PDA

View Full Version : Club Photographic Competitions


Dewi9
9th March 2019, 12:39 PM
I am not sure if this has been discussed on here before, or recently, but we had a discussion after a club night (at the pub, naturally) regarding club entries accepted to a Federation Competition.

The discussion revolved around ' Do entries get accepted because of their authors expertise with Photoshop (or Lightroom) or purely on content ? '.

I, myself, have managed to get three images accepted in five years (out of 23 images entered in that period) and can confirm the standard required is higher than at our club.

Looking at the image (see link) from a professional photographer I do wonder at how much of it 'is real, as seen' and how much is from 'tweaking', especially as this image is for sale commercially.
https://jansedlacekphotography.smugmug.com/Galleries-/Panoramic-photography/i-sjpPqM7/A

I know on Foto Fair most of the images posted are 'out of camera' images and of a high standard, but would they make the cut these days ?

David

Graham_of_Rainham
9th March 2019, 03:11 PM
If you go back a few years, the RPS stopped accepting HDR & Tone Mapped images as the whole "Larger that Life" look was getting out of hand and at minimum cliché...

I judge a lot of competitions within the EAF and I am often commenting that images are over vibrant/saturated and look like they are produced for commercial advertising of an idealistic view of things.

Sometime however, an image will be deliberately "over produced" for effect and it can work well (even score high).

Personally I prefer natural looking pictures or really "different" images that push to and even beyond the expected limits. We used to colour wash prints in the old darkroom days and even applied graduated tints, so it's not new.

I tend to keep in mind the words of David Bailey: Photoshop can make a bad picture look average, and make a good picture look the same...

*chr

shenstone
9th March 2019, 03:42 PM
I am not in any camera clubs, but would say I would not care what had been done to a picture as long as it was within the specific competition rules - it's the end images that counts

if someone has the skills to make more of an average picture, or conversely has the thinking that they know how to do it, but don't that is part of the skillset, just as selecting the right type of film, the right type of paper and having the right skills was all part of getting to the final image on film

Regards
Andy

sapper
11th March 2019, 10:46 AM
It is the image that counts, not how it is done.
Speaking to a KCPA judge sometime ago he commented on how most of the images accepted for their exhibition were over worked in PP. My acceptances in the KCPA and EAF had very little PP done on them. But that was some time ago.

pdk42
11th March 2019, 11:58 AM
How the final image is produced should not matter. If an image is overdone in PP, then it won't get the votes/ marks/ points. Simple! If making an exceptional image means learning how to PP properly, then you know what to do :). It's all part of the skill of being a photographer in 2019.

Keith-369
11th March 2019, 04:38 PM
Personally, I do not like it when someone takes, for instance, the sky of one picture (or even off the internet or a magazine giveaway) and merges it with a different foreground or subject matter to give a totally different picture. I've seen many pictures which are manipulations done like this and even if they are spectacular to look at, they are just not 'real' pictures, IMHO.

pdk42
11th March 2019, 06:14 PM
Personally, I do not like it when someone takes, for instance, the sky of one picture (or even off the internet or a magazine giveaway) and merges it with a different foreground or subject matter to give a totally different picture. I've seen many pictures which are manipulations done like this and even if they are spectacular to look at, they are just not 'real' pictures, IMHO.

Why should "real" matter?

Keith-369
11th March 2019, 06:33 PM
Why should "real" matter?

As I said, Paul, it's just MHO.

But to me, a 'real' picture is one picture. Not a combination of two or more and definitely not one which has plug in sky/background changes which have been obtained from magazines or the net.

I have no objections at all whether a picture has been sharpened, cropped or otherwise enhanced as long as it remains integrally that one picture, not composites of two or three very different pictures. *chr

shenstone
11th March 2019, 09:38 PM
Personally, I do not like it when someone takes, for instance, the sky of one picture (or even off the internet or a magazine giveaway) and merges it with a different foreground or subject matter to give a totally different picture. I've seen many pictures which are manipulations done like this and even if they are spectacular to look at, they are just not 'real' pictures, IMHO.

That's a perfectly valid opinion.. mind you there is at least one book out there where the cover picture is two of mine. The Author loved this foreground ...

http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/data/500/Craig_Cerrig-gleisiad02.jpg (http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/34690)

but hated the fact the sky was dark and they wanted to portray a nice day as it was a walks book. So they asked if i could take another... hmmm... they know it's a composite on their book I was open about it.

Regards
Andy

pandora
11th March 2019, 10:20 PM
David (Dewi), There are certainly some mouth-watering landscapes under your link, my favourite is the carpet of Bluebells in a forest on a steep hillside.

Graham - to me, photo or art "competitions' are curious notions, I never enter them. Do they attempt to turn photography into some kind of sport? I reached a conclusion some years ago when I accepted an invitation to be the sole judge of an art show. It made me realise just how purely subjective choosing a winner is - changing the judge will change the outcome. So what are "competitions" really about? In my cynical view competitions are a trick of the weak to harness the able; the 'weak' are the sponsors, the 'able' are the participants whose talents and skills are used to boost ratings and revenues.

That said, my view of post-processing is stated below my signature line, I reiterate, the camera kneads the dough, PP bakes the bread. Andy (Shenstone) puts it succinctly, "if someone has the skills to make more of an average picture, or conversely has the thinking that they know how to do it, but don't that is part of the skillset".

At last week's camera club meeting the first competition of the year (I did not enter) was judged remotely by a Melbourne photographer from unsigned EDI (electronic digital images). His recorded assessments were played as we watched on screen a Powerpoint presentation of the entries. To gather some insights into where he was coming from, I took a look at his website that revealed his bias.

Darkroom
11th March 2019, 11:11 PM
As I said, Paul, it's just MHO.

But to me, a 'real' picture is one picture. Not a combination of two or more and definitely not one which has plug in sky/background changes which have been obtained from magazines or the net.

I have no objections at all whether a picture has been sharpened, cropped or otherwise enhanced as long as it remains integrally that one picture, not composites of two or three very different pictures. *chr

I totally agree Keith. Photography has evolved into 2 different but related schools. On the one hand, those that use a camera to take photos which reflect reality, whether improved in PP or not. On the other hand those that use the camera to create a form of art not caring about the original image as seen and only caring about the final artistic creation.

Both schools are closely related and overlap with such things as slow exposures of seascapes, waterfalls and rivers to depict an image with milky frozen water which is far removed from reality, adding better sky and clouds or removing items you hadn't spotted when taking the photo. Whether you accept these manipulations as being photography or alternately as an art form is up to ones personal preference.

Personally, I would never produce a photo which didn't depict reality in the final image. If I wanted to produce art I would have taken up oil painting, pottery or drawing but no doubt would have failed even more than I do with photography. :)

Both schools have their place but often the art forms such as milky water and other manipulations with the camera or in PP become so overused as to become boring. You only have to look at photos of water in various forms in this forum to see how overused the effect is.

Any photo presented which depicts reality, no matter what the subject is, always has a certain element of interest not always found in a manipulated artistic photo devoid of reality.

I know most here will not agree and this has been discussed previously but it is all down to personal preference and opinion. No doubt both schools will continue to develop and flourish despite any opinions to the contrary.


Darkroom

pdk42
11th March 2019, 11:22 PM
Your point about long exposure water shots being perhaps overdone and boring is well made, but the idea that a frozen 1/125s of time is any better "reality" than a long exposure really can't be justified from a philosophical perspective.

We perceive the world not as a sequence of still images but as a moving continuum that embeds time into our perception of reality. I don't know about you, but when I stand on a pier looking at a seascape I don't imagine it in my mind's eye as being lots of waves frozen in time. I see a dynamic and changing canvas. The long exposure interpretation is just as valid and "real" as the frozen 1/125s.

Maybe we should all be shooting short animated GIFs rather than completely still images? They'd be hard to print (Harry Potter notwithstanding), but given that probably 90%+ of still images these days are viewed on screens, probably a totally reasonable thing to do.

Dewi9
12th March 2019, 12:19 PM
Mark (Pandora) - I picked the image off Jans' website as an example. Jan has taken many pictures of the area I was 'brunged up' (from age of 5 - 22). I quite like his images taken by drone, showing a different viewpoint.

Comments so far have been interesting, given the broad spectrum discussed. I do use Photoshop to a small degree, especially for removing bits on the edges of images I have missed, such as half a person, when I do not want to crop things.

At our club there is always a mix of 'straight', 'composite' and 'creative' images in competitions and the judges often have difficulty sorting them out. Some even state they 'do not understand' what the author was trying to say (in the image, all pictures have to tell a story these days).

As technology has evolved we have had to broaden entries to our club competitions such that 'any image capture device' can be used - including 'phones, drones, scanners and even cameras. What we will have to include in the future remains moot, only time will tell.

As Paul (pdk42) says, perhaps future competitions will take the form of a series of film clips (say 5 seconds max each). Who knows ? Judges will still have their own perferences, just like ourselves.

David

DerekW
12th March 2019, 12:30 PM
Jans images remind me of the images printed onto aluminium sheets and offered for sale in "Art Markets" in New Mexico (and perhaps elsewhere)

To me they are so larger than life that the are meant for busy corridors in public buildings.

However they are quite impressive

RobEW
12th March 2019, 01:19 PM
An interesting discussion.

For me, the point of photography is that the images are grounded in reality; they are representations (or "captures") of something the eye has seen. That's what distinguishes it from e.g. painting, in which the artist may be inspired by prior visual stimuli but is completely free to compose at will, starting with a blank canvas. This applies whether the canvas is literally canvas painted with a brush, or it is a work of computer graphics. Working from a blank canvass and no limits except the artist's imagination is very different from the photographic image taken from a reality as seen by the eye, and captured within the constraints of a camera.

When I've seen some heavily "post processed" images in competitions, I've sometimes wondered why they bothered with a camera at all. The same image could have been created without one, purely using computer graphics, which leads to a blurring between the painter and the photographer. (Does anyone think it could it be called photography if no camera was involved?) What will be the impact of post-processing on the notion of photography as "evidence" in courts, or photo-journalism to influence people, or photos as historical records, if we lose the representative aspect of the craft?

Photo club competitions are odd. I heard one judge criticise a photo of part of St Pancras railway station as being not as symmetrical as it should be, and suggesting the photographer ditch the right hand half of the image and replace it with a Photoshop mirror image of the left hand half. To me, that would be more symmetrical but - more importantly - it would no longer be St Pancras station. I heard another judge comment that a shot would be much more visually balanced if the creator could put a moon in the sky at a particular spot, and I remember thinking that it might be even better balanced pictorially if they could put three moons there in a curve with slightly decreasing sizes. It might be a nicer image in some sense but it would no longer make sense as a photo. (Maybe someone like William Blake might have painted such an astronomically impossible image of course ...)

Sometimes feminists have commented quite sharply on the social impacts of having too many representations of certain female forms, and the way this can lead women with different shapes and complexions to feel inferior and even get into unhealthy dieting, eating disorders, depression, and unnecessary cosmetic surgery etc. Post processing software does sometimes encourage photographers to manipulate images to make a (usually female) model's complexion featureless and to slim her waist and emphasise her bust.

Having said all that, I've sometimes seen photos which are representative and evocative of e.g. a streetscape, but have also used very significant post processing to deliberately and overtly distort and embellish the image in a quite beautiful way.

I guess this is really largely about genre. And also about overt rather than covert modification.

Jim Ford
12th March 2019, 04:28 PM
An interesting discussion.

For me, the point of photography is that the images are grounded in reality; they are representations (or "captures") of something the eye has seen.

The above is my main objection to simply rendering an image in B&W - because you can!

Jim

pandora
12th March 2019, 07:22 PM
Hey - photography is art and art is all about self expression, ain't it? *shrug

If you agree with that statement, then there can be no "rules" other than those silently imposed in the minds of pernickety viewers who reject anything that conflicts with their own bias..

Crazy Dave
12th March 2019, 08:29 PM
For me, the problem with camera club competitions lies not in the post processing or other methods applied but in their value. I have to say that overall, membership of my club has been very valuable and at the beginning, I truly believed that the majority of judges knew what they were talking about. Twelve years later, I realise that very few have any grounding in the history of photography or knowledge of the work of eminent, skilled photographers, past or present. I see nearly every week that creativity and innovation is trounced in favour of technical criteria because the majority of judges simply just don’t get it.

It appears to be a universal issue of long standing as this link to a US camera club’s web site demonstrates: http://n4c.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/N4C-judges-manual.pdf
Minor White who knew a thing or two about teaching photography wrote many years ago that a primary requisite for approaching a critique of a photograph is to start with objectivity, absolutely right. This is in complete contrast to what many photographers believe, shrugging their shoulders and saying “well, it’s all subjective isn’t it”. Sadly, usually it is but that’s not the way it should be.

I’m now in the firm belief that many of the pronouncements made during club competitions are harmful to many new photographers who inadvertently follow a narrow, stereotypical and conventional approach to their hobby/art/passion.

Please excuse the rant (it could be much longer) but this is an issue that I feel very strongly about.

David

Keith-369
12th March 2019, 08:38 PM
Hey - photography is art and art is all about self expression, ain't it? *shrug

If you agree with that statement, then there can be no "rules" other than those silently imposed in the minds of pernickety viewers who reject anything that conflicts with their own bias..

I state again .... IMHO.

I agree .... as long as the picture remains that one picture you can do whatever you want with it, overdo the colour, sharpen it to heck, make it B&W if that's what floats your boat.

Whatever you do with it should remain that one picture. No one has to like what anyone has done to their picture but I do believe that it should remain one picture.

I received a magazine (FOC because of a deal) which was, this month giving away 'Sky Library Vol1' which states ' Replace dull and lifeless skies with our unique collection of 25 hi-res images. Turn to pg ... for a full step by step tutorial'.

How many people are going to say ' Wow' and use these 'skies' then put that pic up to Flickr or even in a competition claiming it's their own work. It might be their work on the computer but it certainly isn't their work photographically.

*chr

Darkroom
12th March 2019, 08:55 PM
Hey - photography is art and art is all about self expression, ain't it? *shrug

If you agree with that statement, then there can be no "rules" other than those silently imposed in the minds of pernickety viewers who reject anything that conflicts with their own bias..

Surely if photography is art then it's perfectly legitimate to possess a bias that dictates what each individual who views a photo likes, dislikes, rejects or accepts. Does this make them pernickety or simply normal human beings with an opinion ? :)


Darkroom

Jim Ford
12th March 2019, 09:06 PM
Very many years ago I won an open photography competition at the large factory where I worked. The competition was judged by a Kodak judge. To this day I have no idea why my photo won instead of the many other ones I considered as being far better.

Since then I've never entered any other competitions, as I feel that I'm unable the tell which of my photographs would be worth entering!

Jim

Gate Keeper
16th March 2019, 06:18 AM
Hey - photography is art and art is all about self expression, ain't it? *shrug

If you agree with that statement, then there can be no "rules" other than those silently imposed in the minds of pernickety viewers who reject anything that conflicts with their own bias..

For sure, although I would have left out the word pernickety. The purists would not like some of my photos where I have replaced the sky through layering or brushing in from a choice of over 100 different skies and sunset.....sacrilege!! For 2 months of the year, the sun does not break through here and the skies are dull and uninteresting. What am I to do? Purists need not answer.... I tease :)

RobEW
16th March 2019, 07:44 AM
Hey - photography is art and art is all about self expression, ain't it? *shrug

If you agree with that statement, then there can be no "rules" other than those silently imposed in the minds of pernickety viewers who reject anything that conflicts with their own bias..

I'd say that photography is a *particular* art form. If someone composes a piano sonata or creates a sophisticated stone circle on a mountainside or writes a novel or choreographs a ballet, they may all be creating good works of art but I wouldn't call those artefacts photographs and wouldn't expect them to win a photography competition. And equally I'd feel misled if I paid to go to a ballet and on arrival found out it was a gallery pf photographs. It's fine for an artistic genre to have some definition, or "rules" as you put it.

drmarkf
16th March 2019, 10:50 PM
...
We perceive the world not as a sequence of still images but as a moving continuum that embeds time into our perception of reality. I don't know about you, but when I stand on a pier looking at a seascape I don't imagine it in my mind's eye as being lots of waves frozen in time. I see a dynamic and changing canvas. The long exposure interpretation is just as valid and "real" as the frozen 1/125s.
...

That’s the impression our brain creates, Paul, but actually we are functionally blind when our eyes are moving and the impression of smooth movement is entirely made up. It’s called saccadic masking.

It’s been known for a long time, based on some fairly simple experiments, the first of which were done over a hundred years ago.

Those who don’t mind references can look here, while the others will have to take my word for it :D
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saccadic_masking

Grumpy Hec
17th March 2019, 09:08 AM
I have just stumbled across this discussion during one of my increasingly rare visits to the forum and find it fascinating and, in common with others it seems, one I have distinct views on.

Firstly I think there are two distinct threads here. One is club/federation/PAGB competitions and the other is post processing. Although they are clearly linked I personally consider them as two discussions for the large part.

For club competitions I stopped doing them after the first round of both our internal colour and mono competitions last season. The reason was that the comments of the judge suddenly made me realise that I was taking images for the judge and not for me. I had stopped enjoying photography as much as I used to because of this but hadn't acknowledged it to myself. On one mono image which I did create for myself the judge said there was too much dark area when in fact that was important to the overall feeling of the image and quite deliberate on my part. Many, not all of course, judges go down a mental tick list where, for example, detail throughout is important and ignore the significance of that, and other elements, in the overall image. The best judges, in my personal opinion, look at the overall image first and then comment on the various aspects in the context of the overall image. As a result of the judging approach I think you can frequently tell a club image from afar because it conforms to the "standard" look and feel. Clearly many of the images are belters but few images which push the boundaries score well as has been commented on elsewhere in this thread. I say all of this having been successful in both internal and external competitions and exhibitions over the years.

So at the moment I do not enter club competitions but do participate in RPS activities which tend not to be quite so formulaic in my view.

As to post processing I say why not? Manipulating has been going on pretty much since the birth of photography by whatever means the technology of the day allowed. As long as it's your own work, not using someone elses sky has has been rightly mentioned elsewhere for example, then anything goes in my view. It is a skill in it's own right and it is notoriously easy to make the image worse by overdoing it in some way. It's the final image which counts and the idea that it's not photography is not one I can personally subscribe to.

One of the strengths of photography is that can cover so many genres/techniques/aims and they are all valid and we should not criticise one over another. Some like to work with pin hole lenses, some like 5*4 film some like in camera JPEG. All equally valid. Some like documentary which should, I would suggest by it's very nature, be as shot except for perhaps sharpening/dodging/burning as it seeks to represent what is there. Equally if you want to produce something which is a combination of multiple images, each of which should be your own if you seek to compete or exhibit, why not?

Each to their own and let's celebrate the huge divergency of images produced by a variety of methods. None of them are right or wrong but we will, of course, have our individual preferences. If we don't care for an image then we don't need to look at it but enjoy ones we do like for whatever reason.


I could go on, and on, and on but I'll cease here lest you pass out.

Hec

MJ224
17th March 2019, 09:43 AM
Mark (Pandora) - I picked the image off Jans' website as an example. Jan has taken many pictures of the area I was 'brunged up' (from age of 5 - 22). I quite like his images taken by drone, showing a different viewpoint.

Comments so far have been interesting, given the broad spectrum discussed. I do use Photoshop to a small degree, especially for removing bits on the edges of images I have missed, such as half a person, when I do not want to crop things.

At our club there is always a mix of 'straight', 'composite' and 'creative' images in competitions and the judges often have difficulty sorting them out. Some even state they 'do not understand' what the author was trying to say (in the image, all pictures have to tell a story these days).

As technology has evolved we have had to broaden entries to our club competitions such that 'any image capture device' can be used - including 'phones, drones, scanners and even cameras. What we will have to include in the future remains moot, only time will tell.

As Paul (pdk42) says, perhaps future competitions will take the form of a series of film clips (say 5 seconds max each). Who knows ? Judges will still have their own perferences, just like ourselves.

David

Just a pedantic point, Drones are cameras on wings.

Ref judges, I think we have a steal here on the forum, with 25 judges on the last Challenge. That kind of reduces the "judges" preferences and may well deliver a better result.

On the theme of PP'd photos, its all a matter of, may I say it, judgement. I remember my Dad being banned from the Old Peoples Village photo comp because he had enhanced his digital photo entry, and all the other old gits just submitted photo prints from film. They eventually came round to his way of thinking...……..bless him...……..*chr

drmarkf
17th March 2019, 12:00 PM
I still do club competitions, although theres a group of us who sit on the back row and deliberately enter more ‘creative’ stuff, which tends to bomb, but occasionally meets a judge’s fancy. A bit of sniggering results, which is childish but fun.
Often we try to catch the style of a famous photographer of the past, and for sure VERY few judges get the allusions (although I did get a high score for my ‘homage’ to Moriyama the other month, which was recognised).

I’d still say comps were a major component of the benefits belonging to a good club can bring to your photography, mainly the technical aspects. How can you break the rules without demonstrating you’re capable of following them when you wish? Some people aren’t naturally clubbable of course, and others are demonstrably incapable of receiving or giving constructive criticism.

RobEW
17th March 2019, 11:00 PM
...

I’d still say comps were a major component of the benefits belonging to a good club can bring to your photography, mainly the technical aspects. How can you break the rules without demonstrating you’re capable of following them when you wish? Some people aren’t naturally clubbable of course, and others are demonstrably incapable of receiving or giving constructive criticism.

some people may be perfectly clubbable but not at all competitive, and maybe even find the notion of scoring and comparing quite different images as unpleasant.

drmarkf
18th March 2019, 05:04 AM
some people may be perfectly clubbable but not at all competitive, and maybe even find the notion of scoring and comparing quite different images as unpleasant.

Sure, in which case those people won’t enter club competitions and some will conclude clubs aren’t for them. I’d suggest they may still find camera clubs worth joining: we’ve got plenty of members who don’t enter them and it probably helps that we’re a big club with a lot of different things going on.

I hear that a lot of clubs are dominated by an exclusive clique and I imagine that would be pretty off putting, from competitions and everything else.