Why Do You or Don't You Compete - Discussion - Page 3
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  1. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arlyn_DeBruyckere View Post
    Many of the prints I've seen at conventions that scored above 80 I would be embarrassed to show.
    I can wholeheartedly echo that sentiment. I spent a good deal of time going through the print exhibit this year. It's the first time I've done that. I spent several hours going through them. Time spent there pretty much killed any ideas I had of participating. I went back again the next day because I couldn't believe what I experienced the first day. I must have been dreaming. I wasn't.

    Anne Geddes described what I was seeing perfectly when she discussed the danger of digital processes causing the photographer to lose the intimate connection with the subject. Images among the Master's display were the worst offenders. Don't get me wrong. There were many wonderful images in there but there were equally as many that I consider anything but worthy of being held up for emulation. Pixelated, oversharpened, over saturated, worked to death images that appeared to have probably started out as good ideas and good captures. (Do judges look at these things from thirty feet away?) They were all about process and rarely about concept, content, or emotion.

    Good artwork is almost by definition controversial. Not everyone is going to enjoy it. I understand that. But what I'm talking about is seeing photographic and digital processes taken to the point that the process is on display more than the concept, the intimacy, the emotion... that inspired the photographer to capture this particular image. That's NOT what we should be promoting.

    I found myself enjoying a much higher percentage of the images as I moved further back in the display towards the images that I assume scored lower... weren't loan collection or in the Master's display area.

    Our local guild has an informal competition at each meeting where all members rank the images present. At one such event I submitted an image at the last minute that justifiably scored dead last in the members rankings. Our speaker that night was someone who had significant experience as a print competition judge. In his comments about the images he singled mine out as something that would probably go loan collection in PPA nationals. I realize judging is very subjective but I believe there's a serious disconnect here regarding what the objectives should be.
    Bob Smith
    Accurate Image
    Waco, TX

  2. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobSmith View Post
    (Do judges look at these things from thirty feet away?)
    Bob, I say this with respect. You are completely entitled to your opinion, but lets try to keep this discussion about opinions and not about people. As a judge I am trained to always address the print and not the maker. For example, I may say "this print appears to be soft in focus." or "this technique does not enhance this image" I would not say "the maker didn't focus this image" or "the maker shouldn't have used this technique". I would appreciate if this discussion could be handled in the same way. Address the issues or problems as you see them, don't attack the judges. I have a hard time not taking your comment above personally because I probably judged many of the prints you disagree with. Thank you.
    Keith
    Keith A. Howe
    M.Photog.,M.Artist, Cr.,D.F.Ph.

  3. #23

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    I was thinking about your thread all night last night Keith. It's so rare for you to ask for anything and so common for you to offer help to others. I'd really like to share the thoughts that have been running through my mind.

    As you mentioned the PEC is discussing why the percentage of PPA members who compete is not larger in relationship to the overall membership. this first part contradicts my previous post in your other thread. I know I said the guidelines were laid out very clearly before but after thinking about it I realized the whole density/step mount issue doesn't get addressed publicly, (that I'm aware of). So lets start there. Is there some information in the guidelines that explain competition density and step mounting? I know the step mount is not required and some full bleed prints merit but in general the presentation does require a "treatment" to be taken seriously. Could an FAQ with examples on presentation be included in the submission guidelines? Maybe just a sheet or web page that shows an image with a variety of matting, step mounting, photo-shop bordered, and full bleed comparisons to give people an example. Same for the density, take three images with a variety of dynamic ranges and represent them "printed" at different densities with the optimal print comp density noted. Include a line about proper viewing light strength and distance (iso 100 f11 for 1sec from six feet?) I can never remember if that's the right standard and I'm not sure if that information is posted anywhere or included in the submission literature. Those are a couple of things that I think would be valuable to include as far as submission guidelines goes. ......Next!.....surely you didn't think I was going to stop there.

    What's in it for me? OK it's a learning experience, but how are you getting that message across? How about some testimonials in the PPA Mag - On the Web site - here on the forum - A Convention Program sponsored by the PEC that gives real world testimonials about how print comp directly benefited photographers bottom lines, a how to promote print comp Super Monday. I posted one example of a senior portrait that got me years of good referrals as a result of print comp in your other thread. I could tell another story about a print comp that resulted in the largest canvas I ever sold. I can tell another about a print comp that became a juggernaut of publicity I would never have imagined and resulted in monies from sales of the print, paid speaking engagements and job referrals for years after the buzz died down. I'm sure people could tell stories about the first time they saw a lighting technique, background, surface treatment, pose or a photoshop plug-in that resulted in a new product line or signature style. When a program's registration hits capacity it's (mostly) because the message has been clearly communicated. I'm not sure that can be said about print comp. Maybe a History of the Print Comp program at convention that explains the way it has evolved over the years with stories about the effects on the real world market place. The storytelling image comes to mind off the top of my head.

    Finally................I kinda think the horse is pushing the cart instead of pulling it. The emphasis seems to be on the awards and not the learning. This has nothing to do with the PEC. It's a perception among the membership. "I don't want to enter if I'm not going to win". The winning is perceived as an end to itself, it seems to me that the "winning" of an award should be perceived as one in a series of steps towards "winning" in the real world. In another thread there is some criticism of a recent widely published image. Several people have commented that the image wouldn't do well in comp. As if that were the end game. Personally I'd trade every award I've ever won to be standing in that makers shoes. I don't think this perception is something the PEC has been responsible for but I do think it is within their scope to examine. Maybe with a survey about perceptions like you started here.

    OK I can go on forever. I just wanted to give you some thoughtful feedback Keith. I hope it wasn't a waste of your time. Thanks for all your help and time served.
    Last edited by David_A._Lottes; 01-21-2009 at 03:26 PM.

  4. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobSmith View Post
    Our local guild has an informal competition at each meeting where all members rank the images present. At one such event I submitted an image at the last minute that justifiably scored dead last in the members rankings. Our speaker that night was someone who had significant experience as a print competition judge. In his comments about the images he singled mine out as something that would probably go loan collection in PPA nationals. I realize judging is very subjective but I believe there's a serious disconnect here regarding what the objectives should be.
    Hi Bob;

    At one time I entered prints in competition at a smaller than state sized professional group. When I moved up to and joined the state group I saw that the standards had raised. Then, standards raise even higher in regional and at Imaging. Members at a local guild may like what they see but don't have the training or knowledge to properly give a score or assessment of images. I have judged at "guild" or sub state sized groups as a CPP and Craftsman. I am not qualified to judge at most state groups since I'm not a Master. In Regionals and Imaging that goes a step higher requiring judges to be affiiated judges and to go through judging school.

    I have seen the opposite of what you voiced. Many times I have seen an image challenged. The person challenging mentioned seeing artwork or pixelation or a soft image. Once the others went up and looked close they re-vote and down comes the score. (BTW ... judges sit 6 feet from the images)

    How many times have you entered at a state, regional, or imaging competition ?

  5. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by David_A._Lottes View Post

    Finally................I kinda think the horse is pushing the cart instead of pulling it. The emphasis seems to be on the awards and not the learning. This has nothing to do with the PEC. It's a perception among the membership. "I don't want to enter if I'm not going to win".
    This really resonated with me and I think it's very perceptive. Most of the "older" photographers already have their Masters if it was in their destiny to have it. The younger photographers, however, are from a generation where the push to build self esteem dictates that everybody gets a ribbon....first place winner, second place winner, sixth place winner,.... 10th place winner. There was nothing in place to build a transitional bridge to adulthood where not everybody is a winner. That's sad because a lot of photographers are going to rationalize not competing, and thus miss out on one of the best learning experiences there is.
    Not a popular view, I'm sure.
    Last edited by Dave_Cisco; 01-21-2009 at 03:48 PM.
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  6. #26
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    [QUOTE=David_A._Lottes;192813]
    Finally................I kinda think the horse is pushing the cart instead of pulling it. The emphasis seems to be on the awards and not the learning. /QUOTE]


    As I noted in my first post, I don't care a bit about the scores, I only care about the learning. I want to know why the print scored what it did no matter what the score is. My problem is I can't usually be at the print competition so I am not able to be in the room to hear the comments. If each venue had the ability to provide an audio or video CD critique, I would probably enter a lot just for the learning. I am not at all interested in submitting if I am not going to get feedback. I just want to learn.

  7. #27
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    Default That is why ...

    As I noted in my first post, I don't care a bit about the scores, I only care about the learning. I want to know why the print scored what it did no matter what the score is. My problem is I can't usually be at the print competition so I am not able to be in the room to hear the comments. If each venue had the ability to provide an audio or video CD critique, I would probably enter a lot just for the learning. I am not at all interested in submitting if I am not going to get feedback. I just want to learn.[/QUOTE]

    Hi Ron;

    That is why I like entering our state competition ... being able to sit in on the judging. You gave me a great idea I will pass along to our state ... just changed a bit. I am going to recommend having a time at each two day meeting for members to bring competition prints they would like critiqued as well as images they are thinking of entering. I would like to see a few of our Masters who judge there to review them all.

  8. #28

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    I think Ron presents a very valid point. Yes, there is learning to be done through competition, but alot of times its not through the comp itself. In the few judgings I've seen the image in question got a score and no discussion. That's not wildly helpful. I know you can purchase the critique, but folks have expressed varying degrees of satisfaction with that process. I got one from last year, which was decent.

    I would say the bulk of learning I've done through competition has been reviewing critiques on this site. I learned a bunch about composition that I'm very thankful for. I've also learned a bunch from the folks who were willing to sit down and review my books before entry. In fact, the actual competition was what I learned the least from. I'm not knocking it at all, but if you have the discipline to improve your work and the outlet to get it reviewed without needed the deadline of competition then comp is really not the only or potentially even the best way to learn. Please note again that I'm not against comp at all, just drawing a distinction between the act of judging and the act of learning.

    I also don't think Dave's point is controversial at all - I don't want to compete if I don't think I can win. And with PPA its not really winning in the sense of doing better than anyone else, the competition is truly with yourself. Having said that, If I didn't think I could merit I wouldn't submit, what would be the point?

    Once again I feel I need to preface my next statement by saying that I respect PPA's competition, but it is just one view of what makes a great image. Its perhaps the most informed and professional of the photo competitions out there, but there are also alot of great images that wouldn't fall into what makes a merit print. That doesn't mean comp is bad or irrelevant, just that if you are going to compete you should know what race you are running.

    The issue that clients would love a "bad" image has been brought up and I'd like to sling my two cents in on that idea also. Its very easy to claim that just because something isn't comp-appropriate that its unprofessional or lacking in craft. This may be true, but that's not a given. What's wrong with an image that only the client would "get." The great thing about what portrait/wedding photographers get to do is create for a singular audience. That's a rather liberating gift. Sure, your work probably needs to have some amount of broader appeal to be marketable. But I would submit that its much more important to pleas a client instead of pleasing your colleagues.

    And its funny, the 10 minutes of extra playing I do on most assignemnts seems to be what's least appropriate for comp. Just depends on what's important to you.

    I would be interested in knowing who really feels that competition has helped them define their style. Has is driven you improve not just your craft but your approach and style?

    - trr

  9. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave_Cisco View Post
    There was nothing in place to build a transitional bridge to adulthood where not everybody is a winner.
    Don't I know it! HA

    Good point Dave. But here's where a substantive effort to help photographers publicize their continuing education could help. Not only would they get some good PR they could "feel good" about their effort. We both know clients don't know the difference between a Fuji Masterpiece and Cort of Gold. Some of the best PR I've ever seen came from wining the coveted "Gold Corner"

    Ron, Your point is very well taken and I meant to address it in my rambles. I was thinking about it last night. I think given the size of the organization the task is overwhelming. You've got the print mentoring and critics you can buy at nationals but I understand that doesn't seem to be cutting the mustard for many folks who have tried them. I still applaud the effort. It's a daunting job. I'm afraid the only realistic approach to getting detailed feedback on every image is for PPA members to join their local PPA affiliates. I'm not talking about a regional or in some cases even a state organization. Even some of those can be to large to give a person the individual attention they want. I mean the little guilds. I'm sure there is something like this near you. These groups don't have the talent pool that national does but they more than make up for it with their personal attention and thrifty fees. You can get some amazingly cheap/high quality education and mentoring from these little groups. There is a listing of affiliates on the PPA web site. I think it's probably the only way to get what you want. That said, testing the waters at a smaller group before entering nationals is another FAQ that veteran print comp players are aware of. It's more word of mouth than printed guideline. I think it would benefit participation in both small and large organizations to promote that idea more openly. I know in my case I didn't join PPA until I had prints from my state's comp that I wanted to send to nationals....man that sounds funny now considering I don't belong to anything but national now....but it's the truth.

    Quote Originally Posted by Todd_Reichman View Post
    I would be interested in knowing who really feels that competition has helped them define their style. Has is driven you improve not just your craft but your approach and style?

    - trr
    See that Keith!
    I'm telliing you there is an audience for real world tales from the print racks.

    OK Todd I knew a woman who saw her first high key image at a print comp at a small guild. She cornered the maker and set up a time for her to visit her studio. She copied her white psych wall and made it her signature style. I know it's hard to believe that there was ever a time or a market that hadn't seen a white psych wall before but there was. More recently I know a woman who is using Lucias or however you spell that Art effect as her signature senior portrait product. As you have often said the tools you use effect the way you work. Those are two examples of print comp having a direct effect on peoples brand. Personally I have swiped ideas from comps but never gelled a style or product line like those examples.
    Last edited by David_A._Lottes; 01-21-2009 at 04:56 PM.

  10. #30
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    I can't say that competing defined a style, but it certainly helped refine it. It taught me to watch the details...the background, wrinkles in clothing, positioning of hands, expression, head tilt, etc. Moreover, I have had countless clients tell me that they came to me because they noticed my attention to detail in my sample(website) work.
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