrome but also is a useful tip for all images. 

Using angles and setting up your shot with the correct depth of field will help create that “best” shot. Depth need not be the same throughout so pick the correct aperture to help maintain your main subject as the focus of the shot. Do you need everything in the photo? Leave out anything that detracts from your aim and try to balance the mood and light for the best ambiance.

There was certainly a lot of good advice and Jay spoke with the humour and confidence born of many years taking wonderful images. It was a pleasure to have her take a look at our “second chance” shots and allow us all to learn from such useful tips.

Finally a special mention to David P for bringing along a wonderful image of one of his granddaughters. It led to some healthy debate about how a portrait shot can be created and gave me the headline for this blog. So, all of us, please make sure that we observe this new rule  – we’ll be keeping a close eye on this next season…or should that be toe?

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