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Ben_Leavitt
05-13-2008, 02:45 AM
I've heard of several "unwritten rules" of print competition.
For example, having the key light on the camera left side to symbolize looking to the future...
or only having one catch light in the eyes,
and where that catch light needs to be.

Can anyone share some of the "unwritten rules" they may have learned?

I'm also wondering why people offset their images to one side within their 16X20s?
Wouldn't it be better to always center them?

Anne_LeBouton
05-13-2008, 02:59 AM
A centered compostition doesn't always have the most impact. Sometimes offset works better.

One unwritten rule I've heard is you don't want to have your image follow one of a kid or a puppy (unless it's a cuter kid or puppy). We had a local meeting today and sure enough, the one judge kept scoring the puppy pictures higher until the others would challenge and point out the problems. As he put it, he was letting his heart influence the scoring.

Cheri_MacCallum
05-13-2008, 03:14 AM
I've heard of several "unwritten rules" of print competition.
For example, having the key light on the camera left side to symbolize looking to the future...
or only having one catch light in the eyes,
and where that catch light needs to be.

I've been competing for 12 years and have never heard these! I always put even more sparkle into the eyes, especially with children.


I'm also wondering why people offset their images to one side within their 16X20s?
Wouldn't it be better to always center them?

Centering the image is "bullseye composition" and usually boring. It does work sometimes depending on the strength of the image. There is a scientific reason to using the "power points" that come from the "thirds" grid. It has to do with how our brain processes visual input. But here, again, some images can handle a more severe composition... it depends on the image.

I don't really think there are unwritten rules, good images are good images and sometimes breaking those same rules makes them good too...again, depends on the image.

Ben_Leavitt
05-13-2008, 03:44 AM
Centering the image is "bullseye composition" and usually boring. It does work sometimes depending on the strength of the image. There is a scientific reason to using the "power points" that come from the "thirds" grid. It has to do with how our brain processes visual input. But here, again, some images can handle a more severe composition... it depends on the image.

So it's basically a way to create more kinetic energy in the frame? I can see why someone would do that, but I've seen it misused several times as well. Is this a common practice?

Debra_Collins
05-13-2008, 03:47 AM
One unwritten rule I learned the expensive way was that you normally don't have the images full bleed. I found that out after I had them printed. Had to send them back and have a rush put on them. I didn't have one done and a judge told me it would have scored higher if I had.

Dave_Cisco
05-13-2008, 04:59 AM
I've heard of several "unwritten rules" of print competition.
For example, having the key light on the camera left side to symbolize looking to the future...
or only having one catch light in the eyes,
and where that catch light needs to be.

Can anyone share some of the "unwritten rules" they may have learned?

I'm also wondering why people offset their images to one side within their 16X20s?
Wouldn't it be better to always center them?

There are no unwritten rules...that's just what some low-scoring photographers blame when, in fact, they didn't read the written rules. It also helps to treat yourself to the fundamentals of Art Appreciation and read about some of the great artists of the last 300 years.

Cheri_MacCallum
05-13-2008, 12:07 PM
So it's basically a way to create more kinetic energy in the frame? I can see why someone would do that, but I've seen it misused several times as well. Is this a common practice?

Here again it depends on the image. Composition is used to create a host of feelings, just like color etc. But, there is a point at which a certain composition won't work with an image.

Keith_A_Howe
05-13-2008, 01:49 PM
One unwritten rule I've heard is you don't want to have your image follow one of a kid or a puppy (unless it's a cuter kid or puppy). We had a local meeting today and sure enough, the one judge kept scoring the puppy pictures higher until the others would challenge and point out the problems. As he put it, he was letting his heart influence the scoring.

I have never come across this situation. In fact in pet photography one of the things we look for is sharpness from the tip of the nose through at least both ears and more depending on the crop and pose of the image. So some may think it is a bit harder. Sure you will have some judges that have a soft spot for specific types of images, but that is why there are 5 active judges, 1 alternate and a Jury Chairman on each panel.


I've been competing for 12 years and have never heard these! I always put even more sparkle into the eyes, especially with children. .

I have do see this quite often when judging. The catch light MUST be representing the actual light direction. When the catch light is on the shadow side of the eye it confuses the viewers mind which lessens the impact of the image. If you are representing Rembrant or Loop lighting the catch light should be at aprox. 10:00 or 2:00 in the eye. 12:00 is for butterfly lighting. 6:00 would be for up lighting which gives a spookie feeling to your subject. I do suggest that you bring out the crescent to add "Sparkle" to the eye. It should be opposite to the main catch light in a crescent moon shape.


Centering the image is "bullseye composition" and usually boring. It does work sometimes depending on the strength of the image. There is a scientific reason to using the "power points" that come from the "thirds" grid. It has to do with how our brain processes visual input. But here, again, some images can handle a more severe composition... it depends on the image.

Well stated!


good images are good images and sometimes breaking those same rules makes them good too...again, depends on the image.

Bingo!


One unwritten rule I learned the expensive way was that you normally don't have the images full bleed. I found that out after I had them printed. Had to send them back and have a rush put on them. I didn't have one done and a judge told me it would have scored higher if I had.

Presentation is one of the Twelve Elements. The treatment of backer color and a stroke or lip color around your image adds a "frameing element" that by the nature of how many prints and how they are hung for the show prevents use of a frame. You can add to the impact of the image with how large the image is and where the image is placed on the the backer board. You as the maker get to decide how you are presenting the image to the jury.


It also helps to treat yourself to the fundamentals of Art Appreciation and read about some of the great artists of the last 300 years.

Excellant suggestion for those new to photography and competition as well as those that have been in the industry for a while as a refresher course.


Here again it depends on the image. Composition is used to create a host of feelings, just like color etc. But, there is a point at which a certain composition won't work with an image.

Composition is a main element in a good image. Cheri stated it well. I would suggest that any one not understanding composition to study it. Do as Dave said above, "treat yourself to the fundamentals of Art Appreciation and read about some of the great artists of the last 300 years".
Keith

John_Metcalfe
05-13-2008, 02:27 PM
Boy this is good! They ought to have a class on this stuff...

dana_nordlund
05-13-2008, 02:41 PM
Boy this is good! They ought to have a class on this stuff...



Hey you knucklehead, aren't you doing that at your studio in August?:D

Mark_Levesque
05-13-2008, 03:17 PM
What a setup. :p

Heather_L._Smith
05-13-2008, 03:36 PM
Do you think John paid Ben to start this thread? :D

John_Metcalfe
05-13-2008, 04:33 PM
Very funny... Ben is on the NICE LIST now (as is Dana), but before he posted I can't say that I knew him.

But I'm sure you wouldn't be interested at all what we have to show...

dana_nordlund
05-13-2008, 04:36 PM
Do you think John paid Ben to start this thread? :D

He's not really that smart or crafty :D

He's more like the professor from Back to the Future, or Jim the Taxi driver :D

John_Metcalfe
05-13-2008, 04:41 PM
He's not really that smart or crafty :D

He's more like the professor from Back to the Future, or Jim the Taxi driver :D


Dana you gave it away? Now a few people might actually show...

Ben_Leavitt
05-13-2008, 05:25 PM
Presentation is one of the Twelve Elements. The treatment of backer color and a stroke or lip color around your image adds a "framing element" that by the nature of how many prints and how they are hung for the show prevents use of a frame.
Wow Keith, are you saying the color of backer comes in to play with your print judging as well?

Is there a URL anyone can post that shows these print standards?
All I've found are the 2008 rules that talk about eligibility, deadlines, etc.

Anne_LeBouton
05-13-2008, 05:29 PM
Keith, they weren't trained judges, just our members who have some experience and/or have Master's degrees. It was just our bimonthly meeting were we enter prints to get an idea of what we could do to improve them.

Todd_Reichman
05-13-2008, 05:33 PM
I've been told that one unwritten rule is that you had better use fairly attractive people in portrait submissions. Don't know if this goes without saying or is true or not.

- trr

Ben_Leavitt
05-13-2008, 05:47 PM
I've been told that one unwritten rule is that you had better use fairly attractive people in portrait submissions. Don't know if this goes without saying or is true or not.
- trr
Hehe, yes, I've definitely seen this one in action. Either really attractive or really full of character (ie. wrinkles, skin texture).

Sandra_Pearce
05-13-2008, 06:09 PM
Ben,

You said it nicely. My husband said your people better either be gorgeous or very ugly for competition. He is right.

Sandra

Heather_L._Smith
05-13-2008, 06:19 PM
Think about our day-to-day shooting.... when we have a beautiful person (or one with a lot of character) in front of our lens, we get more excited because we know those images are going to be awesome (if we do our job right)... and with people not quite so fortunate, we still have the privilege (and responsibility) of making them beautiful, but in a different way, which may not be perfect for competition. Think of the panel of judges - they don't know anything about your subject, they don't know their personality, they don't know if they're nice or mean. All they know is what is 6 feet in front of them on that paper. You have to make the judges FEEL something... no matter what that person looks like. If the judges FEEL something, the image will do well, whether the person is beautiful or ugly.

Like John said... the judges are given an entire seat to sit on, but we only want them to use the edge (ahhh... I love that line! Thanks, John!)

John_Metcalfe
05-13-2008, 06:27 PM
Ben, if you haven't seen them, here is the 12 steps to look at:

http://www.ppa.com/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=559

This is thew first thing to look at. As far as rules written and un-written goes, I've seen just about all of them work and fail. Keith has dispelled most of them, but concentrating on what the judges are looking for and taking away what they can count against you are good places to start.

Ben_Leavitt
05-13-2008, 06:38 PM
Thanks John,

I've definitely seen and studied those.
What I'm looking for is stuff like:

If it's middle or low key, you need a black mat board edge.
Mat board thickness needs to be between X and X mm.
There should be a border around the image instead of full bleed.
Image size should be at least 80 sq. in. (although I think this no longer applies)

I don't want to be marked down for little things like that if my image looks fine by itself.

John_Metcalfe
05-13-2008, 08:29 PM
Thanks John,

I've definitely seen and studied those.
What I'm looking for is stuff like:

If it's middle or low key, you need a black mat board edge.
Mat board thickness needs to be between X and X mm.
There should be a border around the image instead of full bleed.
Image size should be at least 80 sq. in. (although I think this no longer applies)

I don't want to be marked down for little things like that if my image looks fine by itself.

All of which are subjective indeed.

black borders are overrated. showing some detail on the border is often a good idea.

mat board thickness rules:

MOUNTING
1. Print entries must be permanently mounted on standard mount material (e.g., 3x mat board, gator board, ¼” foam or sintra.) No masonite, glass, stretcher or conventional frames are allowed.
2. Images of any shape and size are allowed and must be mounted on
16 x 20 mounting material.
(recommended mounting thickness is 1/8” to 3/8”)
3. No material may be added to the front or back of an entry that may damage another entry.

border or full bleed:
one thing to keep in mind- try to keep your viewer in your image. if you have something running out of the frame, it may be best to have a border.

size:

Exception: PPA Master of Photography Degree holders may submit images of any shape and size on a mount board a minimum of 80 square inches to a maximum of 480 square inches, with the largest dimension no longer than 24”.

there you go!

Cheri_MacCallum
05-13-2008, 09:55 PM
If it's middle or low key, you need a black mat board edge.

If you decide to put your image on a black background, your image better have really good blacks in it. If it doesn't, your image will look underexposed next to the black background even if it isn't. I've seen this many time judging and the problem is the makers never looked at it under the same lighting set up that is used for judging. If they did they would have seen it! The same is true for printing lower key images on matte paper. It looks great until the print is under the lights, then it goes dead flat. I suggest checking your images under the same lighting set up. It was at one time on the ppa website. Not sure now, but I'm sure someone here will have the specs.

Michael_Gan
05-13-2008, 10:31 PM
In the last couple of years, I've had half of my images hang full bleed and the others with step mounting. So I'm not quite sure if that would be an unwritten rule. Like previously stated, it depends on the strength of the image and no step mount is going to save a poor image. In fact, I've seen some spectacular full bleeds in the Masters Exhibition that would probably look awful as step mounts.

Personally, I'm getting tired of seeing "dead center" images that are moved over to the right or left to gain "composition". That being said, it is alright to have a subject in the center of an image (like a 3/4 pose which is almost unavoidable) as long as the elements of the subject have some type of dynamic features to it, like fabric to create the flow of dynamics, for example.

The main thing is, the judges aren't stupid, so if they have any hint that you are trying to suger coat a sow's ear, it will come across that way.

MarilynDillon
05-14-2008, 12:08 AM
For the stroke -- as you look at the image the stroke should not jump out to you. It is there to define the edge and compliment the image....not as a distraction. You can pull a color from the image and then darken it down until you can just barely see it.

Debra_Collins
05-14-2008, 01:28 PM
Personally, I'm getting tired of seeing "dead center" images that are moved over to the right or left to gain "composition". That being said, it is alright to have a subject in the center of an image (like a 3/4 pose which is almost unavoidable) as long as the elements of the subject have some type of dynamic features to it, like fabric to create the flow of dynamics, for example.

The main thing is, the judges aren't stupid, so if they have any hint that you are trying to suger coat a sow's ear, it will come across that way.

When I first saw competition prints I thought the step mounting was a way to cheat the system - moving the focal point to the thirds and all. So that was why I originally did mine full-bleed. I wanted the image to stand on its own.

What is being said here makes a lot of sense though. I think the un-written rules are like many rules in the art world - you have to learn them to know how to break them.

Heather_L._Smith
05-14-2008, 01:39 PM
I suggest checking your images under the same lighting set up. It was at one time on the ppa website. Not sure now, but I'm sure someone here will have the specs.

If I'm not mistaken, it should be f/16 at 1 second, ISO 100

John_Metcalfe
05-14-2008, 02:05 PM
If I'm not mistaken, it should be f/16 at 1 second, ISO 100

That is correct. Michael Barton and I do this and yes it makes a world of difference. While it may not be perfect due to each affiliate's set up, it is the most ideological of systems for analysis.

D._Craig_Flory
05-14-2008, 02:17 PM
For the stroke -- as you look at the image the stroke should not jump out to you. It is there to define the edge and compliment the image....not as a distraction. You can pull a color from the image and then darken it down until you can just barely see it.

Hi Marilyn;

To add to what you said ... I select the subject layer and make a transparent layer above it. I then stroke that layer. This way I can lower the opacity of the layer till it's perfect.

Debra_Collins
05-14-2008, 05:15 PM
I was told that bright sunlight at noon is a close alternative?

dawnbergeron
05-14-2008, 06:07 PM
Thank you so much for this thread as I have never entered a competition and I have a lot to learn.

D._Craig_Flory
05-14-2008, 06:15 PM
If I want to review my images I go into my camera room and set up two Photogenic Powerlight 600's with 7" parabolics at full power on the modeling lights. I set my light meter @ 100 ISO and move the lights in and out till I get 1 second @ F16. It's not quite the same as two mini-spots like used at competition but it's close.

Hi Debra;

I was told that bright sunlight at noon is a close alternative? ... I would NOT recommend that at all. First of all it would be way brighter than what is used. And, with you squinting so badly, you wouldn't even be able to see the prints.

Ben_Leavitt
05-14-2008, 06:32 PM
If I want to review my images I go into my camera room and set up two Photogenic Powerlight 600's with 7" parabolics at full power on the modeling lights. I set my light meter @ 100 ISO and move the lights in and out till I get 1 second @ F16. It's not quite the same as two mini-spots like used at competition but it's close.
Thanks for the great tip D. Craig! I'll have to try that.

Another thing I've noticed with print competitions which isn't necessarily an unwritten rule is that it's okay to lose shadow detail to an extent (depending on the image) but if you blow out your highlights that's basically unpardonable sin #1 which you'll be severely marked down for. Even if you interpret the image as needing those blown out highlights, chances are the judges won't.:o

Jeff_Dachowski
05-14-2008, 06:57 PM
that's basically unpardonable sin #1 which you'll be severely marked down for

Ben,
FWIW I have seen you mention " Marking down" and want to clarify that judges today, do not take points away anymore. They first select a category of where the print should fall, and then decide if it should be in the higher end, or lower end of that category. I believe PPA did away with the subtractive form of judging awhile ago, but the verbage still lingers.

Btw, My unwritten rule don't pick your own prints. Ask your friends to pick them.

Jeff

Linda_Gregory
05-14-2008, 07:07 PM
Btw, My unwritten rule don't pick your own prints. Ask your friends to pick them.

Jeff

Unlike your nose?

I also hear all sorts of unwritten rules yet have seen merited images from all of them. Last year I had a dead center lion head merit. No loan, darn it, but a strong merit. In the critique, they noticed the muzzle looked slightly green and guessed correctly that the image was taken through glass. They're very astute, these judges.

Heather_L._Smith
05-14-2008, 07:16 PM
I select the subject layer and make a transparent layer above it. I then stroke that layer. This way I can lower the opacity of the layer till it's perfect.

On a side note, you can actually adjust the opacity of a stroke within the Layer Style options, under Stroke.

Rick_Massarini
05-16-2008, 02:55 AM
A centered compostition doesn't always have the most impact. Sometimes offset works better.

One unwritten rule I've heard is you don't want to have your image follow one of a kid or a puppy...

No one has control over the order that prints come up for judging at National. The prints from a case are separated when they are received into multiple carts so that they will be in a totally random order and once the prints are in the stack - that's the way they go up on the turntable. The puppies, seniors, babies, flowers, brides and buildings are all mixed in together in random order.
There are only three exceptions to this print handling rule...
1- Rove prints from another judging room go up as soon as they come into the room in order to provide quick feedback to the challenging juror.
2- If the print handler happens to notice that by some fluke, there are two prints in a stack (one right behind another) by the same maker, then one of the prints can be pulled, a large fistful of prints lifted from the stack, and the print inserted randomly back into the stack... (But even if two prints are by the same maker, this may not even be noticed since the handlers are usually too busy reading and calling the titles to even notice the makers name. Usually when this is found, it's the identical mounting of two prints that key the handler to look at the names of the makers).
3- If the print handler sees two identical (or nearly identical) prints (say two prints of the same slot canyon - maybe shot by two different people on the same canyon tour - that just happen to land one behind the other in the stack), then the same random cut and insert can be done by the handlers with one print being moved down lower into the stack.
No other "juggling" of the print presentation order is permitted. The way they come out of the cart is the way they go up on the turntable at National.