July 17, 2013 at 7:41 pm #11443
I just have to vent. I enter photos in the county fair open class every year for fun, and for some cash. We’ve had bad judges in the past, but last year the judge was more qualified and he gave a pretty fair evaluation. So I was excited to enter again, because I take photos of things all year (completely besides any professional work I do) and I knew I had some good and creative shots.
I recognized the judge this year as a lady we had about two years ago and I remember that being a bad year. Boy I was right. Awards are given to 1st-4th place entries for each category. For instance, categories are things such as “4 color photos of summer,” Two 5×7 color portraits,” “4 color photos of related subjects,” “One 8×10 color farm scene,” “4 black and white still life photos,” “Photograph created using photo editing software,” etc. and the judge lays all the entries on the table and picks the place for the top four. Some categories have a dozen or more entries, and some have only 2 or 3. These are only adults who enter, as the youth enter in the 4-H photography program. I sat in the front row so I could see the entries as she laid them out.
Most of her first place picks were because “This is a really nice photo.” There were a few pictures of kids that I would never consider to be portraits that she picked over actual portraits, on the basis of “These little girls are smiling nice. It looks like they are having fun.” The only photographic element she mentioned (and over-mentioned) was “Nice use of filling the frame here.” One lady who I know was sitting next to me and we were having our discussions after she was choosing. She asked the judge about one of her decisions and it was met with a blank stare and “I just really like this photo.” One of the categories was “2 5×7 color photos of related subjects.” She picked her top 3, and then said that none of the other 8 or so entries were of high enough quality to even make a 4th place! Mine was in that pile- I had two photos of two different abandoned buildings, with sharp focus, perfect exposure, and engaging composition. The photos were taken at different times and with a lot of effort to get the shot. Her first and second place picks? Each an entry of a flower in someone’s garden, shot straight-on, and one of the persons’ photos clearly had the white siding of their house in the background. I finally piped up and said “Wait, how do none of those other entries there make it even to a 4th place?” and so she want to look at them again. She picked up each individually and tried to find something wrong with them. She pretty much skipped any explanation when she got to my entry. I said “Wait, what is wrong with that one?” and she said “Well, actually nothing really.” And then she picked one for 4th place, and it was a set of two photos of kids walking in someone’s backyard. One photo was from far away of two boys walking away. The other was a closer photo of the same two boys walking toward the person. BOTH the boys were extremely underexposed, and both had distracting junk in the background. I said “Well why did you pick that one? The subjects are completely underexposed!” She replied, “Well sometimes it’s the viewer’s personal preference. And I’m still picking this one.” I don’t remember if it was that time or another time I said “As a judge you should be picking the entries based on photographic quality- things such as exposure, composition, using the rule of thirds, sharp focus on the subject…” and she mumbled “uhh, um, hmmm” to that. I think some of the others there were happy I said something. Then later she got to the category of “4 black and white photos of related subjects” and there were only 3 entries. She picked the first place to be four photos of the SAME ferris wheel, shot from four slightly different angles. My entry got a second, and was actually four different subjects that were all related. I said “This category is for four related subjects, not four of the same subject.” Oops, the lady behind me said “They are, they’re different angles.” That lady, mind you, is the laziest “photographer” who enters year after year in the fair. She takes the same photos and enters them in multiple categories as long as they fit. She goes into her backyard and takes pictures of flowers in her garden. She takes pictures of her kids in her living room and calls them portraits. I don’t even know what she gets out of entering in the fair.
Now keep in mind, I am a perfectionist, and the photos I entered all were in focus, exposed properly, illustrated good composition, and showed definite creativity and in many cases a lot of effort to get the shot. I shoot throughout the year and close to fair time I start to weed through my images and pick the best ones. Lost of the entries (not all of course) were simply snapshots taken with a point and shoot with the flash. Now I also know I didn’t deserve a 1st place in all the categories I entered or anything, but I sure as hell did in a lot and a 2nd place at least in others.
Even the two supervisors (whom I’ve known for a few years) told me today that when they saw the fair board hired her, they were mad, due to experiences with her in the past. Her credentials were that she took a couple of photography workshops and she’s been taking pictures since she was a teenager (she’s in her 70s). Well, then why did the only terminology she use be “fuzzy” (I think she was referring to out of focus) and “filling the frame?” Myself and a few others there agree that we do this for fun. But all we ask is that the judging is fair.
People were telling me I should be a judge. I have my judge’s license but have never used it. I will be applying to judge next year and not entering. I really want to up the ante to weed out those grandma-togs taking “portraits” of their grandkids in their living room.July 17, 2013 at 9:28 pm #11444dont.careParticipant
I’d suggest you look into entering contest more suited to your particular skill-level. Better yet, if you think your work is worthy–I’d suggest you submitting your work to a gallery.. If it’s accepted–your entered. If it sells–you win. Not to mention, you begin to build your name and reputation.July 18, 2013 at 6:01 am #11445Worst Case ScenarioParticipant
errrrr… what did you expect? If the average person knew a good pic from a bad one this site won’t exist! Sounds like it’s all a bit to serious. We have village fetes though I’ve never bothered entering. My best mate is a judge for his village, he judges home brew wine and cakes. Jammy bastard just gets drunk and eats cake! No idea how he got the gig, he’s an electrician!
Enter a proper contest if you want a proper judge.July 18, 2013 at 11:51 am #11451JCFindleyParticipant
That sounds like a great contest. ( sarcasm since this is online and hard to tell by reading.)
For the most part, I quit entering contests long ago with any expectation of winning. They are either popularity contests if they are open to public voting or you are completely at the the mercy of the tastes of the jury, or single judge in this case. I do enter some contests simply for exposure and to get seen. When it comes down to it, friends and family will outright lie or at least have a biased view. Contest juries, judges and art critics have inherent biases and tastes. Visa and Mastercard do tend to speak the truth though or at least a much louder truth as far as I am concerned.
Personally, I can go either way on galleries. Because they tend to have between 40 and 60 percent commission you have to have a really high markup on your work. That can be fine in the right market but you have to be careful simply because it is a large monetary outlay on the artists part for photographers. A painter has the painting but a photographer has to print it out in a format that the gallery accepts and will sell. As we all know, even without a markup large framed prints are not cheap. (Or other wall ready formats if the gallery accepts formats other than standard black frame with white/black matting) I still show in galleries from time to time but only if I have a pretty good idea I will sell.July 18, 2013 at 12:26 pm #11453
I’m really sorry that happened to you, BEG.
I think you should absolutely judge, and in doing so, encourage local up-and-comers and amateurs to enter. That will definitely help with raising the bar and you can offer some fantastic insight to people that have an honest passion for it.
Based on how you’ve reached out to fauxtogs featured on this site and other newbies as well, I get the impression that you honestly want people to grow and improve – and this is a fantastic opportunity to do so! Not only will it be a unique teaching opportunity, but networking as well.
I’ve never entered a contest myself. I’ve always thought about it but have never really taken the leap, plus I’m not really sure how to find them.July 18, 2013 at 4:43 pm #11455nesgranParticipant
Two things, I still don’t understand why you as a professional photographer enter into a competition for amateurs? Do you get a kick out of winning? Second, a shot doesn’t have to be technically perfect for it to be good or important. Let me point you to the great late Robert Capa, here are links to two of his most famous photographs, neither or which are brilliant technically: http://mediastore2.magnumphotos.com/CoreXDoc/MAG/Media/Home1/b/9/b/2/PAR115311.jpg and http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSpUR9TYqoD4QwRgBBZW5eck43tBd4usPgoctKCRBBPsjD3ZtTx . Maybe your derelict buildings didn’t do it for her, maybe she is a twat but so what? Enter into some more suitable competitions.
Unrelated but I’m still kicking myself I missed the Capa exhibition here in London a couple of weeks ago.July 18, 2013 at 5:56 pm #11457
Most places won’t allow you to enter if it’s your actual career. She has explained before that it’s not her core income earner and thus she fits more into a “semi-pro” category. She has told us multiple times that it’s a side job and that she’s entering casually. I’d be pretty upset about it too, honestly.
A lot of “Oh that’s nice” work that goes into some fair entries here every year aren’t even that stirring to people… and yet they still win.July 18, 2013 at 6:34 pm #11458nesgranParticipant
That is just splitting hairs, she fits into the pro category just like all the fauxes on the virtue of money changing hands for the service of photography. Nevermind she is actually a good photographer but that is beside the point. It is something to shrug the shoulders about, not rant on the internet.July 18, 2013 at 6:44 pm #11459
@Nesgran, I don’t get “a kick” out of winning. I certainly don’t feel entitled to 1st place in everything I entered, as many times the person who placed ahead of me deserved it. Last year when we had a more competent judge, I did get a lot of firsts, and I felt I deserved those I got. I’m very impartial when it comes to viewing my photography and others’ photography and I can recognize what makes one photo better than another. A huge part is technical ability, but as you mentioned, it isn’t everything. I have also seen photographs with so much emotion that didn’t quite hit the mark technically, but they were so good otherwise you can overlook some of that stuff. One black and white portrait that took first place was a photo of a Native American man with a big white beard and wearing a beaded headband, gazing off into the distance. It was a close-up portrait, and spilled off the edges of the frame. It was composed very nicely and his wrinkles showed a lot of character. The overall photo was a bit underexposed, but it was so intriguing it was permissible. That one totally deserved first place. I got a 2nd in that category.
But what I’m talking here is photos that were REALLY uninteresting, showed severe laziness, and besides those, were poor technically. One of the “fall photo” entries had four photos of just fall trees in someone’s backyard. Nothing interesting to them at all, poorly composed, and poor exposure. Yet that one took first place on the basis of “these are just very nice photos.” Laziness also by seeing too many entries of flowers, shot straight-on, next to a building. One that took first place was totally out of focus as well. Many of the entrants had no variety in their entries, when in the past, they really stressed variety, creativity, and effort. Not “Oh crap, the fair is in a week, I guess I better knock out the last six entries I still haven’t done. Hey kids, stand by the front door and smile, so I can enter these for the portrait category!”
And yes, the rules state that if I make more than 50% of my yearly income from photography I can’t enter. I would call myself a part-time professional photographer. (Some people here hated when I used the term semi-pro! lol). I do portrait photography for hire on the side of my full-time day job (only in the warmer months, and about 1 shoot every two weeks if that). Anything I enter in the fair is all hobby stuff. I never have entered hired work in that. Portraits are of my friends/family. I do like entering because I know I have a talent in photography and it’s a place to display my work that otherwise people might never see. Stuff like still life, nature shots, etc.July 19, 2013 at 5:33 am #11466Worst Case ScenarioParticipant
It is something to shrug the shoulders about, not rant on the internet.
ThisJuly 19, 2013 at 12:13 pm #11469
I disagree. Sometimes it’s nice to just let it out and the internet is a perfectly suitable place to do so. If you don’t like it, just don’t read it. It says in the title it’s a rant. I don’t see what the problem is.July 19, 2013 at 6:11 pm #11476
The title of my thread was “rant” after all… lol. Yeah, sometimes it feels good to vent to people who can empathize with the situation.
I am definitely glad that I could share in the ridiculousness of this with the lady I work with, since we were both there with entries! She’s more of a beginner hobbyist but had a handful of really nice photos. I’ve been teaching her a lot about photography since I started working there and she is loving it.July 23, 2013 at 7:47 pm #11499stefParticipant
Hah. All I can say is get used to it. Judging is difficult, even for experienced photographers. Bad judging is not only inevitable, it’s commonplace.
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