View Full Version : An incredible week at Nationals

06-17-2009, 02:11 AM
I've had the great pleasure of being a spectator at this year's International Print Competition. I'm headed into the fourth and final day of competition, and let me say that it has been an amazing experience. I know everyone wonders what REALLY happens during print competition - what happens to our precious little babies when we send them into the big void that is print comp? Well, I'll share some of my observations and experiences...

First let me say that this year's competition is being held on a college campus... because it honestly takes that much space to pull this off - I think there are like 20 rooms dedicated to this event. Now, I've attended local, state, and regional competitions, but they all pale in comparison to the immense undertaking of this international competition. There are thousands of entries - all delivered in these gigantic wooden crates. Keep in mind that all of these images have to be touched and handled by real, live people - and they all have to be delivered to the right rooms!

I started my adventure in one of the Photographic Open competition rooms. When I arrived on Monday, I believe they had 3 or 4 of the PO rooms going at one time (yes, there are THAT many images). These are the images that have been received and have NOT been sealed (merited) at a Regional competition, so they're being judged for the first time (state comp not included) for acceptance into the general collection on a simple majority, yes/no basis (not on a numeric scale here). One of the most crucial points I observed was that the judges who are here at this event are VERY serious about the responsibility they've been charged with. They've taken time away from their own studios, from their families, and from their busy lives to help improve US and improve the art of photography. One of the biggest complaints I hear people make about print competition is that they feel that they don't really learn anything from it - they send their cases off to some town in Nebraska, get them back 8 months later, and don't know why they didn't do well, or don't know why they DID do well. I must say that sitting in those rooms over the last few days has been one of the greatest educational experiences of my career. The judges take their time - they're efficient - but they're very thorough. They stop and challenge each other to ensure they're making the best decision for that print. Of course, they aren't stopping to discuss every print - that would take an eternity - but when a decision is challenged, they stop and have a very rational, very in-depth conversation about the positive aspects of the print and the concerns about the print. It's really an amazing process to observe because, if you want to learn from it, it's all there in front of you... the amazing images that take your breath away, and the maybe not so amazing images that make you stop and think "why don't I like that one" and then put into words WHY. And this was just the morning of day 1... and I didn't even see any of my own images!

That afternoon I moved over into the Loan review room. For those who don't know, all images that come to the competition with a Regional seal, or those images that are judged for the first time at this competition and receive a majority "yes" vote, are then sent through a separate Loan review panel. While a normal judging consists of a panel of 6, a loan review may consist of somewhere between 9 - 11 jurors (or thereabouts). Again, a simple majority is what it takes to get an image into the Loan book... but the standards are pretty high to make it there. "The best of the best" is the mantra of the loan review rooms. Now THIS was an amazing room to be in! The conversations that happen (think "conversations" as they might happen with Parliamentary Procedure in place - they aren't little side conversations or people all talking at once, it's very orderly and incredibly respectful, with each judge discussing why they were "for the image" or were "not for the image" to go into the Loan book). And, to make sure things stay fresh, the judges all change rooms and groups every 90 minutes or so.

I think it's truly remarkable that these jurors (and if I had to guess, I'd say there are probably 50-60 of them here... maybe more) are here at this competition because they honestly believe that competition at this level is a credit to our craft. That print competition, once you truly understand it, really does make you a better photographer. The folks walking around the campus have thousands of merited images between them and decades of experience, so they know what they're talking about. They are they leaders of our industry, and they're spending this hot June week in Atlanta viewing the best we have to offer. This experience certainly encourages me to raise my game. I don't know how my prints have done, but I DO know that next year, I want my prints to be the ones they talk about - I want to GIVE them something to talk about.

If you have never had the opportunity to view print competition at the national level, I would highly encourage you to do so. Make it a goal next year to attend - plan for it, and plan for it to change the way you look at your images the next time you start pulling possibilities for competition.

One more day ahead of me, and I can't wait to see what it brings.

06-17-2009, 02:51 AM
THANKS so much for sharing your experiences; I have never observed National judging. I have observed many judging sessions at our New England regional, PPANE.

06-17-2009, 03:21 AM
Thanks for the perspective. I anxiously await results again this year. But, I think I'm getting better.

06-17-2009, 04:46 AM
That's awesome Heather ... really makes me wish I were there.

06-17-2009, 05:41 AM
Thanks for taking the time to share Heather. Even though I "know" of what goes on at print comp, I enjoyed seeing it from your perspective! :)

06-17-2009, 01:39 PM
Thanks for that review, Heather. I'm going to have to add a trip to the International Print Judging to my education plans!

06-17-2009, 01:57 PM

I had planned on being at the judge's class this year and was somewhat deflated when I couldn't attend. Your accounts have enlightened many and brightened my views of making sure I am there next year. Thank you for taking the time and telling your experiences. We are sure to see great things from you!

06-17-2009, 03:35 PM
Thanks for the visualization Heather. Makes me wish I had attended in Daytona last year.

Anyone know where the judging will be next year?


06-18-2009, 01:57 AM
Phew! Just got back from Atlanta. I took the judges workshop with a really amazing class. What a great experience. Being at nationals is CRAZY!! Man, I can't believe it runs so smoothly! It's amazing just how much work and resources go into pulling it off. I am certain the results will be up in relatively short order. That said, PLEASE be patient. After seeing if first hand you will be floored to see just how fast they go up when you consider what it takes to make it happen. God bless PEC!!!

06-18-2009, 04:45 PM
I went back through the old threads from last year and realized that the results weren't posted until about 6:40 on Monday night.... so it may be a long weekend :)

06-18-2009, 05:16 PM
For those of you who are stressing out about your results, Heather was there and even she doesn't know how all her prints did. So think how frustrated that would be!


06-18-2009, 05:19 PM
I went back through the old threads from last year and realized that the results weren't posted until about 6:40 on Monday night.... so it may be a long weekend :)

So, I can stop hitting refresh now? :)

06-18-2009, 07:51 PM
No sense worrying... After this there is a 6 month wait for Nashville. It too will be here soon enough. Challenge yourself now to get things ready for the fall conventions!

06-18-2009, 07:51 PM
If last year is any guide, there is nothing to be gained by looking for results until Monday evening. If they show up earlier, great, but there's no sense in getting worked up before then.

06-30-2009, 01:51 PM
Heather, I am so glad you enjoyed your time at the National Judging. Gwinette Tech is a great facility and the judging is scheduled to be there around the same time next year. So please everyone come watch or even better be a volunteer. It is an amazing week. This was my second time being there to judge and I have to tell you I have been blown away by some of the images each time. We have some incredible makers out there and it makes me want to do even better next year!

06-30-2009, 02:01 PM
For those who can't make it to help on the Imaging Print Committee ... I suggest getting on the print committee for your own state association. You will gain lots of experience and insight. And, for others, sitting in and watching a state print competition is fun and educational too.