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Elizabeth_Pokela
03-12-2008, 02:16 AM
I didn't really know where to put this post because there are so many threads on this subject. Due to Ron's and others disaffectation (which I am sad about) at the moment with print comp I wanted to offer some insight from a non-industry perspective in case it makes anyone feel better.

When I was in art school, I went through a lot of critiques since that is the basis, after all, of art school. But all of those, including my grades were essentially completely subjective opinions. Never was there a set of guidelines, like the 12 elements from PPA, provided to those evaluating work. Get a bad grade, get rejected from grad school, whatever, there was *never* any real reason or technical feedback.

No one can truly critique your artistic message or style, but they can evaluate your technique, particularly in photography. We all need to remember that our art is a pretty unique blend of *science* (therefore technique) and *art*, the interpretative part. Other art forms have much more leeway on the tech part because it is much more difficult to evaluate in a non-subjective manner, the technique involved, and therefore whether accomplished or not, in other art forms.

I have been in many juried *art* (as in gallery or award based art world) competitions, and none have provided me the insight that entering print comp, watching judging, and listening to people like Keith who've been around this particular block on more than one level, has provided me.

I say this because I left my experience watching judging, combined with all the reading on this forum, enlightened on many levels. I appreciate that the judges, whether or not I like what they say or whether I agree with them, try *very* hard to come to agreement on appropriate scores. As in scores that elevate the expectations of those of us within the profession. I heard many times, "but if we accept this print, even though we love it, and it has this technical flaw, we are sending a message to the profession that prints with flaws like this can merit".

Of course, I want to win, but I don't want to win with less than the best. And I especially, with my background, know how subjective this process can be. But even so, I feel that PPA has tried very hard to increase the quality of what merits while still fighting for new vision. It may be a naive perspective, but coming from someone to whom the only degree that mattered before learning about PPA was an MFA, it is actually remarkable.

Lest some think that I can say all this 'cause I got a good score, remember that my other 3 didn't score that well and that I am okay with that. In fact I'm thrilled that they didn't fall in the average category. I know so much more now thanks to all of you that my expectations will be higher next time around. But I want to add that at least we get scores and we have the 12 elements to work with. In juried art comps, all you get is an in or out. No why, and no score to compare you to your fellow entrants. Period. Talk about frustrating.

I hope someone out there might look at comp differently. Including you Ron :rolleyes: I know you can get great scores, you just can't take the bad ones personally. Love you guys. And thanks so much for providing me the information and the confidence to forge ahead. You guys are awesome!

Elizabeth

Cheri_MacCallum
03-12-2008, 02:55 AM
I'm so glad you had a good "learning" experience. I come from an art background as well and while a few of the fundamentals (color theory, composition etc) still apply, it's a little different than the non photographic "art" world. I find that artists who have been exposed to more than just one "art form" are more well rounded as artists and have the advantage of pulling from all sides. This reflects in unique creations!

Sandra_Pearce
03-12-2008, 03:02 AM
Elizabeth,

What a touching and heart felt thread on competition. I too have entered juried art shows with no guidelines. I can feel the conviction in your heart and that makes me proud to be on the forum with you. Just wanted to thank you for checking my scores when I know how difficult it can be keeping up with everything.

Sandra

Ron_Jackson
03-12-2008, 03:48 AM
Very nice Elizabeth. I suppose the comments I made came across very negative and for that I apologize. My personal thoughts and comments were not meant as negative as they obviously came across. I too went to school (Brooks) and every assignment was a critique. I love critique.

Let me put what I ment in an analogy. Let's say you have been given a test in your absolute favorite subject. You study hard and prepare for this test. You get the test and there are 100 questions. You go through them very carefully and answer every one of them to the best you can. You turn it in and a few days later you get the test back and you see you have a score of85. That's great news! However, there is nothing marked on the test to tell you what the 15 wrong answers were. You simply don't know. So, should you just be happy about your score or wouldn't you want to know what the wrong answers were so you could improve?

I think that is all I meant by my post. I said, I entered to learn. I do not care a flip about the scores. I am certainly grateful for the scores I got. For a first time out that's not too bad. Yes I joked about the scores but they don't mean that much. What I have to face now, is what can I do with these four images to rework them to make them better? Simple as that. Not getting the feedback is my only issue. That's why I said, I might not enter into competitions I can't attend or request at a cost a judges critque.

Please please please don't read into this that I have an issue with competition. We all have our own reasons for competing. I like being pushed. I like the process but I like it because I am learning to become better at my craft and the only job I have.

Rick_Massarini
03-12-2008, 09:57 AM
Ron,
My take on the critique issus is this...
The sheer number of images that are judged at a regional or national judging would prevent a detailed analysis of each image at the time of judging. If each image was to be thoroughly dissected during the judging, you would need to have at least four or five times the number of panels running in order to complete the judging within the time frame, or else you're looking at a very very long judging - and either version can get very expensive - Multiply two jury chairmen and 6 jurors times 5 and multiply that times their airfare, hotel room cost, and judging fees, then divide that by the number of print cases - and you're looking at some very expensive print case submission fees !!!!!! And that's if you can find enough jurors, judging booths, scoring machines, etc. to run 4 or 5 panels or if you can book that same (smaller) number of judges to stay at your regional for a whole week dissecting a few hundred print cases... At Southwest this year, we ran two panels for two days. At National, we run many more for nearly a week. There are a lot of discussions that take place when jurors are at odds with each others scores, and these discussions is the main educational value of attending the judging. If your criteria for competition is that you need an individual dissection of your work, then the best thing to do is to get a judge aside after the judging is over and get him or her to critique the image (or you could send your prints to national and request a video critique). I really think that if the judges were to dissect every image instead of just the really interesting ones, that the audience would get quickly bored and leave the room after about 25-50 prints went by... Just my opinion...

Mark_Levesque
03-12-2008, 12:13 PM
Let me put what I ment in an analogy. Let's say you have been given a test in your absolute favorite subject. You study hard and prepare for this test. You get the test and there are 100 questions. You go through them very carefully and answer every one of them to the best you can. You turn it in and a few days later you get the test back and you see you have a score of85. That's great news! However, there is nothing marked on the test to tell you what the 15 wrong answers were. You simply don't know. So, should you just be happy about your score or wouldn't you want to know what the wrong answers were so you could improve?
Hehehe. Sounds just like the CPP exam.

Elizabeth_Pokela
03-12-2008, 12:17 PM
Ron: What you talk about with the test analogy covers my other field of study in undergrad and grad school: English and creative writing! Also, very subjective in the grading and at times very frustrating. I had the experience more than once of just that too-low number circled in red at the top of the page. A "why?" to my professors sometimes just got the answer, "I don't know. I just didn't like it." That's why I am not a PhD in English . . . I got tired of the system, even though I still love the subject.

And thanks everyone for the compliments. As my husband says, I sound like I've drunk some PPA kool aid.

Elizabeth

Ron_Jackson
03-12-2008, 02:25 PM
Well my comments regarding what I want just show my ignorance in this process. I have heard for three years that this is a great way to learn and thus my prime motivator for doing so. I learned so much already just preparing for the competition and that was wonderful.

So now I ask all the competition vetrans out there this question. When you got your prints back from a competition, how did you know what to do to improve on the image?

Seriously I was talking with someone a few weeks ago who had gotten a 99 and the question was, "What was it that kept that print from getting 100?"

Like I said, forgive my "greeness" I'm just trying to understand how to make this more educational for me. When I sit here looking at the four images I sent, I am trying to work out in my tiny little brain, what I need to do to make them stronger for Nationals. If I knew what some of the weaker points were, it would certainly help me in my everyday work right? I'm sorry for my message coming across as critical because it's not meant to be critical at all. I am not asking for things to change. I am only trying to understand how to make this work for me. In no way am I saying no to competition. I have said that before.

Cheri_MacCallum
03-12-2008, 02:31 PM
So now I ask all the competition vetrans out there this question. When you got your prints back from a competition, how did you know what to do to improve on the image?

I know it won't help you right now, but when you enter at the PPA level, purchase the critique!!!

If it's a state or regjional judging, of course it's always good to be there because you can ask the judges. At FL there's actually a print critique, where you can request your prints be critiqued.

Ron_Jackson
03-12-2008, 02:50 PM
Cheri that is exactly what I have been saying that I want to do. When you do something for the first time, you don't know how things work like the vetrans do. Nothing against SEPPA, I am really glad I entered and as I said, for a first time, I'm pretty darned pleased with my scores.

Now I have to try and figure out do I want to rework the other three files and send them to Nationals? If I do, then I have to try and figure out what it would take to make them stronger. That is what helps me understand for the next competition and the next time I am doing client work.

Mark_Levesque
03-12-2008, 02:56 PM
Seriously I was talking with someone a few weeks ago who had gotten a 99 and the question was, "What was it that kept that print from getting 100?"
WADR, I think this is the wrong question. This is chasing a number, and an ephemeral one at that. When you get into the stratosphere like that, it is less about the image than it is about the jury (IMO, and I don't know anything about anything). Obviously an image that scores in the high 90s or 100 is a superior image in every way- technically, artistically, etc. It's hitting the seams off the baseball, to borrow an expression. So what is the difference at that point? I think it has a lot to do with the particular jury. We are past the objective part and onto the highly subjective. There may not be any particular flaws in an image that can be addressed at that level. It may simply be the choice of subject matter. Maybe a "perfect" image of a butterfly can only move a particular jury to 97. There is no good answer to "what can I do to make it 100"? Nothing. You've wrung out every last point that's in that image. To me it makes much more sense to be asking that question about images that are barely meriting than those which are 97 and above. At the upper level, you are being richly rewarded by the jury. You should be happy with that fact and not worry about the "missing" points. Another jury might find you to have "only" achieved a 93. I guess what I'm saying is it's all well and good to strive to create the very best images of which you are capable, but getting overly hung up about the numbers once you get to a certain point seems to be a bit of misplaced attention. Rather than worry about what to do about the one 99, about the other three lesser images? KWIM? Sorry for rambling.

Sandra_Pearce
03-12-2008, 02:57 PM
Ron,

I have found that some prints will never merit no matter how much we do to them. They just don't have what the judges are looking for. We get emotionally envolved and can't let go. I have some that are great for clients and great work but do not have the elements needed for competition. The judges want something fresh that jumps out at them. When a new idea comes along from a photographer and merits, the next year you will see tons of the same presented a little differently. It doesn't mean the quality is not there but the judges of course get tired of the same type image and overused names. We have discussed this on the forum.

I got my new loan book and the images that were different kept my attention. The ones I have seen a million times I didn't spend as much time with.

Choosing a competition print is very hard for all of us. We second guess over and over, even after we send them in. Before you choose your competition images and get them ready, you should get advice on picking several that might work. We just don't know. We all are in the dark about what will merit. That is part of the game. Competition is a game. There are rules but there is also appeal. That is the reason for having more than one judge.

Not receiving a merit does not mean an image is not good. It just means the judges did not feel it had what it takes to merit. They have had to bring the level of judging up a notch with digital photography. Everyone has the ability to change an image from not so good to great. It raises the bar for photographers.

I love competition. I am not quick to show emotion but when I saw my scores Sunday I did have tears come to my eyes. I had worked many hours on them and yes was emotionally wrapped up in them. If they had not received merits I feel I had done all I could to prepare them. When you feel you have done your best, sometimes we just have to move on to another image. That one is not going to fly. At my critique in Tampa I was told some of my images were okay but not merit material. I let them go and moved on.

Hope this explains a little about the competition game.

Sandra

Ron_Jackson
03-12-2008, 03:10 PM
Okay. I will leave this alone now. I can't seem to find a way to make it clear what I am saying. I will continue to compete. I said that already. Enough has been said here and I think many think I am still chasing points and that is what I can't seem to get across. Mark the comment with the 99 out of 100 was a chuckle and should have been typed in green because the person who told me that it was said with a chuckle.

Like I said, done with this subject and I have to leave shortly for an out of town assignment.

Keith_A_Howe
03-12-2008, 04:16 PM
II appreciate that the judges, whether or not I like what they say or whether I agree with them, try *very* hard to come to agreement on appropriate scores. As in scores that elevate the expectations of those of us within the profession. I heard many times, "but if we accept this print, even though we love it, and it has this technical flaw, we are sending a message to the profession that prints with flaws like this can merit".

Elizabeth

If I may paraphrase your comments - or say how I take them - what this really means is that you observed the judges as being ethical people who try their hardest to be fair and open minded.

Well all I can say about that is

Thank you Elizabeth, thank you very much.
Keith

Lori_Clapp
03-12-2008, 04:35 PM
Ron, I know you said you have moved on from this conversation, but I just wanted to say that when I enter competition, it is to learn, just like everyone else. But I think it's more to learn how to be better all around. Not just to learn how to make those particular images better, but to make every image I create better. And yes, it may be harder to do that when I don't know what I did wrong. But at the same time, it doesn't help me improve all around if I am only trying to improve on a couple images I have already created. I don't mean for that to sound rude, I'm not very good at getting my point across either.

My point is, after I enter competition (and I'm very new to it), when I go out and shoot, I find myself thinking about the 12 elements, and I know that since I didn't go 4 for 4, I am missing something. It's up to me to figure out what I'm missing - overall. Just thinking about that has helped me improve, I'm sure, because I am more aware of what I need to be aiming for.

Keith, I agree with Elizabeth (what you paraphrased), whether I've liked what the judges say, or agreed with it or not, it has always seemed to be very consistent between judges on the panel. Even is one scored it an 87 and another scored the same print a 69, they had reasons that made sense and that could be argued either way. Sometimes, they even based the highest and lowest score on the exact same issue (like the effects applied). I have never seen a judge score something and not be able to defend it and make sense to the other jurors. He may not be able to convince them to agree, but at least none of them are just throwing out scores!

Hope that makes sense

Todd_Reichman
03-12-2008, 05:49 PM
How about another ignorant opinion. I don't necessarily think that the actual competition is the important part of learning. I would imagine that it has more to do with the critiques and commiserating that you get from mentors and friends who help you get prepared for the competition. The comp just gives you a nice deadline to work towards.

I just sent off my first print case to my regional comp, and since I won't be there to see the judging, I figure that my learning time on that is spent. Nevertheless, I got a ton out of the advice of others before I entered, so I'm happy. I'm more satisfied that I finally got around to competing and gave it my best before giving up and sending it off. At this point, I either merit (not likely) or don't. That's just the recognition part, which I guess is nice, but ultimatlly probably fleeting. Since I won't be there to meet anyone, even that's lost, and I'm still happy to have submitted. Kind of a journey over destination thing, I suppose.

- trr

Jeff_Dachowski
03-12-2008, 06:05 PM
Just to point out something about the judging process. In most cases judges cannot punch the number 100. The highest they can score is 99. I think the jury chair asks them if they want it to go to 100. Keith?


Jeff

Keith_A_Howe
03-12-2008, 06:56 PM
To the very best of my knowledge and memory what actually happens is a judge will challenge, saying they want it to be 100. A normal challenge procedure happens and then after the challenger gets their rebuttal a rescore is called for. If a judge wants it to be 100, they enter a 99 and put their thumb up for the 100. It takes a unanimous vote to get a 100, so even a 99.8 ( 4 judges at 100, one judge at 99)is not enough. All 5 juror have to score it a 100 to get an official 100 score. After a print recieves a 100 score, there is a mandatory break for the judges. This is to make sure the next print up gets a fair shake. I do have a call in to Helen yancy to make sure this is accurate. as soon as I hear from her and have access to internet again ( I am flying today) I will post if anything is different then what I have said here.


insert my cell phone ringing here

What Helen added was that some regions do have score machines that will accept a score of 100. She also said it has to be unanimous as I said. And there can be no bullying ( intimidation) from any juror or jurors to get another juror to go along.

Keith

Lori_Clapp
03-12-2008, 07:18 PM
And there can be no bullying ( intimidation) from any juror or jurors to get another juror to go along.

Keith

Well that takes all the fun out of it!

Michael_Gan
03-12-2008, 07:48 PM
Just a thought, Ron. Do you have a local guild that meets every month? Ours have a print competition in which our judges give critiques from at least one judge for every image. This is our "testing ground" before we send them off to the state and National level. This also gives you the opportunity to see how your images look with all the bright lights.

Oddly enough, your local guild can give you much more education about your images than on the larger scale. That is, if you have enough master photographers (or of that caliber) in your group, otherwise, all bets are off:D

Todd_Reichman
03-12-2008, 07:51 PM
Just a thought, Ron. Do you have a local guild that meets every month? Ours have a print competition in which our judges give critiques from at least one judge for every image. This is our "testing ground" before we send them off to the state and National level. This also gives you the opportunity to see how your images look with all the bright lights.

Oddly enough, your local guild can give you much more education about your images than on the larger scale. That is, if you have enough master photographers (or of that caliber) in your group, otherwise, all bets are off:D

This is a great idea - any APPI representatives interested in this? I think it would really help to elevate the local market and incentify folks to join up if they were able to get personal critiques. Great opportunity.

- trr

Elizabeth_Pokela
03-13-2008, 01:20 AM
I wish such an option was available here. Maybe it is and I don't know about it. Since I've had trouble keeping up this week, thank you to anyone who said anything nice to me or about me! And yes Keith, I do think the judges work hard to be fair and approach their job with seriousness and diligence. And I so appreciate the effort that is involved in being a judge. Thanks to all who do it.

Elizabeth

Peter_Bauer
03-13-2008, 05:40 AM
Now I have to try and figure out do I want to rework the other three files and send them to Nationals? If I do, then I have to try and figure out what it would take to make them stronger. That is what helps me understand for the next competition and the next time I am doing client work.

Hi Ron,
I wish I could walk you through the stack on one table in my studio right now! I (finally) joined PPA last year, just days before the print competition deadline, made a few calls, did a bit of research, and sent in my cases (both photos and EI). The last competition I had entered prior to last year was 1985. Boy, have things changed! That PPA photo case had matte prints on plain white mount board, with physical mats. Two of them hung. (At IUSA, they looked like dinosaurs in this day of digital step mounts and high gloss.)

I also took with me a case of a dozen images to participate in the "mentor" program at IUSA. I was lucky enough to actually sit down with two different judges to review the prints in my case. We went over each print, discussing not only what could be improved in the actual print, but also how the physical presentation was not what the judges expected to see when the image is presented -- and how that can prevent a judge from "getting the point" of the image in the few seconds they have to view it. I did not pay for the case video critique, and that's the **last** time that I do not shell out the extra cash for that additional feedback. And I **will** continue to participate in the mentor program. (Especially since that is the only chance I get to present more than four images to a judge or judges, a great way to whittle down the choices.)

Next up was State (Indiana for me). I skipped EI to focus on photos and hung four (none over 80). I couldn't watch the judging because I was presenting at the convention that evening and wanted to concentrate on my class. On the Sunday of our convention there was a two hour window during which the judges were available in the exhibition area to discuss the prints. I worked with three different judges and had input from two others, looking not only at my four prints but also at a few about which I had specific questions. Each judge was very frank about how he/she evaluated a specific print. Very enlightening! (For the record, some of the feedback I received at State directly contradicted feedback from IUSA.)

Next up is Regional (M.A.R.C. -- Illinois and Indiana). If UPS does its job, my case arrives there tomorrow before noon. I won't be attending that event (scheduling conflict), so I won't have any direct feedback from the judges. And I will miss that. For the Regional competition I have incorporated some very specific comments from judges at State, but have relied more on the feedback from the mentoring session at IUSA. With luck, and depending on the judges, I hope to have scores that indicate progress.

For me, Ron, attending mentoring and speaking directly with judges (when possible) is very important to developing my competition prints. Whenever possible, I'll be viewing the actual judging at each level, sitting in the room, listening/watching and learning not only from my own prints, but also from those of others. I'll also be attending the judging clinic (PPA) this summer, which I hope will improve not only my approach to competition, but also my results.

Now, let's be real -- it takes not only time but also money to actually attend these events and watch judging and speak direct with judges. For me it makes sense, but for others it may not. At this stage of my career it would be fine to sit back and be known as a "Photoshop guy." But while I sell fine art prints and have gallery shows, I am not comfortable teaching "photography" along side "Photoshop" until such time as I have earned at least one PPA degree. So for me, exhibition merits are a worthwhile investment -- at least for my own comfort level while presenting/teaching. Sure, much of my course at Treehaven this summer will be in part about actually capturing images, but the focus remains on Photoshop. Once I have a PPA degree (or two) maybe I'll actually teach a course that doesn't even mention Photoshop at all. (Anyone up for "Controlling Depth of Field: The Prime Lens in the Age of Zoom"?) But not yet. And not until I take advantage of the resources available to me to continue to improve my competition prints.

Best,
Pete

John_Metcalfe
03-13-2008, 02:54 PM
Elizabeth,

Having somewhat of an artistic background myself, I found your comments to be quite enlightening. I have watched and have been preparing for judges since my first competition. This year, I let go and did it for me. Which included breaking every rule I could along the way! (GOTTA have some fun, right?) My most favorite portion of your comments was when your were discussing the judges and their attempts to come to an agreement. This is a trait is see in few other fields. Our profession can only survive if we keep our willingness to drive our fellow photographers to be all they can be. Supporting, Mentoring and a few wake up calls are very much needed for us to maintain & improve our overall self-worth. Helping us to realize we are not an island, but a tight knit, well rounded, society of professionals for whom all can benefit.

Sermon over, back to normal now...