View Full Version : Competition Worthy?

12-30-2011, 02:24 AM
Here's an image I shot recently that really jumped out at me but I'm not sure if it's merit worthy. Thoughts? Ideas? Suggestions?


12-30-2011, 02:30 AM
try again, please!

12-30-2011, 02:34 AM
I tried attaching them directly Linda but it wouldn't let me use the IMG code. I would type it in and post but the pictures weren't there. When I went back to edit the post the link I had typed in was gone. Gremlins.

12-30-2011, 02:35 AM
Wow. What a day! Talked with someone else about glitches and now there are gremlins.

12-30-2011, 02:55 AM
I ended up attaching them the easy way. That'll work for now though. I'm just trying to figure out if this image has any potential before putting hours of work into it. One possible title is "Politically Incorrect".

12-30-2011, 11:58 AM
Greg; I like the full color version but would suggest toning down the rim lighting on his ear. I think it has impact and could do well. I don't care for your title idea, though. I am only a Craftsman but have judged competitions at sub state level as well as watching dozens of state assn. competitions. The panel only has seconds to hear the title and comprehend the meaning. A title more like ''Lost in Thought'' or ''Internal Struggle'' or '' Mental Anguish'' may work better .. something showing he is trying to deal with life. I'd like to see it after you make more progress on it.

12-30-2011, 02:19 PM
I prefer the black and white, it puts more focus on his face for some reason. The color makes me bounce between the smoke and his face.

I'm o judge,never have been one but then, you know that. I'm not sure if the checkered shirt will pull the scores down or not. I would suggest darkening his hands slightly as they have as much emphasis as his face.

I'm not sure about a title, I'd like something that reflects an emotional time that needs a calming crutch. Yeah, THAT'S no title but that's what I'd like a few words to convey.

12-30-2011, 02:33 PM
Greg for what is worth I'm having trouble with the hands, they seem too posed. What I mean is there is no tension in them, too relaxed. Him thinking on the issues of life would maybe caused them to be tighter, more pressure less space to hold an object. I get the sense that he is holding something that can break.

12-30-2011, 02:54 PM
I like it Greg... But, I think the hands are brighter than his face which would cause the judges to look away from the true point of interest which is his face. I think I like the black and white version best :)

12-30-2011, 03:27 PM
Very good points everyone. I do feel this image may have potential but it'll take some work to get it to merit standards. To me that made it the perfect image to post here. Everyone here knows I have ultra thick skin so hopefully this can be a good learning tool for anyone following along.

The subject here is my son but don't let that sway your input or soften your comments. I've critiqued him for 23 years. :)

The checkered shirt bothers me a lot but converting it to sepia seemed to help. Black and white may be a better option but I'm willing to work it up as B&W and color at the same time to see which idea pans out the best.

His hands are clutching a lighter which makes them appear a bit odd. I'll check my other images to see if I have better hand options. Bringing down the highlight on the ear should be easy enough.

I'll post the reworked images this afternoon. Thanks everyone.

I'm hoping this becomes a learning tool not only for people looking to enter competition but also for people looking to become jurors. If you fall in the potential juror category feel free to assign scores along the way. That way approved jurors can help you learn the art of scoring images as well.

My current thoughts on a score would be somewhere in the low 70s. Now to see if I can work it into the 80s.

12-30-2011, 04:13 PM
Thanks Greg for posting with the purpose of helping others.

12-30-2011, 05:25 PM
Not a problem Jorge.

Most of the jurors here know me so they know they can tear my work apart with critiques without fear of offending me. This makes for a much more thorough critique so people can learn the ins and outs of making a merit print.

12-30-2011, 05:38 PM
Greg, you have an extra http:// in your image tag.

12-30-2011, 05:52 PM
Let's see if this works Mark...


12-30-2011, 06:03 PM
I like the B&W version. I also like the "mocha" color on it too. I don't know much about how it will look in the judges eyes but I personally like it. :)

Do they allow Triptychs as submissions? Greg, your image is a lot like one I shot a while back but I made a triptych out of it. I really like the image series but I don't know if it would work as a competition image.

I attached a copy of the image. I have thick skin too and I don't mean to divert attention away from Greg!

The first image was shot with a wide angle lens because I was trying to build tension and show the stress of the need for the cigarette. The second and third image was shot with a telephoto lens. The second image was the subject taking it all in and pondering the relief he is about to experience and the third shot is his pure satisfaction as he exhales.

Would something like this fly at competition?

12-30-2011, 07:52 PM
Joe, I love that series! Really tells a story. As for comp, I have no idea but I do know that when more than one image is presented like this, they all must be merit worthy on their own.

12-30-2011, 09:06 PM
Awesome series Joe. Posting those images here is fine. It fits right in with what we're discussing which is how to turn a good shot into a merit image.

12-30-2011, 10:48 PM
Greg, why not just reshoot till you get what you want on this one, instead of trying to rework in photoshop?

12-30-2011, 11:07 PM
Greg, why not just reshoot till you get what you want on this one, instead of trying to rework in photoshop?

I live in Kentucky. He lives in Alabama.

12-31-2011, 02:33 AM
That would be a little tough Greg. :) Or just another excuse for him to come see you or you him.

12-31-2011, 04:16 AM
...His hands are clutching a lighter which makes them appear a bit odd. I'll check my other images to see if I have better hand options....

Greg, I just had a thought about the hand position/posing point that was brought up. I'm not sure how you feel about manipulating the image with compositing, but it may eliminate the "odd hands" by compositing in a small lighter flame? I know that would need to be worked in as to not compete with the face etc., but it seems to me that it would almost immediately inform the viewer and explain (or excuse) the odd hand positioning that's been mentioned. Just a thought I had.

I really like the Mocha/Sepia/B&W version. I think it forces me to focus on the emotion, content & textures in the shot more-so than the color version does. Again, as others have mentioned, I don't know how the judges would view it, but the B&W/mocha version grabs me.

My 2 cents.

12-31-2011, 05:57 AM
Let's see if this works Mark...



I really enjoy this image, you have captured a great one, and even nicer that it is your son.

Other than the things that have already been mentioned, there are a few others to consider. I am not sure how 'worked up' for comp this was before you posted, but I would like to mention these things - take them as you wish depending on where you are in the image processing.

First and foremost, I want to look at his face more, but can't get past the patterned shirt. Even in BW I am struggling with it.

The angle of his shoulders seems to be pretty even - if one of his shoulders was higher so the angle is different on his arms, it would be easier to get past the hands mentioned earlier.

The hair peeking out from under the brim of his hat brings my eye there as well, I don't think they should be gone necessarily, but they are bright. The one under the hat to the right, though, on the side of his head does bother me.

Agreed with D. Craig on the ear, and the light hitting is hair is pretty strong also. As I look I also struggle with the angle his ear bling, if it is a gauge it seems like his ear may be laying differently because of his shoulder, it's hard to understand what is going on there.

There are a few other things, but I think the shirt pattern is the biggest one for me to get past....

12-31-2011, 05:21 PM
Here's what I have so far. Hands have been darkened along with highlight on the ear. The border has been removed to reveal more of the hands. Stray hairs removed. Structure lowered. Patch of smoke removed from the end of his nose. Collar pushed down via liquify. Photographing a flame today so I can add it to the lighter.

12-31-2011, 05:27 PM
Now if you could just change out that busy shirt, you might have something. Sorry but the shirt really takes my eye off his face. It seems to dominate the image.

12-31-2011, 05:35 PM
I agree 100% Ron. I tried lowering the contrast on the shirt but it just looked muddy to me. Gimme a few mins and I'll post that version. If I can't get the shirt toned down I may have no choice but to reshoot.

12-31-2011, 05:35 PM
I like it Greg. can you burn down or replace the white in his checks with black?

12-31-2011, 05:51 PM
Here is the version with higher structure and the darkened shirt. The overall image is darker here which may not be a good thing but the point is to see if this makes the shirt look better or worse.

12-31-2011, 06:19 PM
Greg this is just a concept for toning down that shirt. Nothing special just dupe layer and paint with a soft brush over the shirt with black at about 85% opacity. It helps but I have no idea if it's enough to save it without a reshoot. By the way, added the flame too.

12-31-2011, 06:27 PM

I agree with what Jackie said about the distracting shirt and the hand positioning. The hands bother me more than anything else. When I first saw the image, trying to figure out what he was doing with his hands took attention away from the face. I had no idea that he was holding a lighter in his hands. It might be stronger if the hands holding the lighter were closer to the cigarette. The hair under the brim of is hat doesn't bother me, and it also helps to visually shorten what would be a long forehead without the hair being there - I might darken it down a bit, but I wouldn't remove it entirely. The bright highlight on the front of the earring does bother me, so I'd tone it down a good bit.

12-31-2011, 06:34 PM
I do like what you've done there Ron. Let me see if I can duplicate that.

Rick, do you think I should have left the hair under the brim? I had removed the longer ones. Should I tone down the earring highlight or make it smaller?

12-31-2011, 07:21 PM
I darkened the shirt using a soft black brush at 85%. I tried to leave some detail to avoid having a floating face. Highlight on the earring has been toned down. I increased the contrast slightly using curves. I need that flame Ron. :)

12-31-2011, 07:35 PM
I like the added flame that Ron put in. To me it immediately explains what his hands are doing. I also like how Ron darkened the shirt and crunched the blacks. Reminds me of a "film noir" setting.

01-01-2012, 03:25 AM
Greg, I'm very new to the PPA and the forum...but here's a couple of comments for what they are worth...

1) Based on what I've read, this is your son, and you are capturing an image of your son. My first and foremost advice (and I'm sure many won't like it) - stop shooting for photographers. Shoot for your client - is that client you or your son?

2) If you're going to tweak the image, then tweak it toward the character of your son, not the character of other photographers. Is your son's personality and character displayed more with color, in sepia, or in black and white? Only you can answer that question.

I don't know your son...and I'm not big on contests. I also have a different eye than every other person in the world and I can only interpret things as I see them - not as you see your son. I see a contemplative man, perhaps a bit depressed, perhaps a bit stressed about life. It's why he's holding on to that lighter for dear life and why he's not willing to let go.

Again, for what it's worth, here's how I see the image and what I would do to it...

In Lightroom, darken the back of the ear and the hands so the exposure is more even with the exposure brush. Import the image into Photoshop...then use the burn tool to burn the shirt (highlights mode) and darken it, as well as the hair on the back of his head, and the arm rest under his right arm. Switch to midtones and darken the cap just a bit, but not too much. Do a levels adjustment so the light is more focused on his face (move the slider to the left). Desaturate the image just a hair (maybe 10 points or so) so you soften the reds in his skin tones. Bump up the contrast as I see more of a contrasty image being appropriate.

I think that would leave me pretty close to final product.

The whole fallacy here is we are all photographers and we all see things differently. I feel for the most part, the image is technically sound and the rest is art...and the artsy part is subject to interpretation and personal opinion.

Personally, I'd rather see you share an image of how YOU see your son - I'm sure he would feel the same way.

01-01-2012, 03:32 AM
Ed your points are certainly valid however, Greg posted in this section of the forum asking if the image were print comp worthy. Print comp and client work are sometimes very different animals. Print comp IS about showing to your peers and getting their input before sending it off to print competition where it is judged by your peers. In print comp there are many things that have to come together to get a merit print. Greg is asking for input on those points. I am sure his son would be very proud of the original image but now it's about fine tuning the print to make it competition worthy.

01-01-2012, 04:00 AM
Understandable...maybe I should have used the phrase "whose point of view" as opposed to "who is your client".

...at some point, we need to break away from what other folks think and present our own "point of view". It's a great image to work with and there are going to be varying points of view with various personal interpretations. I would personally like to see Greg's point of view as I think that's the only one that will shine in any competition as it will be the most genuine.

Then again, as mentioned, I'm not a fan of contests :-)

01-01-2012, 06:19 AM
Greg if you don't mind could you after you work the image out to the level of a merit print, post the before and after next to each other to see the adjustments made easier. That is of course if you decide to use this image and not re shoot. And once again thank you for presenting this image as a learning tool.

01-01-2012, 06:44 AM
Ed, PPA competition is not like any other contest I've entered. You're not out to win prizes and you don't compete against other photographs.

PPA has a set of standards that each print entered is measured against and the judge training and the actual judging process is quite elaborate. I recommend you research it a bit and see what it's about.

Greg is an excellent photographer, has been doing this successfully for years yet enters competitions to learn how to improve. I do, too. It's one of the main benefits to PPA for me.

01-01-2012, 07:04 AM
Rick, do you think I should have left the hair under the brim? I had removed the longer ones. Should I tone down the earring highlight or make it smaller?


I like what you've done on post 31. taken down the hair and earring highlight so that it is not distracting but still there. I also like the tonality on the shirt in that post. Now if you just had a flame in his hands and the hands a bit closer to the cigarette....

Also - Happy New Year, Dude - REALLY !!!

01-01-2012, 04:41 PM
Greg you can use the Puppet Warp tool and move his hands closer. I did this just for a quick result but of course with the full resolution file it would be much easier and better results. Then again, a reshoot also may be give you far better results now that you know all these things.

01-01-2012, 04:56 PM
Thank you for your input. The client in this particular image is everyone here. By this I mean it was shot with this project in mind. I needed an image I could use to help people learn how to prepare for IPC. The beauty of this is everyone benefits. New photographers can learn lighting, composition, post production and many other things that make good prints better. New and future jurors can practice their judging and critique skills. Experienced photographers have a chance to pay it forward by offering advice based on what they've learned over time. People that are new here and not comfortable with posting yet can simply follow along and learn as well. I have incredibly thick skin which means my feelings aren't affected when people are critical of my work. I used my son as the subject because he wanted to see how a competition print was prepared using his image.

In reading these last few responses I must say I'm honored. You people know me well...and you still say nice things. Way cool!

Jorge, I will be happy to do a final before and after post that includes the images along with a consolidated list of what changes were made. I will also post another when we finish with this one.

Rick, I'm working on a flame to work in there. Ron set the bar pretty high for me with his flame but I think I can do it. Do you think I'd leave that out... Really?!

01-01-2012, 05:03 PM
Greg, I have flame brushes if you'd like to work with them. I did some in color, working to get the variances of a flame but it'd be easy cheesy in monotone.

I'd be glad to share them or see where I got them (free download somewhere) if you're interested

01-01-2012, 05:04 PM
Ohh, and Ed, we all work hardest to please our clients. Competition is secondary but when learning what's needed in a comp image, helps us to please our clients later.

01-01-2012, 05:05 PM

01-01-2012, 05:09 PM
Greg you can use the Puppet Warp tool and move his hands closer. I did this just for a quick result but of course with the full resolution file it would be much easier and better results. Then again, a reshoot also may be give you far better results now that you know all these things.

I agree that a reshoot is my best option but it could easily be Summer before I see him again so I'm working this image as though a reshoot isn't an option. I need someone in North Alabama or Mississippi to let me use their studio so I can go to him and reshoot.

I do like the hands higher and looking back I wish I had shot more variations but that's a lesson learned for the next shoot. I'll see what results I can get with the puppet warp tool.

01-01-2012, 05:15 PM
Thanks Linda. I needed that.

I have a really great trend started in my market. My clients are in love with the "print comp" looks and gladly pay the extra cost(double) to have their images worked up this way. It's another way that print comp can add to your bottom line.

01-01-2012, 05:24 PM
Greg the other option for the flame is real simple. Get the camera and a lighter and shoot it yourself. Now you have a real flame like the one I used. Very quick and simple.

01-01-2012, 05:31 PM
On my way to the studio now to photograph some flames. Results will be posted soon.

01-01-2012, 09:43 PM
Flame added. Hands raised slightly using warp tool. A curves adjustment to bring up mid tones and darken blacks.

01-01-2012, 09:48 PM
Much better. Now, the flame has too much orange in it for me so I would tone that down. Also, there seems to be a black edge around his shirt that bothers me. Most obvious along his right arm where the smoke is. Then I meant to mention this before, you have a rather obvious black dot on the background near the top of his head. Look at the hair poking out from under his cap and it points right to that dot. Probably sensor dust.

Much better, This image has improved a great deal from the start.

01-01-2012, 10:01 PM
I had to wiggle the image to find the dot but now I see it plain as day. I lowered the saturation on the flame but I forgot it needed to be sepia. I forgot to mention that the sepia tone was created with a preset on SilverFx Pro. Should I stay with the sepia or do you think B&W would have more impact?

01-02-2012, 01:40 AM
For competition, I'd go with B&W instead of sepia.

01-02-2012, 02:29 AM
So here it is as a B&W with mat. There's a 4 pixel key line(light gray sampled from the forehead) around the image.

01-02-2012, 02:37 AM
Try clipping a bit more of his back off making it slimmer. That will clip off some of the negative space behind his head and bring more attention into the front of his face.

01-02-2012, 02:50 AM
Greg the dot is still on the background. Also I'm seeing a highlight under the line on his forehead - it's looking blown-out now, but it could just be the jpg compression....maybe darken that a bit.

01-02-2012, 03:17 AM
Trimmed right side of image. Removed that pesky dot. Toned down highlight on forehead. Removed dark outline from shoulder.

01-02-2012, 04:12 AM
Greg I noticed that the mat that you placed is off center to the left I also noticed that in many of the entries of that regional competition that you posted a link to a few weeks back. I'm curious about that, are you kind of giving the image space by doing that? And if you are, how do you come up with the position of the images rule of thirds?
Also the images is looking very nice the flame really added to the understanding of his hands been the way they are.

01-02-2012, 04:42 AM
You guessed it. I place the image within the mat to make the best use of the rule of thirds.

01-02-2012, 05:02 AM
Well here's the before and after images. Possible title. "The Debate"


01-03-2012, 11:32 AM
Greg, you've worked it into something pretty darn good despite some of the obstacles you came across. Nice job!

01-03-2012, 03:58 PM
A different take on the crop

01-03-2012, 04:07 PM
That's an interesting concept Ed but I think the judges would say it's squeezing the subject into the frame.

01-03-2012, 04:18 PM
I'm likin' it Greg. I notice on the bottom of his sleeve where it is brighter than the top of his sleeve from when you darkened it down. I draws my eye right to the bottom of the frame. When you put the before and after next to each other is when it is really noticeable.

01-03-2012, 04:47 PM
I think I failed to darken some of the white squares on the sleeve Amy. This is where the tweaking phase begins. Now that the major changes have been made I will go back a few times over the next day or so fixing all the little details I can find. Once I feel the image is ready I'll have it printed on gloss paper and mounted on a Sintra backing. Once I have the completed print I'll give it one last inspection under competition lighting and if everything looks good I'll be entering it in our state comp on Feb 2nd. I'll post it's score here on that day.

I hope this was helpful to people looking to prepare images for competition. My question now is would anyone like to see this again using a different image?

01-03-2012, 08:01 PM
Thank you Greg, yes it was very helpful, I really appreciate your effort to help others out. Also thanks for posting both images. Definitely would like to go through this process again if you have the time. You know between that link you posted a while back in which I sat through the whole competition and this image it really has gotten me excited about competition. Thanks again.

01-03-2012, 08:23 PM
I have looked at this thread about a dozen times, and have failed to respond because I cannot articulate what I want to say. That said, I will try. The image is a good capture, but I have an issue, with the quality of light. I wish I could say more about it, but I cant put my finger on it. There is something about the lighting that is not right. Maybe it is the contrast, or the height, but there is an issue for me there. you have talked about the shirt, and played with it a bit. I would suggest bringing the hands quite a bit higher. Just ps them up the arm and makeare full ccle

01-03-2012, 08:23 PM
Jorge, If you're interested in competition you might want to sign up for one of the mentoring sessions at Imaging. You can sit down with one of the jurors and get a one-on-one critique of your images. There are still mentoring slots available on Monday and Tuesday (I believe that Sunday is nearly full).

01-03-2012, 08:28 PM
Rick, did I miss the thread about the mentor booth? I can't find it...

01-03-2012, 08:43 PM
It's posted under Print Competition - and I copied the info and started a second thread under Imaging USA.

Try this:


or this:


01-03-2012, 09:10 PM
Rick thank you for the information but I will not be able to make it to Imaging this time.

01-03-2012, 09:19 PM
Jorge - you can't miss this year's convention.
After all, it's being held in New Orleans, the city of decadence (that's kinda fitting), and you don't want to miss this one since it's going to be the LAST convention that we'll ever have - since the world is going to end on December 21, 2012 - so there won't be a 2013 convention !!!

01-03-2012, 09:25 PM
That's an interesting concept Ed but I think the judges would say it's squeezing the subject into the frame.

You may be right about that, but to me the story is in the hands and face. Without the tight crop there are too many things taking my attention away from that. IMHO the light on the back of the neck detracts from the image. No one else has mentioned it, so maybe it's just me, but I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what that ear ring thing was. I now realize it is one of those alternative plug types of ear wear. I would have wished the ear had either more detail or gone the other way, leaving that side in the dark via a different lighting ratio. That is why I cropped at the ear, to eliminate the distracting elements and focus on the story, which IMHO is in the face and hands. I also like the flame better when it does not block the thumb.
All that being said, in a larger print the ear ring may be more easily distinguished and maybe I am just a tad OCD. I still think it looks better with the tight crop though.:p

Thanks for posting this and for your continued momentum.

01-03-2012, 09:37 PM
I have looked at this thread about a dozen times, and have failed to respond because I cannot articulate what I want to say. That said, I will try. The image is a good capture, but I have an issue, with the quality of light. I wish I could say more about it, but I cant put my finger on it. There is something about the lighting that is not right. Maybe it is the contrast, or the height, but there is an issue for me there. you have talked about the shirt, and played with it a bit. I would suggest bringing the hands quite a bit higher. Just ps them up the arm and makeare full ccle

I know what you're talking about on the lighting Jeff. It could be the result of the high structure adjustment I did using SilverFx. I lowered the main light considerably in order to cast light under the brim of his hat but not low enough to create ghost lighting.

I think the best thing this project has taught is that it's much easier to shoot it right the first time than it is to fix in post production. I'll try to pick one with fewer issues for the next one.

01-03-2012, 09:38 PM
Rick you convinced me. I'm selling the guns, kids, chickens and the wife to pay my way to New Orleans. Wait maybe I can keep the guns :D

01-03-2012, 10:18 PM
Rick you convinced me. I'm selling the guns, kids, chickens and the wife to pay my way to New Orleans. Wait maybe I can keep the guns :D

Jorge, the guns in Miami are probably a good thing to keep. Just remember not to shoot yourself or a family member like so many accidently do.:(

01-04-2012, 12:13 AM
... definitely keep the guns ... you may be one of the few to survive the end of the world and you might need them to protect yourself from Billy's motorcycle thieves down there in Florida...

01-04-2012, 05:23 PM
Greg - Thanks for posting this thread. I've enjoyed watching the progression. I know that the vote was to change the image to black and white for competition, from the sepia, and I'm wondering why? I actually preferred the sepia version, so I'm curious.

01-06-2012, 05:59 AM
Greg, I really appreciate what you're doing here. As a newbee here, I can tell I've made an excellent decision to join. lol I've lost a bit of sleep staying up to check this out, but well worth it!

01-06-2012, 09:27 AM
Wow, have you checked the number of views on this thread? Greg, you have provided a wonderful educational opportunity with this thread. That's fantastic!

01-06-2012, 03:55 PM
Thanks Billy. The fact that many people contributed their opinions is what made so many people follow along though. Competition can be a lot of fun once you understand what goes in to making a merit image. I had reached burnout in the Fall of 2010 and getting involved in competition turned my attitude 180 degrees. A lot of people pitched in to help me get started so I'm simply paying it forward and to be real honest it feels good to help people.

01-06-2012, 05:28 PM
What a great process, Greg! Here's my 2 cents... I don't think you need to work this hard in post production to create a merit image :) I agree with the comments Jackie shared, and I also agree with what Jeff shared... but I'm also having a difficult time articulating what I'm thinking. Bottom line, I think it's close, but not necessarily in the merit category. I think you've done a great job with the adjustments, but the base image wasn't quite there.

And, I know this is silly, but I see the flame then I see a half-smoked cigarette in his mouth and think "why is he still using a lighter when the cigarette is already lit?" You never know what silly thing a judge might get hung up on.

You've inspired me to maybe post some work again... I need 3 for my Masters this year, and I'm in serious crunch time!!

01-07-2012, 12:41 AM
You're correct, this image was weak out of the gate. It's weaknesses served as good examples for learning the elements though. My guess it it will get somewhere around 75-78. I can enter 10 so it'll be fun to see how this one does.

P.s. Thanks for posting the link to the lighting diagram file. I've been needing that.