Judging Photos


So, you would like to judge a photo competition (click this link for a definition), perhaps for a local camera club!?   My immediate reaction is: "Great!!, we need more people like you!"
But with judging, like most things in life, there is a  right and a wrong way. If done right, your judging will be seen as fair  to competition participants (even by those getting low scores) and helpful to the club or organization.  If done improperly, it may appear unfair or biased.  You might not get invited back and may even be put on the organization's "black list of bad judges" :-(  !!

This brings to mind an amusing incident at my local camera club's monthly photo competition some 13 years ago.  Color slides were being evaluated by our invited judge for the evening, and a slide appeared showing skeletal remains at the ruins of Pompeii.  Someone piped up with, "That's what we did to our last judge!", and there were howls of audience laughter for the next half minute.  It sure broke the tension of the evening, but I can't remember if the judge's scores went up or down in response!

I have been both  judge and participant at amateur photo competitions over the last 15 years. At my camera club (Delaware County Camera Club), the perennial topic of conversation following our monthly competition has almost always been how great or how lousy a job the judge did.  From this compendium of gripes, complaints, praises, likes and dislikes, I've formed my version of the "ideal" judge.

If you pursue photography as a hobby or profession and know what makes a good photo, then theoretically you are "qualified" to be a judge.
However, it takes more than this to judge well, and not all great photographers make even competent judges.  I have discovered that many of the "additional" qualities needed can be acquired through 1) proper mental preparation prior to judging and 2) an awareness of the pitfalls and excesses to be avoided. 
This humble accumulated wisdom of mine is now summarized in the following list of Commandments for Good Judging. Though some of them may sound obvious, I'm amazed at how many active judges are oblivious to many of these rules!


The Eleven-Fold Path to the  

Zen of Good Photojudging

Click here to start!






Camera club competitions share at least some of the following characteristics:  They are usually held in the evenings, and the invited judge (or panel of judges) often has not seen the images to be judged before arriving.  He/she/they will sit up front commenting on and scoring slides and prints before an audience of club members which includes those participating in the competition.
   Needless to say, such an event can be a harrowing experience to the first-time judge. This website will hopefully help in this regard.  It can also be applied, at least in part, to judging at other types of photo competitions such as exhibitions, salons, and contests held by non-photographic organizations.

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The content, graphics, and animations on this website are 2001-12 by Mark Aksoy. All rights reserved. Created May 24, 2001.  The opinions expressed on this site are those of Mark Aksoy alone and do not represent those of the Delaware County Camera Club or any other organization.

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