Can I judge a judge?

Can I judge a judge? I am going to go ahead and say I can. Refs are given job rating after games so I feel I can do the same with this.    I give the judges at this competition a D+

Let me give you a back story so you know what I am talking about. Twice a year my professional photographer guild has a photographic competition. We are aloud to enter up to 6 images in a variety of categories. There are a lot of great photographer but over the last 5 years only two of us have won photographer of the year. This rivalry has changed the way salon is “played.” I put played in quotes because that what it has become, a game. We each do what we can to better our chances of winning. However some of the things done I think skew the line of playing and cheating. Thats for another day.  These competitions are known as salons. The association brings  in three qualified photographers to judge the others. The judge each image on its own merit from a scale o 69-100. We aim for at least an 80 as anything 80 or above is considered a merit image. This is important because every merit image is then qualified to place 1st 2nd 3rd and best in show.  Each judge gives a score and they take the average. If any judge, or the moderator feels the image didn’t score what it should have, higher or lower, they can challenge it. The print is then talked about and re scored.  They used the 12 elements of a merit image to score these prints. This is that list in order of importance.

  1. Impact
  2. Technical excellence
  3. Creativity
  4. Style
  5. Composition
  6. Presentation
  7. Color Balance
  8. Center of Interest
  9. Lighting
  10. Subject Matter
  11. Technique
  12. Story Telling

Sadly degree of difficulty is not one of the elements of a merit image, although some judges will say they take that into consideration.


On to tonight and why I am disappointed/angry. Art is subjective, you can have 10 different people look at one image and have 10 different thoughts on it. The same happens with these judges. We had two judges who have been judges many times before and a third who I personally havent seen judge before but has quite a resume. To me on this night, they really lacked consistency. Prime example, we had a small competition before the salon called creative quarterly. The same three judges picked one of my wedding images as the winner for that. Then 15 minutes later that SAME EXACT IMAGE was in salon. They gave it a 79. They just told everyone in the room, this image we just picked as a winner, isnt even deserving of a merit. Only one of the three judges currently photographing weddings. I think there is a top down issue in the photography world of how wedding imagery is judged. The image in question will be at the bottom of this post. It wasn’t posed. It was a moment captured. When they got to talk about the image they said they wished I was taller so I could see everyones face. I am sorry I didn’t have the time to set up a ladder and tell them all to do that over again. Wedding photographers and portrait photographers create similar images but could not do them in any more different ways. Portrait photographers have control over every aspect of an image and have all the time and no stress to create that image. Wedding photographers sometimes only have one shot, on the move to make the correct image. However this isn’t taken into consideration, and I think it should.

Another adaptation I would like to see at some point will be when we are able to separate images that are created on photoshop vs actual images. What I mean by that is there are makers who create everything digitally. Backgrounds, props, lighting, literally everything. When you do that you should have everything perfect. I still think that those are beautiful pieces of art, I just think they should have their own medium to be judged on.

I’m not sure how there will every be a perfect scenario for the last one but it is frustrating to see judges judging you on something they dont do. Kind of back to degree of difficulty. I entered two prints into to Commercial Category because that is where the photojournalism lives under. I entered a football player and a rodeo. The judges raved about how sharp the images were are the impeccable timing used to create the image. One of my biggest rivals entered an image in the commercial category of a baby holding a doughnut. In the past you had to have a tear sheet (the actual image used in whatever publication it was in) along with the image. This rule has kind of gone to the wayside now that so much advertising is digital. Sadly for me, when it came to picking a winning of the category. The sleeping baby beat out the bull and the football player. Apparently cute beats technique everytime.

I am trying to keep my mindset positive and not sound like a whiny photographer but I don’t lose well. I care way too much and I am WAY too competitive. I would LOVE to challenge any of those judges or that other maker to come out to a sporting event with me and try to keep up.

I guess they say iron sharpens iron. I’m coming out swinging hard next salon, don’t get in the way cause it’s all about winning now.


The football image was title Touchdown, It scored an 84 an 80 and a 79.  Would love to know which judge gave it a 79!    Averaged an 81

The Bull scored 84 81 and 79    Again would love to know who scored it a 79.

The house was called Jimmy Hoffas Hideout. It scored an 81

The Groomsmen was titled Pure Elation. It won the creative quarterly competition and then scored a 79. Deemed not worthy of a merit.

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