What Judges Look For Overview
In terms of what judges are looking for, because now you have packaged your prints up, you've got them matted, you've put 'em in a suitcase, you've shipped them off. That's probably one of the hardest parts because you're like, oh, it's not perfect. And I've had prints come back from my framer that are matted and there's a mark on them. I'm like what am I gonna do? I've just paid $45 to have this image matted, I can't send it back for the new print, or I saw something after it was matted that I didn't see before I sent it off to be matted. And that's just one of the parts of the process. When I entered the pink image up there, I had to reprint that image because my original concept was to have it printed on a very, very fine origami paper and it had silk fibers through it. I wanted to have it floating off a background. It was just this idea I had in my head in how I wanted to present that image, and I bought a packet of I think it was 25 sheets of this particular paper, and it was so t...
hin that you could see through it, like a bit like tracing paper, but it had these beautiful silk fibers. Every time I printed it and I looked at it under the lights, one of those silk fibers was somewhere I didn't want it to be. So I went through an entire packet and it just didn't work and I ended up printing that on one of these sort of more platine papers, so you could see all of that detail. And, again, with my dark image up there, I went with the platine again for that because it showed up all the detail in those shadows and it brought those paper airplanes to life, which was beautiful. It added that contrast that I was after. And when it came to printing my little owl image up there, that one there was a tricky one because I really loved the texture of the etching paper, but I ended up going with the baryta for that one. And that was a challenge because I loved both, but in the end, it did really well and scored me a place at WPPI, but that's the thing. Sometimes you kinda have to gamble with that paper choice, thinking that you've chosen the right one, but they might see something that you don't. So you're always learning, always evolving from those experiences. So the first thing that we look for when an image turns around in front of us is impact. Is it gonna make you want to get up out of your chair. Creativity and style, composition, lighting, color balance, technical excellence, storytelling and subject matter. When you are sitting there and you've got roughly three minutes to judge an image, some images can go on for a bit longer, depending on whether they've been challenged or not, but that's a lot to consider for a judge who's got three minutes to look at an image and to give it a score. I'm gonna talk a little bit about scoring ranges in a moment, but these are the things that make you wanna get up out of your chair and look at an image, and create a reaction. So those scoring ranges, and they will change from competition to competition, but this is like a base. I've received a 68; it's not great. It's not a good feeling when you've worked really hard on an image and a judge puts in and you're like are you kidding, really? You get really deflated, to start with, but I can tell you, it stirs a little bit of a fire up inside of you. You don't ever wanna get a 68 again (laughs). And I know a lot of incredible masters of photography who have received scores in that scoring range and it's very humbling, let me tell you. So below professional standard, and when I talked before about those industry standards, this is where you can feel that you are actually meeting those industry standards. You're up there, you know, you're doing well. I read an interesting blog post recently, and a lady entered a competition for the first time and she won a category, she got a gold award. She went home and she said she felt like a fraud because she was undercharging. She didn't value what it was that she was creating. Here she is, receiving an outstanding award, but yet she wasn't charging enough money for it. So it actually, receiving that award, allowed her to go, "You know what, I am actually worth this, "and I can do this, and I will do this." She instantly tripled her prices, and hasn't looked back since, and continues to receive these incredibly high scores. So, when you look at the 70-74, below standard, and then you've got that standard professional practice, that's 75-79. If you get a score within this range, it's not a bad thing. It's really not a bad thing. Everyone wants an award, don't get me wrong. I like taking home awards. But if I get an image scored in that range and I get feedback on it, that's the most invaluable thing I could have received from that competition. That 80, above 80, this is when you hear the crowd clap at a print competition. That's an award. It's pretty hard. This is where we start to set benchmarks within the industry. When we go to judges' meetings, it's like, you know what? We're setting a standard here. What we award is saying what hangs on the wall that's been awarded is saying that this is above standard professional practice. This is a level of excellence that we are setting across the world. So when you receive an 80 or above, that's something to celebrate. It's an incredible achievement. You've made a judge on that judging panel go, "Wooo, there's something here." They really have enjoyed your image, they've seen the technical excellence, and that beautiful print quality. And then you start to go up to 85, 89, excellent. 90, 94 outstanding. And exceptional 95, 99. And then supreme, which is 100. So, I am one of very few people that was lucky enough to receive one of those awards, and that was for the image of my mum that I showed you guys yesterday. So the impact of that image, the print quality, the storytelling nature of it, the detail, all of those things are what allowed that image, and those five judges, to type in that 100 score, which I think I cried for days, and I'm not a crier. But, when you are looking at these scores, you know, anything from here down is mind-blowing. It is hard to go from here back to here (laughs), but that's where I said, that's the learning part of it. It's okay to actually come back to here because then you might be not necessarily taking into consideration all of those other things that you have to factor in to getting those scores.