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KevynSchneider
07-22-2009, 10:24 PM
As background, I got out of photography 20 years ago because, well, poverty sucks. I basically threw away 7 years of majoring in photography in my under-grad and graduate work plus a number of years of working in the photographic industry for other studios. IT pays much more. Senior Business Intelligence Architect. Just sounds lucrative, doesn't it? I now make enough in my full-time IT job to afford to open a small studio and bankroll all the initial investments without small business loans. So now I'm getting back into photography and again following my first love. At almost 50, I count it as my happy marriage-safe mid-life crisis.

A number of weeks ago I went to a Texas PPA convention in Kerrville. I had no prints entered, so I had no horses in the race to bias my opinions. The judging was very, very disappointing. Outstanding, stellar, near-perfect portraits could not score higher than a 84. Amateur illustrations made with Photoshop and Painter enhancements all scored in the high 90s, with most of them getting 100s. Now, they're far better than I can produce. When I say amateur I mean as compared to quality professional illustrators (for one quality example, see digitalblasphemy.com). Almost every photographer I spoke with shared these observations and opinions but didn't want to rock the political boat.

My take away is three-fold. First, judges are so accustomed to seeing outstanding portraits and bridals that they are incapable of scoring them highly based on their technical and artistic merits, but instead score them based on their "differentness". I think they would have scored fly-covered "cow patties" on a platter in the high 90s just because it would be different from the boring high-quality portraits they were used to seeing.

Second, I learned how to add 5-10 points to print scores in Texas. Run your print through Corel Painter Essentials 4 auto-paint for 3 minutes.

Third, TPPA judges no longer respect Photography - they want illustrators, not photographers, to enter their competitions. But here's the problem. Clients (remember those?) don't buy illustrations, and even if they did I couldn't make any money off of them because they take too long to produce. I'm a photographer, not an illustrator. I thought illustrators had their own professional organizations. And I thought PPA was ours.

So why should I waste my time entering photographic competitions when the judges think it's an illustrative competition? Peer admiration? No offense intended, gentle reader, but I care far more about what my customers think about my work than about what you think about my work. I don't have the time, energy or desire to create stuff just to impress you. I create photographs to make money, and impressing peers who don't pay me doesn't make money. Aren't you the same? Do you really give a hoot about what I think of your work, as long as your clients keep buying your prints?

I love photography, and I'm happy to be practicing our art again professionally. I will strive to improve my photography both artistically and technically with every image I create. It is my desire to create photographs worthy of receiving PPA merits for every one of my clients. I will continue to harvest the benefits I receive from TPPA education such as the outstanding Texas School. Unfortunately, TPPA Kerrville Competition has dramatically reduced the value I perceive in PPA print competitions.

Kevyn

Michael_Gan
07-23-2009, 12:26 AM
Oh. Here we go again. We've just had a thread from someone in Southern California with the same perceptions based on a "local" print comp, that is, a comp that doesn't completely consists of national caliber judges.

So, let me take this in different direction this time. Lets assume that all portrait photographers take the same attitude that you've mentioned. Let's assume that all portrait and wedding photographers give up and let all the pretty picture folks overrun the print competitions. Wouldn't you think that that would be more damaging to our profession? Would you rather see an entire country full of "Master Photographers" telling the public they are Masters, when, indeed, they got their degrees in pretty pictures?

My last portraits at regional scored this: 92,88,87,82 (where'd that 82 come from?). So, it is possible. A friend of mine scored 100 on a sorta portrait (it was a combination of pretty picture with a person in it). The point is, if we don't keep the great portraits in the eyes of our colleagues to learn from, what do you think will happen to the quality factor in our industry. Is making money for the sake of mediocrity? I sure hope not, because there are plenty of those kinds of photographers in this country already. So, what do you want to be known as, an artistic, well-rounded professional photographer, or a mediocre well-fed one? Why not be artistically well fed, and use print comp to improve your portraiture, instead of giving in to the pretty pictures. That is my challenge to you. Attend Imaging USA in Nashville and look at the loan collection portraits that get accepted. You might be surprised to see some portraits that are even more perfect than the ones you saw at Kerrville.

Betsy_Finn
07-23-2009, 05:07 PM
While some people may be "playing the game" with only the end goal in mind (e.g. getting merits) -- I have another goal. I want my merit prints to be representative of the work I do for my clients. All of my prints I entered this year were images from client sessions. All of them merited.

One of them - an image from a senior session, won best of show at our local competition. It was also picked as judge's choice at our state competition. Now, it wasn't a traditional portrait, but it did not have any special effects added.

Why not try to challenge the "status quo" you've observed? Make it your goal to enter that stellar portrait that blows all the other digitally enhanced paintings out of the water?

KevynSchneider
07-23-2009, 06:57 PM
Betsy, I totally agree with your sentiment. One of my professional goals is to continually improve my meager artistic and technical skills with every image I create for my clients. I'm not in PPA to "play the game" and find fault with a system which encourages such game play. The only games I'll play deal with marketing. I wish there was a rule which stated that competition prints had to be ones created for clients, or at least judging categories created which separate "real work" images from "made just for competition" images.

When I went to the state competition, I was certainly not expecting all portraits to score high. But the best portraits in the entire show should have scored higher than an 84! I don't expect that illustrations be judged harshly because they're not straight-out-of-the-camera style photographs. But they almost all scored in the high 90s and took all the 100 scores. The very best illustrative image did not get a 100 because the photographer's face was in it; the judges didn't want to appear overtly biased, even though the other multiple 100s that same photographer scored were all obviously his.

Betsy, many photographers were "challenging the status quo" by entering great photographs, just as you mentioned. My outsider's observation is that it didn't make a dent. Michael mentioned
Let's assume that all portrait and wedding photographers give up and let all the pretty picture folks overrun the print competitions. What I observed at my first print competition in 2 decades is that, at least in Texas, the handful of illustrative-style photographer folks have ALREADY overrun the print competitions, DESPITE the fact that the straight portrait and wedding photographers HAVE NOT given up.

You see, sadly, entering quality prints into biased competitions does not challenge the status quo. It IS the status quo. The competition remains biased. The fact that Michael started his response with "Oh. Here we go again." highlights the recurring nature of this systemic problem.

Will I enter my best production prints in TPPA state competitions? Probably. Do I expect to ever get a score over 85? Not unless I dramatically enhance the image. Will I ever enhance images? A bride I'm photographing next week loves Georges Seurat, the father of pointillism. If she wants me to enhance a photograph of her new husband pushing her on a swing with the gazebo they just got married in in the background, making it look like a pointillist painting, heck yes I'll do it! Have Painter, will travel. I think that will look awesome mounted on canvas, it will be a wall hanging Laura will treasure all her life, and I'm all about creating the very best heirloom artwork I can for my clients. And there's the key - I'll do it to create the best image for my client, NOT to create a winning competition print not intended for sale. If it merits, great. If not, hey, I sold a 20x24 canvas mount and frame. I think I'll live.

Illustrative images can be very beautiful and creative. I don't think it's possible to clearly delineate when retouching turns into enhancement or photography turns into illustration. Since my halcyon Hasselblad 120 days things have changed a lot and photography has been redefined by the digital revolution. Photoshop outsourcing is now part of photography, like an airbrush artist used to be. I can embrace it or go back to shooting Daguerreotypes.

You see, I really am not upset with illustrative rendering of images. I'm just upset with crappy judging. You know what is funniest (and saddest)? After speaking with some of them after the competition, the best TPPA judges seemed to be the newer ones with the least amount of PPA charm-necklace danglies. Other than that it appeared to just be a good-ol-boys club. All that was missing was the deck of cards, whiskey and cigars. My apprehension is that the good-ol-boy 20 lb. necklace club is where the national judges come from.

Kevyn

Dave_Cisco
07-23-2009, 07:09 PM
You failed previously because of your lack of understanding of what a successful photographer is supposed to be doing with their time and resources....won't be any different this time.:rolleyes:

TracyeGibson
07-23-2009, 07:24 PM
Just FYI, Kerrville had Illustrative, Commercial and Electronic Imaging catagories along with photographic open and wedding (but I get your point).

And don't kid yourself, I doubt there was EVER a 'straight portrait' entered in past PPA comps. ;) Usually they were shot by the photographer, developed by a lab, neg. retouched by one artist, custom printed by another person, enhanced and painted by a retouch artist and mounted and sprayed by another person. At least with todays 'Illustrative' pics there is a good chance the 'photographer' is also the 'artist' and possibly also the printer with all of the large format inkjets out there.

TracyeGibson
07-23-2009, 07:27 PM
BTW Dave, I would love to get together with you some time so you can show me 'old school' how to mount and spray a print for competition. ;)

KevynSchneider
07-23-2009, 08:02 PM
You failed previously because of your lack of understanding of what a successful photographer is supposed to be doing with their time and resources....won't be any different this time.

Thanks, Dave, your comment was as uplifting as it was helpful and insightful.

I never said I failed, I said I got out of photography for a while. I consider myself hugely successful. :D

Joe_Campanellie
07-23-2009, 08:10 PM
Ahhh...old school competition prints. Now those were the days...spraying and spraying...just to find a cat hair in the gloss coat. Then sanding that out and starting over.

And let's not forget cutting all those colored sheets of paper for the colored liners. Yeah...those were the days and what a pain. When I try to explain what we had to go through with this process to some of the people who are just starting to compete they just give me that blank stare.

Photoshop has definitely spoiled us so far as presentation goes. What used to take hours can now be accomplished with a couple of clicks of the mouse.

Pretty amazing when you think of it.

KevynSchneider
07-23-2009, 08:34 PM
Just FYI, Kerrville had Illustrative, Commercial and Electronic Imaging catagories along with photographic open and wedding (but I get your point). And don't kid yourself, I doubt there was EVER a 'straight portrait' entered in past PPA comps.

Thanks for your comment, Tracy, as it helps me state the point somewhat more meaningfully. If you look at the average score of meriting prints by category, I bet it would really highlight my point. I believe you would find that the Illustrative category had a high averaged score and the Portrait category had a low averaged score. I believe this would demonstrate the bias favoring illustrative style images on the part of the judges.

Also, let me clarify the term "straight portrait". I did not intent to represent that things are not outsourced, either in the days when I left college and we sanded out cat hairs from competition prints :) nor today. I simply mean portraiture that still looks very much like a photograph. I don't care if a legion of people collaborated to make it.

Since you were there, this will have meaning for you. Two of my favorite portraits were both enhanced. One was the little boy with the train. Awesome image. Another which did not score as well was the lady in the fern. (I have a thing for fern, not sure why.) I liked the Painter effect the photographer did to abstract the visual motion of the fern leaves. While enhanced, I still consider them "straight portraits" as they were both clearly photographs which were artistically interpreted. Compare that to the "Blue Demon" image, made with composites of a portrait, animal miniatures, and heavy photoshop work. NOT a "straight portrait".

Dave_Cisco
07-23-2009, 09:07 PM
BTW Dave, I would love to get together with you some time so you can show me 'old school' how to mount and spray a print for competition. ;)


That's like asking someone to show you how to hit your thumb with a hammer, but if that's what you want, I'll be happy to show you.:D

Call anytime.

TracyeGibson
07-24-2009, 01:45 AM
Also, let me clarify the term "straight portrait". I don't care if a legion of people collaborated to make it.

Since you were there, this will have meaning for you.

I wasn't there this year, just know what the catagories were. I think it is funny that the 'collaboration' process doesn't bother you but all of the other does. For years I wouldn't enter because I HATED that only the photog got credit when I knew for a fact that if it was presented S.O.C. NO way would it merit. ;)

TracyeGibson
07-24-2009, 01:47 AM
That's like asking someone to show you how to hit your thumb with a hammer, but if that's what you want, I'll be happy to show you.:D

Call anytime.

Haaaaa!!!! I know, but since I am printing my own and getting into 'print embellishments' on inkjet prints it would be interesting to learn. ;)

Rick_Massarini
07-24-2009, 03:29 AM
After speaking with some of them after the competition, the best TPPA judges seemed to be the newer ones with the least amount of PPA charm-necklace danglies. Other than that it appeared to just be a good-ol-boys club. All that was missing was the deck of cards, whiskey and cigars. My apprehension is that the good-ol-boy 20 lb. necklace club is where the national judges come from. Kevyn

I fail to understand why some people have such strong negative feelings about those in our profession who have become successful. The fact that a person is wearing a "20 lb necklace" is because they have been actively pursuing their profession, become successful, and have GIVEN BACK to the profession by TEACHING OTHERS what they have learned. Most of those gold bars on the "20 lb necklaces" indicate SERVICE or SPEAKING merits whereby they have taken time away from their own busy and successful businesses to TEACH OTHERS - in short, the "20 lb.necklace" means that THEY CARE. To me, that is something that should be admired and appreciated, and not ridiculed and put down by being called the "good-ol-boy 20 lb necklace club". It always seems like the people who put down those with the "20 lb. neckklaces" always seem to be those who don't enter print competition, don't share their knowledge, have few if any merits and have no intention of giving back anything to this profession that has provided all of us our livings - sort of like "sour grapes" ... Some of them aren't even PPA members ... ... ... But of course, that's just my opinion.

Keith_A_Howe
07-24-2009, 04:09 AM
Kevyn
I just wanted to chime in here on a few points. First on Michael Gan's "Oh. Here we go again." comment. That was refering to post like yours that say things and make assumptions about competition like "Unfortunately, TPPA Kerrville Competition has dramatically reduced the value I perceive in PPA print competitions." This observation was on a print competition that WAS NOT a PPA print competition. To be a PPA competiton it has has to have trained approved affiliate judges. The are the only "PPA competition" for your area would be the SWPPA competition held in the fall. NON PPA competitions do not have to (and most do not) seat PPA affiliated judges, they may use Masters, non masters, speakers or whom ever they want. To call a local competition, such as you attended, a PPA competition would be the same as calling a high school basketball game and NBA game. PPA and PEC has no input whatsoever in local competitions.

The next issue is that as Tracy said "Just FYI, Kerrville had Illustrative, Commercial and Electronic Imaging catagories along with photographic open and wedding".
Did you happen consider that maybe the images that you were describing that were heavily worked (PS or Painter, collaged etc.) were possibly in the Electronic Imaging catagory, meaning they were being judged on the manipulation itself and how well it was done? I do not know what was in which catagories, I was not there but from the discription you gave I would have to consider that this is at the very least a possibility.

You also made a comment about which were the best judges "You know what is funniest (and saddest)? After speaking with some of them after the competition, the best TPPA judges seemed to be the newer ones with the least amount of PPA charm-necklace danglies. Other than that it appeared to just be a good-ol-boys club."
Again I just want to point out that I do not know who the judges were. I have to wonder though do you know when you talk about the PPA Degrees (which by the way you very degradingly refer to as "charm-necklace danglies"), do you know which degrees those judges had? Was it the Master of Photography, Master of Electronic Imaging, Master Artist or Craftsman Degrees. Were all the degrees PPA? or were they for service to their own local, state or regional associations? Have they even taken the judging class or done any of the prerequsits to become an affiliated judge? I am not belittling any of the degrees (these people worked hard to earn them) nor any of the judges. They are giving of their time and knowledge to associations and members like yourself with out a thought of profit for themselves (they are, if paid, usually it is something towards their travel and room expense only). I am also not trying to belittle you but to maybe show some of the differences in the competitions that you do not appear to know about. You are also deciding, after talking to some of them for a short time, which judges were the best or worst with out knowing much about them and with minimal knowledge about print competition. Can you explain to me what credintials you ahve that make you a more accurate judge of photography then that panel? After all, by your own statements, you have not been a photographer for 20 years. I am sure you would guffaw at some one coming into your IT field and making rash statements about what was right and what was wrong with the way your industry evaluates itself. I am sure you would be offended if that outsider declared you and your colleagues a "good ole boys club" and professed to be a better judge of good IT work then you - who has actually mde your living in IT for the last 20 years. How much stock would you put into that outsiders opinions?

Being an affiliated judge is not a good ol boys club. We take the judgings very seriously. We are evaluated after every judging. We have to be open to new styles as well as aware of quality photography even if it is not a style we personally use or even enjoy. It is not a situation of once you become a judge you are always a judge. Judges work hard to maintain the status of affiliate juror. We have to stay current (both in training and in meriting our work). We have to be able to see all the positives and negitives within the image. This brings me to your comment "The very best illustrative image did not get a 100 because the photographer's face was in it; the judges didn't want to appear overtly biased, even though the other multiple 100s that same photographer scored were all obviously his." How do you know those judges were conspiring to make themselves look good? Maybe there was a technical flaw and they could not with good conscience give it a 100? Tell me, did you see all the judges slink off to the bathroom together so they could decide not to give a 100 to that makers final print? Did you see them pass notes to each other? You are accusing that panel of a lack of integrity. Basically you are saying they were dishonest. Again, I assume the association brought in people they had faith in, who they knew were knowledgable. I am sure they did not bring in an IT person, who left photography 20 years ago - and there is a reason why they didn't.

If you look at the average score of meriting prints by category, I bet it would really highlight my point. I believe you would find that the Illustrative category had a high averaged score and the Portrait category had a low averaged score. I believe this would demonstrate the bias favoring illustrative style images on the part of the judges.

You would be making assumptions. Even if the illustrative prints scored higher it doesn't follow that the judges were biased. My interpetation would be that the illustrative prints entered at this particular judging were better then the portraits. Judges have to score what is set in front of them. If no portraits worthy of a score above 84 were entered then they can't give a score above 84 on a portrait. FWIW, the highest scored print in my state this year was a portrait. It scored 96. Both in 2007 & 2008 at least one of my loan prints were portraits. I am an affiliate juror. If there were such a bias as you mistakenly believe, don't you think I would know that and not enter portraits? After all as a member of the "good ole boys club" I would be privy to that knowledge. I can tell you emphatically that no such bias exists. And respectfully, having entered prints every year since 1981, being an affiliate juror for over 15 years, having judged 4 out of the last 6 international competitions, I know more about this then you do.

It comes down to if you want your opinions to be taken seriously, then don't insult the judges. Don't profess to know which is the best illustrative image and which images are stellar and near perfect after a 20 year absence and at your first ever competition. If you want to effect change, take the time to learn. Don't assume one local competition makes you an authority or even really provides any valid understanding of the process. Know what you are talking about before you make pronouncements. Otherwise your statements just make you look uninformed and confused. Your comments won't be taken seriously unless you have the knowledge to back them up. Like I said, I would never presume to come into an IT arena and insult the experts in that field, make statements that they were biased and insinuate that they were unethical based my small knowledge of that world. Do all judges, affiliate or otherwise the same courtesy.

Keith

mrbarton
07-24-2009, 04:51 AM
Consider the bait taken.

Rick_Massarini
07-24-2009, 05:24 AM
Consider the bait taken.
What is that supposed to mean ?

John_Metcalfe
07-24-2009, 05:24 AM
Just a note.

If I can remember that far back, I have never entered anything but images of people for competition. I have done fairly well...

Keith_A_Howe
07-24-2009, 12:52 PM
Consider the bait taken.

Are you suggesting that Keyvn was baiting me and I bit? I should hope that he has better things to do with his time then purposefully set out to bait people. That kind of behavior is adolescent at best and even though I don't know Keyvn, nothing about his posts suggests that kind of immaturity. If I am misunderstanding your meaning Micheal, I sincerely apologize.

Keith

mrbarton
07-24-2009, 02:59 PM
You guys are all good. I was just kidding. I didn't mean anything negative by it. Sincerely. Occasionally there are threads here that get everyone a bit excited. That's a good thing. Passion is what fuels creativity and growth. There are, however, posts on here every once in awhile that are made to get people riled up. Nothing does that like competition.

I will say this. I've entered every category in competition and have "qualified" for both masters for January (the waiting game isn't much fun). I will continue to enter a wide variety of images. I use that to stretch my vision and refine my technique. Each time I enter I find another facet of my craft that I didn't know about. I honestly feel that many people forget that a camera is just a box with a hole in it. We can use that to do infinitely more than we are. We have only used the darkroom to a fraction of it's potential and there is still more to discover. The same goes for digital imaging. What we know about any of this is very limited compared to what we will know in 5 years, 10 years, or even 100. Consider where digital imaging was 10 years ago. The only way we are going to push that envelope is to be a part of it. Heck, someone's going to do it, why not you?

To say that photography is only SOC portraits is beyond limiting. We each need to make our rules. If someone chooses only to enter client work I have absolutely no problem with it. For someone to imply that it's an absolute is another story. I have my rules and one of them is to let people do their thing. I'm probably one of THOSE PEOPLE that other photographers don't like to compete with (I say with and not against). I guess I enter strange stuff sometimes. I'm alright with it. Competition has dramatically effected my business from every front. To top it off I offer many of my prints as fine art images that are for sale. Every single image that scores above an 80 at a PPA Affiliate gets displayed. For that, I guess every image that hits the turntable is a client image no matter how abstract. The press they create is great.

We are in a time when the economy sucks (there I said it). Not only that, but people are fleeing to photography as an outlet. There is nothing wrong with that. Some people see it as an easy quick buck. That's just a fact. I also see nothing wrong with that. It's a bit tough to swallow I agree, BUT it's just a fact. Studios are going under at an alarming rate. SO, there's more photographers and the same number of clients. At this time I'm sure as heck going to make sure that my technique is solid, and that my images look as different from my neighbor's as I can make it. When people say "the average client is not going to understand that" I can say that FINALLY I'm reaching my target audience. The average client is going to photographer that is charging $50 and giving away a CD of the images. Like I said, you have to make your own rules. Personally I'm not that interested in "old school" at the moment. I'm more interested in being a part of where this is all headed. Straight up, I'd much rather lead than follow under the circumstances.

Michael_Gan
07-24-2009, 03:39 PM
...and this has been my point in the many "competition" threads we've had for the last 4 years:

Why do we have to delineate "fine art" from "fine portraits"? My Loan images and General images actually do hang in our clients' homes. Even my "fantasy pieces" hang in their homes as actual client work.

Master photographers are needed more than ever now to pave the way. Michael, you are absolutely correct in all your assertions. The thing that has been a constant in all the years I've been in practice is that photographers are like sheep, well, more like lemmings. They follow someone else's styles to the end of the earth, then have no where else to go when the style changes. This is why PPA Masters are a precious resource. If they can constantly lead, change and update the face of our industry, then it is my hope that photographers will learn more to be leaders, instead of followers. Although, come to think of it, if we are all leaders, who would come to each others workshops and lectures? :D

I think what riles everyone up is that most people who make their assertions about anything in this world, like print competitions, they usually come across as insulting because of a narrow world view. What's even harder still is that when they do actually take that world view and attend national, etc., they already have it in their heads that their assertions are correct. Kelvyn, as a possible example, might attend Imaging USA, look at the exhibit, dig in, and say, "all those guys in the forum are wrong, I don't see anything different than I saw in Kerrville".

And thus goes the way of the world. We have to let it go and hope we can reach the few on this forum who can embrace the spirit of what many of us on this forum love. And we have to let the others go. Just like in our studios, you can't book everyone who walks into our doors.

mrbarton
07-24-2009, 04:12 PM
You can't be all things to all people. You can, however, be all people to all things as inanimate objects are fairly easy to please.

Keith_A_Howe
07-24-2009, 04:48 PM
You guys are all good. I was just kidding. I didn't mean anything negative by it.

I believe you.


There are, however, posts on here every once in awhile that are made to get people riled up.

And that's what is sad. To state a contraversial opinion because you truly believe it is good - leads to great discussion. To make offensive comments just so the poster can sit at home, rub their hands together and snicker when people get upset - that 's just juvenile and a waste of everyone's time.

Keith

Heather_L._Smith
07-24-2009, 04:52 PM
When a thread like this about print comp pops up, I usually sit back and watch... because I know there are folks on this thread (Keith, MichaelG, et al) who have decades more experience than I do and voice their opinions more eloquently than I do.

But this time I decided to jump in. I've been thinking about what I would say that would be any different than what has already been said... and it got me thinking about WHY I love print competition. Why do I get giddy when I start looking through my prints? Why do I carry around a notebook in the event I get a creative or new idea that I have to jot down? What do I actually GET out of print competition?

Well, quite a lot, actually. But, what I've really discovered, is that I enter print competition not with the COMPETITION in mind, but the LEARNING. I'm at the 'sponge' stage... I'm soaking up everything, I'm taking the time to STUDY what is good and what could be improved, and I'm turning that into very valuable information that has categorically changed the images I create on a day-to-day basis. It's changed how my brain works... I SEE things differently now that I've become a student of print competition.

The amazing thing about it, though, is that I've probably learned more from the images that don't score well as I have from the images that have gone Loan. I had the amazing opportunity to be a spectator at nationals this year and it was amazing what I discovered about myself. As images would come around the turntable, I could hear this little voice inside my head saying things like "oh, that would be so much stronger if her head were tilted just a little to the right" or "that's a beautiful image, but what on earth did they mount it on!" or "wow... that's one of the most beautiful bridal portraits I've ever seen" or "oh-yep... that's out of key and it doesn't work with this image... it would be so much stronger if..."

I did far better in print competition this year than I did last year, and looking at my images from last year, I can see why. They're BETTER this year. I spent a lot of time last year working on ME.... I spent a lot of time finding the right mentors to help me develop my skills, and improve my weak areas... I spent a lot of time studying old images of mine and figuring out what could be improved.

I'm a student of my craft, and that's the attitude with which I approach print competition. Yes, of course, I want to do well, I want to kick some butt... but the attitude with which I do it makes getting there much easier. And, on that same note, it requires me to really evaluate my work when I DON'T do well.

Bring on the 20lb necklace... I'll wear it with pride because I know what I did to get there and that's what's important. To me, anyway.

John_Metcalfe
07-24-2009, 05:10 PM
20lb necklace...

Other than "Mr. T", nobody's necklace(s) weigh(s) 20lbs!

I went and weighed in and mine weighs in under 3lbs.

I guess I have some work to do...

I wonder how much Flav-a-flave's was?

mrbarton
07-24-2009, 06:15 PM
That's a good point. I'll weigh mine.

Marc_Benjamin
07-24-2009, 06:42 PM
20lb necklace...

Other than "Mr. T", nobody's necklace(s) weigh(s) 20lbs!

I went and weighed in and mine weighs in under 3lbs.

I guess I have some work to do...

Actually, you know you've arrived once you're pendants are converted to 22k gold! Trust me, there are masters out there that had them done! Now the gold ones are heavier!


I wonder how much Flav-a-flave's was?
Ask a current PPA pres to see how much the (presidents medal) medal weights, I've seen it and darn it looks like a flavor-flave clock!



That's a good point. I'll weigh mine.

Sweat doesnt count.

KevynSchneider
07-24-2009, 08:27 PM
Wow, great discussion and thanks to everyone who commented. I will restate a few points I've already made that I believe were misunderstood or totally lost in the discussion. I don't have time to comment on every one of the points which have been have made, but I will attempt to address a few of them. If you have made a counter point to my statements prior to my starting the writing of this post this morning and I don't address it here, the chances are very good that I have already acquiesced and accept your insight. For those which popped up afterwards, hopefully this addresses most of your comments. And Heather, thank you for chiming in. I love your attitude and will adopt it as my own!

First let me apologize to everyone who has achieved recognition for the combination of their service and outstanding talents, as demonstrated by whatever various certifications, degrees and/or other honors they've received. I have a dry and bombastic sense of humor, and did not intend to blanket-denigrate these outstanding accomplishments nor those who have achieved them. I have a number of highly prestigious professional honors outside of Photography and I make light of my own certifications in the same way (and don't get me started on Mensans). To those who hold honors bestowed by the PPA or it's subsidiaries and have taken offense, you have a right to be offended by what I said in my stream-of-consciousness writing style. I was wrong for both what I said and how I said it, and I sincerely apologize. The statement was intended as a comedic parody of my perception and translated poorly into forum posts; it was never an ad hominem attack. Further, I never intended to bait anyone and regret the start of the flame war (or at least skirmish) it instgated, but I am happy for the impassioned discussion that ensued. Part of an internal frustration of mine which led to those remarks was a palatable attitude on the part of a small and smug minority who wear their awards proudly while looking down at we lesser beings who have neither attained nor deserve such high recognition. It is one thing to have recognition for recorded service; it is a whole other thing to have the heart of a servant. Fortunately, the vast, vast majority of M.Photogs, Cr.s, CPPs, etc. have the latter in abundance. Unfortunately, those few that don't cast a long shadow on the many that do. I apologize for my own bias in lumping the two groups together in jest.

Second, what I said was never intended to apply to all judging. I was careful to state up front that I am highly academically trained as a photographer but a reborn newbie in the trade. I stated my observations were from a single judging, and that my subjective negative perceptions as an outsider tainted my immediate trust in national level judging. I have heard clearly from many of you that state/regional competition judging quality is not indicative of national level judging, and I accept that at face value and trust your experience. There is yet one objective fact I pointed out which I have not heard anyone address: that many of the photographers I spoke to at the competition shared the same general perception of biased scoring that I had. Most of them have been in the photographic industry their whole adult lives, some with "danglies" themselves ;) (lighten up, guys), some are leaders in their local guilds. Were it not for this confirmation from a large number of those you would certainly consider fellow professional photographers, I would have never started this post in the first place. You may dismiss my opinions based on your own assumptions regarding my level of knowledge and my years away from photography, but how do you address the similar opinions regarding judging bias and merit gaming by life long photographers?

Which brings me to my next point. The path to my personal and financial success took me away from photography for a while. While that amounts to failure in some eyes, to my family and I it represents milestones in a life+business plan which extends past my lifetime and into my children's lives. I do not apologize for it and in fact I highlight it. OK, so we've established that I'm a lousy outsider. But I'm a lousy outsider that sincerely loves photography both as an art and a profession, a lousy outsider that might just possibly see systemic problems which some others may not because they've seen it for so long. I'm not surprised that it upsets people when I point and say "the king is naked." Perhaps I'm wrong and he's just in his skivvies, but his legs are still hairy. I'm really not trying to stir up an anthill of animosity. I *AM* pointing to a perceived problem to generate discussion and hopefully reduce a potential issue in the future. One thing I've learned in business and management is that perception is reality to the perceiver. If there is a recurring perception of a problem by a number of members of an organization, then a problem exists. Perhaps not the problem exactly as perceived, but a problem or situation which exacerbates the perception.

Next point for re-clarification. I do not believe that photography is only SOC images. I stand by my previous statement that given current technology I don't believe there is, or can be, a clear delineation between where photography ends and where illustration begins. Perhaps the term photographer applies less to us today than it did 20 years ago, but we cling to it for lack of a better term and for love for our primary tool - a box with a hole in it. Perhaps the names of both our job title and the product we produce should change when our main tool is no longer a box with the hole in it but instead a box with a keyboard in front of it. I don't claim to know the answer. There has always been outsourcing of tasks to talent pools of printers, retouching artists, etc. The medium has changed - it's now Photoshop plugins instead of airbrush pigment - but the reality of the situation is constant. I agree with Tracye - the photographer gets all the credit for competition prints, somewhat unfairly depending on the situation. In competitions I was in 20+ years ago (did my own printing, retouching, mounting & finishing, Tracye) I reconciled that fact by convincing myself that it's the photograph that gets the merit, not the photographer. We all know that's not really the case, but the thought still eases my mind. It's just the way of things. But that's for another thread. Or another philosophy class.

To conclude, thank you all for your comments. A number of you have issued me professional challenges, some indirectly, and some very directly; I thank you the most. Thank you for challenging me to improve professionally through the channel of print competition. I will take you up on that challenge. Thank you for desiring success instead of failure for me. While we all probably still have some misunderstandings, thank you for honestly trying to understand the meaning of my post, the source of my frustration, and the cause of my concern. If I have done nothing other than increase your sensitivity to at least the possibility of bias in local judging and the slower move of newbies into competition due to such perceptions, then perhaps in some small way judging will become better and competition entries will increase. I am fully willing to agree that there may be no real bias. Can you agree that there may be something beyond my own stupidity which might cause that perception?

Photography is a challenging industry for entrepreneurs in the best of economic times. I wish you all well. Maintain a servants heart. Remember that your competition is not other photographers as much as it is wedding gown upgrades, furniture stores, Gucci handbags and bed and breakfast getaways.

But hey, what do I know?
Kevyn
;-{>

John_Metcalfe
07-25-2009, 01:26 AM
As I press the reply button I'm feeling satisfied in the fact that you (Kevyn) have made yourself better understood. A bit wordy even by my standards, but better understood.

Unfortunately for everyone, while we bang on the keys the viewer only gets about 20% of the true emotion, leaving a lot of us overachievers to fill in the blanks.

From your words, I gather you want to make this a better place. CHEERS! Dig in, throw on some asbestos underwear and bring your best to the table! Because no matter where your competing, be it the local, your affiliate or at the international competitions, if your work is outstanding it will be noticed, no matter what the format.

TracyeGibson
07-25-2009, 02:12 AM
Very well said Kevyn! And I will admit that even though I would love to learn 'old school' print comp prep (heck I would love to learn to make tin types!) mine were probably those prints that you didn't like at Kerrville. ;) My pregnant Madonna got Best Overall Portrait, a 95, and 3 ribbons(also went loan at Natls). It was a portrait I took of my pregnant sister and a pic I took from a wedding inside of a church. All collaged together in Photoshop and TOTALLy painted in Corel Painter. What can I say, I was studying Renaissance painters and composition at the time and the pregnant portrait inspired me! (I'll probably be struck by lightning because as soon as she gave birth I painted my neice into baby Jesus too ;) )

Keith_A_Howe
07-25-2009, 03:21 AM
if your work is outstanding it will be noticed, no matter what the format.

Amen


Keith

Keith_A_Howe
07-25-2009, 03:15 PM
Kevyn
Thanks for your post. You wanted this addressed " which I have not heard anyone address: that many of the photographers I spoke to at the competition shared the same general perception of biased scoring that I had. Most of them have been in the photographic industry their whole adult lives, some with "danglies" themselves" . I am not trying to be confrontational here but I need to know before I can give an opinion on this. Were they feeling there was a biased scoring in this competition or in competition in general? Could it be that one or some of them were thinking strictly about this competition at this paticular meeting and you and / or others read it as competition in general?

I agree perception is a major part of competition and lets face it life in general. From you post about this competition, it is my perception that the competition might have been all mixed togeather, Photographic Open, Wedding, Illistrative and Electronic Imaging images all shuffled and judged at one time. If so would it be benificial to suggest to the association board that they consider seperating the entries (at least Electronic Imaging) into individual catagories so that the viewer and the image makers know what and how they are being scored? Maybe even post a sign about the different catagories and what the differences are.
Keith

KevynSchneider
04-07-2010, 10:37 PM
Wow, it's been a long time since I looked at this post. Sorry it took so long to respond.

Tracye, I'm sure I would have loved your image and the emotional tying-in of your sister's wedding and her pregnancy. That just sounds flat out cool - what great visual storytelling! Please understand that I was wowed by the illustrative images at the state competition, and am a big fan of Corel Painter 11 and used it on a Unity Candle/Gazebo shot - the first wall print I sold since getting back into photography. The old-school memories of airbrushing actual paints on top of photographic emulsion prior to over-spraying makes me feel like Fred Flintstone now that I have discovered the Intuos4 tablet... My gripe was not with illustrative images or digital enhancements or colaborative efforts at all, but with the judging bias I perceived towards the illustrative category. I love doing digital enhancements of my over-shot sessions; unfortunately, the main software package I'm using at the close of Year 1 of my business is not Lightroom, Photoshop or Painter -- but QuickBooks Pro. I'm currently buried in trying to project which MACRS accumulated depreciation scheme for class 57 fixed assets will have max benefits to my projected income over the next five years. Can anyone else relate? (Last night before bed my 15 year old second-shooter commented that the photography business is 20% photography and 80% business).

And Keith, great questions and not at all confrontational. The majority of negative comments I heard were brought about by that particular competition, although there were a number who mentioned that they saw the same pattern in other judgings of favoring illustrative over "classical portraiture". I think images were mixed together. Even if I were a seasoned judge trained to avoid bias, after 25 years of seeing the most outstanding classical portraits with stunning lighting and posing pass by my eyes those images would begin to fade together into the ordinary. Now in the past few years seeing the new, unique and jaw-dropping illustrative works of Richard Sturdevant et al. come through print competitions, who would not go nuts over his stuff? It would be very difficult to see a classical portrait (regardless of how beautiful and technically excellent) follow such illustrative magic and not give it a lower score. I agree that at the very least illustrative works should be kept within their category and (I would add) judged last. They truly are in a different class and judging rules as well as processes should fairly reflect that fact.

I also see where bad impressions from local competitions could lead to very unfair assumptions about national/international competitions.

Again, I greatly appreciate everyone's input. This discussion has certainly modified my views, and I hope it has expanded the reader's views and provided food for thought as well.

Cheers, y'all!
Kevyn:D

Rick_Massarini
04-08-2010, 01:04 AM
If your comments regarding Richard's illustrative work is in reference to the image "The Legend of Brazos Texas Ranger" that scored a 100 at SWPPA, take a long hard look at each one of the images that make up that composite image. Richard's posing and lighting of his subject in each image that makes up that composite would rival any classical portrait, and is, in fact absolutely classical. He managed to put a bunch of exquisite classical portraits (any one of which by itself would invariably score very high) together in a very artistic manner and managed to tell a very compelling story. Richard is a very talented guy, and his images are strong story tellers, but they would not score so highly if it were not for the inherent quality of each of the individual separate images. Hanging one image is tough - hanging 6 or 7 inside of one image is even tougher. Heck, since he can't use any of the images again that he used for the composite, he basically gave away 5 or 6 merit prints to get that one composite merit print! In my opinion, it's not the fact that it is was an illustrative composite that made it score so well, it was the fact that it was such a great compilation of classic portraits into one illustrative piece. The question that comes to mind is whether it should be in the Illustrative or the Portrait category??? It's a toss up...

But, in my personal opinion, those kinds of images are actually a bit harder to score extremely high on, since if one image in the bunch is weak, poorly lit, off color, or whatever, and it can drag the others down. But when it all comes together just right, like this one did, it's a beautiful thing !!!