Do You Photo Contest?

I joined a Photography Club a few months back and decided to participate in their photo contest, with a judge coming to the meeting to critique as each photo is anonymously displayed on a big screen, while club members sit quietly in the audience. As the first few photos were displayed at tonight’s meeting, and I noticed the judge’s main comments consisted of how to improve the photo via editing programs, I started tightening up. I choose not to use editing programs, other than a very rare crop or a bit of brightening. As my first entry went up, one that I particularly love (the fish on the barbed wire fence taken with my old point and shoot camera near Santa Cruz) and the judge ripped into it for having too many subjects in the picture, angle of the fence was leading away from the fish, background should be blurred and not so distracting, I thought to myself, hmmm, I’d always really liked that picture. I thought it was interesting, and unique.

Point and shoot camera used

Point and shoot camera used

Then, someone’s gorgeous landscape, and I mean gorgeous, was suggested would be improved via photo editing the clouds into a lighter shade. Another person’s posed flower on a mirror was given high marks for clarity and color. My street photography shot of a homeless man who’d been telling me his life story and how he used to be a boxer was given as dismal a review as the fish on the barbed wire fence because I’d cropped his hand and head too tight, among other things… well, heck, I was standing right next to the man, and was surely more concerned with his expression and story-telling, and I really wasn’t paying attention to his hand being cut off in the shot. I will try to pay better attention in future.

Homeless man in Los Angeles

Homeless man in Los Angeles

My picture of Kat and the horse, taken very spur of the moment with my iPhone, was pretty much a disaster due to lighting and color, Kat should be cropped out a bit, horse’s eye isn’t clear, mane is over-exposed on top. The picture is as it looked when I took it, I didn’t edit it. I’d felt so proud of that shot! Particularly that I used my iPhone and captured the horse sticking his tongue out! And that Kat’s hair and the horse were the same exact color!!

iPhone photo

iPhone photo

My peacock flying off the wall – first time in my life I’d seen a peacock in flight – well that earned equally low marks. The photo needs more space to the left, the wing is cut off, the background should be blurred so the peacock stands out more. Honestly, I was standing right there when the bird decided to fly. I felt so lucky to capture that shot. I’d never seen a peacock in flight before! There wasn’t time to frame the photo, blur the background, etc.

First time I'd ever seen peacock in flight

First time I’d ever seen peacock in flight

I sat through about two dozen or more of various pictures, including those four of mine I mentioned above, and noted the vast majority of the judge’s comments consisted of photo editing to improve quality. I decided I couldn’t sit through any more, and quietly left the club meeting. I’d been sitting at the back, in the dark, so I didn’t feel rude as no one noticed my leaving. I’d been so looking forward to the meeting, was excited actually, in spite of feelings of trepidation, but I left completely deflated and sad. I realize my initial instinct is best for me. I won’t be entering any more contests. While learning to use more features of my camera would be a nice thing, I refuse to take something I enjoy and rip it into shreds. I understand there are many different thoughts on photography, that it’s a very subjective thing. What one finds lovely and utter perfection, another gawks at in confusion. Some prefer the lessons learned from such critique, some aspire to be professionals, others prefer more low key enjoyment. I’m of the latter, which I’d known all along. My other entries (monochrome and color) are in the gallery below. I don’t know what critique the remaining photos were given, and honestly, I don’t want to know. I want to still enjoy them and the memory of the moment they trigger! Do you photo contest? ~SueBee (photos by SueBee)

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13 Comments on “Do You Photo Contest?”

  1. Jul 18, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

    I enjoy your photographs a lot but photo competitions are a different kettle of fish. The judge is judging digital images not photos. I often have pictures I like given a poor review but then I don’t care as long as I like them. I listen to the judge though and try to get better composed images next time. I like tinkering with my photo editor too so I don’t mind suggestions.

    I have seen some wonderful images in competitions and learned a lot without ever taking pictures just for a competition. I would say stick with your club. The next judge may have an entirely different view of what makes a good image.

    One thing is certain – just because a picture is interesting or even unique, that doesn’t make it a competition winner.

    I should add that I have seen some very unattractive and artificial looking images that have caught the judge’s eye and won.

    • Jul 18, 2014 at 8:02 pm #

      I think I’d enjoy sharing my photos with the club, like I do with the blog, but I won’t enter them into a contest with similar format as what I’ve experienced. If I could have spoken up, the entire process would have been useful. As it was, it was more annoying. I do know, though, that some of the ones I entered shouldn’t have been. They were ones I liked, but weren’t quality photos – to contest standards. I tend to not like rules or being boxed in by standards, so that most likely adds to the pot of soup! Thanks for your comments. Much appreciated. ~SueBee

      • Jul 19, 2014 at 11:50 am #

        I would definitely think that camera club competitions are not for you.

      • Jul 20, 2014 at 7:23 am #

        Agree. I consider myself more of a photo journalist than a competition style photographer. I enjoy documenting, not worrying about minute details that are required for competition quality. While I do try to improve my techniques and learn from my various shots, I don’t want to add stress to something I consider fun. So, lesson learned! Thanks so much for you insight! ~SueBee

  2. Jul 18, 2014 at 7:49 am #

    I love you work SueBee…..:-) Of course, you walked into the lion’s den….I sure wouldn’t be brave enough!

    • Jul 18, 2014 at 7:58 pm #

      Thanks for your kind words. I learned a good lesson! Never again!!

  3. Jul 18, 2014 at 7:39 am #

    I have never entered a photo contest, and I don’t really foresee myself doing so. To a certain extent, I use my blog to get photo feedback. I’m frequently surprised at which of my photos l am proudest of, versus which are most liked by visitors. I’ve been learning slowly, slowly, slowly, how to make a better picture. This is pleasurable in itself! I compare my first postings to my latest ones, and I see improvement. This gives me pleasure. I look at others’ photos to learn from, and this gives me pleasure. There are some astonishing and artistic images out there that I look at, but the degree of post-processing does not interest me. I’d rather be out shooting than in my chair post-processing. I’m in this as a means to enjoy myself, get out and explore, learn about myself by what I choose to capture & share, and to express myself. It’s all about personal growth.

    When I started my blog, I confess that I read all four of the very slim Scott Kelby books, to help me take better pictures. That’s because I don’t want to discourage myself. And hey, there’s some quick wins / low hanging fruit kind of advice in there. Why not?

    I like every single image you posted here. My personal favorite is the homeless man. You’ve given me context, you’ve captured his sense of pride in his manliness, you’ve shown the strength in his body and in his face.

    Interesting post, by the way. I really enjoyed your essay and I appreciate your sharing this experience.

    • Jul 18, 2014 at 9:00 pm #

      I really appreciate your comments. I’m glad you shared your perspective, the reasons you do photography, and particularly, I like your view on post-processing. I think you hit it spot on. That says it for me, and additionally, if I were to be purely interested in capturing a near-perfection shot, I wouldn’t be out and about and taking as many pictures as I do. I’d need to spend much more time on an individual shot than all the running around I do seeing so many things. Maybe someday I’ll slow down and aim for more art-like shots, but as it is right now, I love just clicking away! I spent the day today over at Catalina, came back with 400 shots to review! Thanks again for writing. ~SueBee

  4. Jul 18, 2014 at 7:17 am #

    Please yourself with your art…first and foremost. I’d love to see the critic’s work.

    • Jul 18, 2014 at 9:03 pm #

      Good point. Otherwise, where’s the fun. I too would like to see where the judge is coming from. I’ve noticed a pattern with the few competitions I’ve observed (not participated in) and find posed flowers in lightboxes or on mirrors are gaining the highest scores time and time again, various judges. Controlled environment, tripod, fixed lighting… beautiful shots, but for me, lacking in life. To each his own seems the best motto in this world. I appreciate your comment. Thank you ~SueBee

      • Jul 19, 2014 at 7:03 pm #

        🙂 from on the abandoned road.

  5. Jul 18, 2014 at 7:10 am #

    You have the right idea. Ultimately, the best critic of your own photos is you. Ten different “judges” or “critics” will have at least as many opinions on the same photo. Rather than tearing a given image apart, I like to isolate what I like about a photo. What works? Why? How are these elements applicable to other/future photos I might make. That feels much more constructive to me. Keep going.

    • Jul 18, 2014 at 7:18 am #

      Your comment is great! I appreciate your approach to viewing photos others have taken. It’s so much more useful than telling someone their photo would be better if only one of the two butterflies wasn’t in the picture, lol. That sort of critique isn’t beneficial whatsoever. Thanks so much for writing!! ~SueBee

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