Judging Judges

Camera clubs are a setting for people with a shared interest to come together and interact with respect to photography.  Club members’ goals include education, mentoring, offering field trips to a variety of settings, promoting photography as an art form, and finally, competing.

So, enter the judge.  A judge engages in thoughtful consideration of the candidate images, and then renders his or her judgment on entries in a competition.  Basically, the judge’s task is to determine and award relative merit for images based on particular rules (e.g., composition, technical achievement, color, etc.) or other artistic components. 

Judging of competitions is informal, rather than employing a structured or numeric process, and is therefore not rigorously objective. Subjectivity potentially enters into the photographic critique, based on personal preferences, experience, taste, or values, and different judges may reach substantially different conclusions regarding the same set of images.  Even if a club attempted to apply a structured review process for a photo contest, it would be unlikely to eliminate subjectivity from the process or result. 

The competitor’s subjectivity and pride of creation can potentially conflict with the judge’s subjectivity. Judging is not for everyone; it requires considerable patience and generosity, and involves risk, responsibility, and trust. We need to remind ourselves that judges bring a substantial body of knowledge that adds to our learning, and we should be grateful for their efforts. 

To provide for quality and consistency of judging for member clubs, MPA has developed a Judge Certification Program to provide training of judges with respect to analytic foundations, judging principles, and practices.  We commend Roy Sewall and his MPA students for this effort to raise the bar for photography contests and judging success.

Stephanie Banks