Posted 26 December 2007 - 05:50 PM
I was one of the three judges this year and since I've been out of the country for the past month I didn't have a chance to post here earlier. I'm surprised that LAUPS has not yet posted the judge's comments (at least I can't find them). I did send them a very detailed list, but they were not that different than judges comments from previous years.
We had one day to look at hundreds of images, so the first step in the process of judging each category was for all three judges to eliminate those images that didn't stand out from the rest. This usually narrowed things down significantly, and the remaining images were where we spent most of our time.
There was a lot of disagreement between the judges and we all had to take turns backing down from our arguments for or against any particular image or we would have spent a week before we could come to any agreement on some of the entries. We all had strong likes and dislikes that went in every direction. I can't speak for the other judges, but here is some of what went on in my head during the judging process...
One of my biggest objections was to images that were of poor quality or out of focus. Quality issues could have been because of bad Photoshop processing of under or over exposed images, bad printing, obvious color management issues, bad cropping choices, or no cropping when it should have been done. Most of these got eliminated in the first round. Some great images may not have taken first place because of quality issues, but were voted to place because of impact or composition, and you might not see those defects in the online version. When the image is projected on a wall, this was much more obvious.
Also immediately disqualified were those shots that we've seen a hundred times before, such as the tiger sharks in the Bahamas, the split image of the alligator (yes one slipped by), and pygmy seahorses. Unless someone could show us something that was a totally new way of looking at things, I personally didn't feel like an image like that deserved to win over an image that was created from a new and original idea.
I also very heavily weighed photo composition as being one of my top criteria. There were a lot of good ones, but only a couple that really stood head & shoulders above the rest. Maybe its my fine arts training coming back to haunt me, or maybe I've done too many presentations about photo composition at my workshops, but there were many shots that didn't take composition into consideration at all and in most cases were eliminated early on.
Level of difficulty was also discussed among the judges, as was being in the right place at the right time and knowing exactly what to do while being there, but that didn't mean a really unusual shot or subject would win over a common subject that was presented in a totally new way and with outstanding composition.
Lastly, the oh-so-hot topic of whether a critter got moved for the shot was a huge part of our discussion. We questioned manipulation in some of the images, but gave the photographers the benefit of the doubt, since none of us really knew for sure if a critter was moved or not. Same thing with Photoshop manipulation, although that's a bit easier to detect. We didn't see a lot of either but we took the "innocent until proven guilty" position on that.
If I were to offer suggestions on how to win next year's contest, I would tell you to review and study all the judges comments from previous years. Its like the bible of how to win a photo contest and when I started reading past judges comments I was really surprised that so many people still entered images that were exactly what previous judges said they disliked and disqualified.
It was a real honor to be invited to judge this contest. I was very blown away by many of the images that were entered. There were many shots that I really wished I had captured. I had to keep reminding myself that contestants were not professionals. Much of what was entered was way better than we see in most the magazines (except Wetpixel Quarterly of course). It was a very enjoyable day for all of us to see so many beautiful images.
I would like to congratulate all the winners on a job well done.