Perfect Form by Kim Smith

Competitions – with Benefits

Photographers who are serious about competition would do well to develop a strategy.   The first step is to survey the territory.  You can get a quick idea of upcoming Club competitions on our web site by clicking “Competitions” and selecting the “2022-23 Competitions” drop-down. Here you will find a monthly list of all the internal and external competitions available to Club members. 

The next step is to select those competitions you might wish to enter.  Don’t try to enter everything at once.  Be selective, and choose genres you like or feel you are good at.  Assuming you use some sort of image management programme, you might want to create folders for each category, and begin accumulating photos as appropriate in each of those folders. In lightroom you can add tags such as people, or landscape for longer term planning.

Try to get some feedback on prospective entries.  You might participate in “show and tell” forums, such as Novice  or Intermediate/Advanced Image Review, or SIG groups in which members show their work to others and invite comment.  There will be more specific workshops for intermediate and advanced photographers  presented by the Club this year.  Check the calendar and join in, but remember that all judging is subjective.  When I chaired an intermediate level image review a few years ago, the very best discussions arose when the judges disagreed.  Be an active participant in the discussion.

Consider asking members to join you in a small private review group in which 3 or 4 members agree to show each other photos and to provide candid commentary.  This is a place to develop a community for honest feedback. You do not want members who tell you everything is great.

Next, before you enter a contest, make sure you know the theme and scope of the contest, and know the rules for what sort of post-capture manipulation is allowed.  Be especially careful if you choose a contest in which the original raw file must be preserved.  (Most photographers make all  adjustments on a copy.)

Look also at how the contest is run.  VCC has extensive information on its web site for both internal and external competitions.  There are categories for novice, intermediate and advanced members.  The Eastwood competition has both advanced and intermediate/novice categories.  The VCC internal competition judges comment on every photo in the competition.  For the external Eastwood competition, only VCC and Eastwood are eligible to participate.  Some CAPA contests are for BC and the Yukon only, while others are Canada-wide.  If the contest was run last year, look at the results from last year.

It may be that there are both internal and external contests with similar themes.  If you can enter the same photo in both, you might even have results back from one in time to improve it for the next entry.  All is fair, as they say.

Once you have narrowed your selection to a few best photos, don’t forget to do a careful examination of a blown-up view, inch by inch, looking for dust spots, over-sharpening artifacs, blown-out whites, and any other small flaws for which you will lose a point on technical excellence.  If your photo has a subject with eyes, are the eyes in perfect focus?

Enter your photos within the time limits allowed.  Export your chosen photos in a format and size allowed by the contest.  Follow the rules, such as not including your name in the photo name.  Then, when results are made available, read any comments and look to see how your photo compared with others that scored higher and lower.  Try to specify in your own words what those differences are.  Think about how you might have created a different photo, and then go out and shoot it again, if you can.  In fact, it is always useful to create a small group of photos, even before you enter one, and decide which you like the best, and why.

Finally, look at the results in as much detail as is available.  Some contests make all reports available.  VCC internal competition comments are available to all VCC members.  CAPA allows online public display of winning photos, but written contest reports are available to CAPA members only.  Look around for similar contests in which you might enter the same photo, if that is allowed.

Winning ribbons is great, but if you choose to make the whole experience a learning experience, you will get a lot more out of it whether you win or not.  

Perfect Form by Kim Smith

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