The journey toward creating impactful, visually striking images is not only an artistic endeavor but also a technical pursuit that requires a keen eye, skillful execution, and a profound understanding of composition, storytelling, and more. At the heart of this endeavor lies the 12 Elements of a Merit Image—a framework that not only serves as a guiding light for photographers entering the Merit Image Review (MIR) and the International Photographic Competition (IPC), but also as a blueprint for elevating one's photographic artistry to new heights.
The Merit Image Review stands as a platform for photographers to present their work for evaluation by a panel of trained PPA jurors. Beyond the pursuit of merits for PPA degrees, the review process offers an opportunity for photographers to improve their craft. It's a chance to seek critiques, hone skills, and refine images for resubmission. The 12 elements serve as the bedrock for these evaluations. Read more about the entire PPA merit system explained.
Historically, the 12 Elements of a Merit Image were integral to judging images submitted to the International Photographic Competition. Today, while the IPC assesses images based on just four of those core elements—Impact, Technical Excellence, Composition, and Style—the 12 Elements remain relevant and important, particularly for photographers entering in the Merit Image Review.
On their own, each of the 12 Elements has individual significance, but their greatest lesson lies in their interconnectedness. It helps to view the elements all working together in harmony to shape the impact and quality of an image, instead of as a linear checklist. Each element contributes in its unique way and serves as a guide posts for photographers crafting images that resonate on multiple levels. The article, Photo Competition Prep: A Fresh Look at the 12 Elements, provides an excellent guide to the intricacies of each element.
For photographers embarking on the journey of image review, the 12 Elements serve as an indispensable roadmap. Whether you are considering entering the MIR to earn merits toward your degree, or submitting images to the IPC to win big prizes, understanding and embodying these elements will empower you to create the best images imaginable.
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