A proposal for a new competition

In the previous post I listed the top five reasons why we need a new competition:
5. The scale is too small

4. There is no standard by which images are judged

3. The difference between 79 and 80 is too great

2. The overpowering judge

1. There is no feedback loop

Today I propose a solution.
My suggestions for a new competition are based on a competition we had at our local affiliate the year I was president.

Images were uploaded to a website and judges would make their assessments from the comfort of their own computers on their own time. This eliminates the overpowering judge syndrome (reason #2) and also eliminates the problem of the problem of “judging fatigue” allowing judges to do their work as they wish.

Images were judged on a scale of 0-5 in each of four categories: exposure/color balance, composition, focus/depth-of-field and lighting. There are accepted standards for all these giving the images a standard by which to be judged (reason #4.). Images would also be judged on a scale of 0-20 on the treatment of the subject. This included things like posing and items that do not fall into the previous four categories. Though less objective, there are accepted guidelines in this area. The judge has up to five points that may given for excellence. The judge has a full range of 0-45, much greater than the effective range of today’s system (reason #5).

Judges would go to a special website where they would enter their scores. If a judge could not give an image a perfect score in any of the categories, they had to explain their score. All of this information – the scores and the explanations – were forwarded to the photographer. From every images submitted, the photographer received five critiques complete with comments on how to improve the image and their photography. This completes the feedback loop (reason #1.)

What I found interesting is that judges would pick up on different things. I had one image that scored moderately well, but each judge found something different I could improve on in the image. This competition made me a better photographer and I learned from every image submitted.
A typical result might look like this:

paige jones small
Exposure/Color balance (0-5): 4. Overexposed. Losing details in highlights on skin tone
Composition (0-5) 4: Head nicely positioned in the upper third, road through the middle is distracting.
Focus/DOF (0-5) 5: Good use of  DOF keeping the background soft
Lighting (0-5): 5: Nice lighting pattern. Ratio is good.

Subject treatment (0-20): 12 Nice movement on the lower half of the body. Hands look masculine, turn more sideways. Subject’s right hand appears out of nowhere. Fix the back of the shirt. Fix road in middle of the picture.  Add a vignette.

Final score: 30

The judges said their time commitment was not much more than a traditional judging session and they appreciated being able to do their judging on their own pace and schedule.  The judges also liked the system because they knew their comments would improve the photographer.

But what about merits? Our guild did not issue merits. What I would propose is issuing merits on a curve. The top 40% of the images receive a vote for a merit. It takes a majority of the panel to make the merit. If you have five judges, three of the judges would have to score the image in their top 40%. This way the judge is always focused on creating great feedback and not, “is this a merit image” and we no longer have the problem with cavernous distance between 79 and 80 being too great (reason #3.)

PPA has taken steps to improve the competition experience – digital submissions, live streaming and text notifications to name a few. Now it is time to say goodbye to the days of analog and utilize technology to make our competition something meaningful to all who enter.

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Author: Larry J Foster

Professional Photographer since 1989. Certified in 2008. I received my Master Photographer degree in 2015.

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