Initial Formulated Sorting Process
As I have always been a technically minded photographer – I naturally start the process with a formulated approach to be fair and consistent.
When scoring submissions I have broken the process into five main categories with a maximum of fifteen points.
1. Intention – 3 points
2. Composition – 3 points
3. Lighting – 3 points
4. Equipment – 2 point
5. Editing – 4 points
You may have noticed that I have placed the least amount of value on your equipment. That is because I believe that great photography is not about the equipment. Do not succumb to lens envy! No one looks back at the photography greats of our past and reflect on what gear they must have been using.
This is the difference between a happy snap recording a scene and a deliberate capture to create an image intended for an audience. Whenever you lift your smartphone to take a photo – take a moment to pause and think about what motivated me to take this photo?
This process provides clarity of what the subject is and the contextual elements in the scene.
Telling a story in your images can assist you to make an emotional connection with the viewer. This can range from the context evoking a universal memory that we all share or something surprising, shocking or telling part of a story through visual cues.
Many photographers place a lot of emphasis on 'getting it right in camera'. This minimizes how much editing you need to undertake after the image is taken. Although you can apply image sharpening in photo editing, there is no turbo button for fixing a blurry image.
Knowing the features of your iPhone or Android camera, apps and accessories extend the capability of your amazing photographic tool.
Mobile editing apps like Snapseed, Adobe Lightroom CC, Pixlr, PicsArt, Retouch, After Focus and Polarr are all available on the App store and Google Play.
As much as I am an advocate for editing every image – I also scrutinise photos for being over-edited. I like photos to have natural colours and realistic lighting with and demonstrated attention to composition.
Photo editing is a personal preference and subject to personal taste and preferences. Wining photos generally have a very clear editing strategy that manipulates my attention around the image – bringing it back to the intention of the image.
Deciding placements and feedback
For each image – I document one or two positive observations that work in the image. If it is the composition – I will provide specifics on what compositional technique, in particular, worked best.
Writing down and articulating considerations is time-consuming, as I am respectful of how much effort goes into submitting a photo to a club photo competition.
I will also provide one or two considerations. These are provided courteously and with the utmost respect – not knowing the photographer, their level of experience and visual literacy. My suggestions are that they are suggestions. Some people will like what I have to say – others will disagree. These comments are in good faith and with the honest intention of sharing my own lessons learned.
These suggestions are around the five stages of a great image, listed above. The most common suggestions are a re-crop to focus more on the subject and editing suggestions to make the intention of the image stand out further.
Camera clubs are a wonderful opportunity to surround yourself with like-minded amateur photography enthusiasts. I have found the many that I have presented and judged to be a supportive, non-judgmental environment for the accelerated learning of visual literacy and getting the most out of your camera. In addition to the monthly photo competition, some organise day outings and special guest presenters.
Many are now supportive of mobile photography and have been open-minded and progressive to include the smartphone camera as a monthly photo category. Just remember, it is not about the equipment – it is about those five stages of a great image....in my subjective opinion!
Need a smartphone photography presenter or monthly photo competition judge?