Image Analysis: How to Critique Like a Judge

Well seen…

On Thursday 4th March, Cat will be leading a workshop on image analysis. Photography is both an art and a science so we’ll be exploring what to look for when critiquing images, along with our emotional connection and reactions to photographs. This will be an interactive evening where we will all become judges, analysing and scoring images online during the Zoom session and reviewing the results using Menti.com. 

Cat has provided a large set of images for you to practice analysing and scoring. You can use these either before or during the workshop. A useful checklist has also been provided to help you be objective. These materials can be found in the members area of the website now.

Then in March we’ll be running our first Peer Review competition so we can use the judging techniques we have learnt. The peer review competition is now open in PhotoEntry for members to submit images they would like reviewed. This will close on Sunday March 7th and the submitted images will be published in a private gallery for members to judge using Google forms. Judging will then close on Sunday 14th March and the results revealed on the 18th.

Summary of the time line below.

George and Cat (but mainly Cat)

Peer review competition open in PhotoEntryNow
Critique workshop materials available in Members AreaNow
Critique workshop evening4th March
Peer review competition close on PhotoEntry and online judging opens7th March
Online judging closes 14th March
Peer review results revealed18th March
Updated 18th February

Cat’s Corner

Congratulations Steve

This week marks Steve’s hundredth blog post as Chair of the club. Looking back through my inbox I found that this year will be his 10th anniversary of joining us so it seems like an appropriate time for us to say a few words of thanks.

Way back in the mists of time, when we could all meet in the hall on Thursdays AND some Wednesdays – but importantly before we started to enjoy Vanessa’s legendary cakes…. it was a dark time. Then some sunlight appeared through the clouds as Steve arrived at the community centre as a fresh faced, nervous but keen photographer. We took him under our wing, introduced him to studio portraiture and encouraged him to trust his very capable photographic instincts.

Helped by an eye for a good image, the “usual” processing techniques and a selection of interesting hats, we saw Steve rise up the league tables to become our own “David” Bailey, before twisting his arm to elect him to the committee in April 2016 as Vice Chairman.

Since 2017 Steve has been a fantastic figurehead for the club, supporting members both new & old and encouraging all of us to improve our photography. His vision has led us through the challenges of lockdown with virtual club meetings all through the past year, and recently we even reached the dizzy heights of the North West Federation of London Clubs Semi Final. (Just 1 point behind Amersham in the PDI section – who’d have thought it! Thanks Martin!)

I can honestly say that Steve is the embodiment of our club’s reputation for being “The Friendly Club”, even if he has made me cry on occasion, and it is with great thanks that we congratulate him on these milestones and give him a virtual round of applause!

Cat


Cat’s Corner

More than just a competition image

Photography can document and creatively capture so many different subjects and views on the world. The vast majority of the photos we take will not be “winning images”, particularly as we’re taking more images now than ever before in human history.

We’ve all had disappointing results on competition nights where a judge hasn’t understood our image, or simply didn’t like it, but does this mean we should cast aside photos that don’t do well in competitions? Should we feel that they are somehow failures in our photographic journeys to the nirvana of imaging success? Definitely not!

Here’s a few ways for images that wouldn’t necessarily be “winners” to bring a little joy to our lives.

Social Documentary

A common phrase a few years ago among camera club judges was that an image was “just” a record shot. Images documenting everyday life or local places sometimes only find their importance at a later date. You may need to know more of the story behind them to know their significance, or they need to be part of a bigger photo-essay to be effective.

Back in the 90s I spent a few afternoons wandering around the streets of my hometown documenting the buildings and the people. None of those images would have won a competition but looking at them now I have a glimpse into another world – people’s homes that have been demolished, a retired man outside a working men’s club that’s now the home of a glass-ceilinged shopping centre and skate-boarding teenagers long since grown up.

Who knows what social history we may capture today and then look back on in the future with different eyes?

Portraits of Friends and Family (and dogs and cats and rabbits…)

Your emotional attachment to people and animals you love is always going to give some photos a greater meaning. Learning to separate our emotions and experiences when we’re selecting images for competitions can be difficult and knowing how others will view our images can be almost impossible! Enjoy capturing the memories for yourself and others, just because it doesn’t have emotional value for a judge, doesn’t mean it’s not successful for you.

We’re not all brave enough to approach strangers in the street like Instagramer Alex Stemplewski, but giving a great image to someone you don’t know very well can be a huge gift to their self-confidence and a boost to your own wellbeing.

Projects and RPS Distinctions

Like social documentary images, some of the most creative imagery doesn’t work as a single image. Committing to a photographic project can open your eyes to documenting a subject from different points of view. Trying the same photographic style or treatment on different subjects can help you see what works and what can be improved.

Online communities like Blipfoto encourage you to try and take an image every day, while working to gain photographic distinctions from the Royal Photographic Society can give you a sense of purpose. Whether it be the entry-level LRPS that challenges you to achieve a level of technical standards and create a harmonious panel of images to show your skills, or the next step up to the ARPS where you can explore the creative possibilities on a single theme. Many images that would not be “winners” on their own take on bigger meaning as part of a panel. Just as the opposite can also be true – three winners don’t necessarily make a successful triptych.

The Joy of Taking and Making an Image

Let’s not forget that sometimes the best part of photography is the challenge of taking the image or processing it afterwards – no matter what the end result is. Over Christmas I spent three hours in the near dark squirting a syringe of water at some fruit I’d balanced on cocktail sticks while using a remote trigger on a studio flash to hopefully capture the right moment. I then spent another three hours editing together a stack of 17 layers in Photoshop to merge together all the different splashes and remove the supports.

What I was aiming for was to get the fruit floating impossibly in mid-air while the water drops made it look mouth-wateringly tasty. The result…positively underwhelming! It definitely won’t be making it into our “creative or experimental techniques” competition later this month. Would I do it again? Absolutely! I learnt lots from the process and had so much fun splashing about in the dark, even if I did soak half the kitchen and end up an hour late for dinner. Sometimes it really doesn’t matter what comes out of the camera if you’ve had fun doing it.

Cat

Citrus Splash – Cat Humphries

Club Night Summary #100

100th
Club
Night
Summary!

I would like to to mark the 100th club night summary with a special thanks to Steve for all the effort he puts into making the club a success, from the work he does on the committee, to running the Zoom sessions and indeed writing such warm and inclusive summaries for us all to read. Well done Steve! – George

Rod, our Treasurer also adds: our Chairman has written 100 continuous weekly updates for our Newsletter and Website reflecting on our activities and deserves a big “thank you” for the encouragement contained in his weekly notes. Well done Steve – keep it up.

Now back to Steve…


One of the great things with ‘open’ competitions is seeing and enjoying the diverse nature of the entries, with everything being covered, Including landscape, portrait, macro and nature.

Our latest league print ‘open’ competition certainly provided all of the above, with some excellent Images on show for visiting Judge Rojer Weightman, who had the difficult task of critique and awarding points on the night. There were 48 Images entered in the competition.

It’s very rare for someone to gain two Images scoring 20 points in a competition, but our club Secretary Denise Noverre achieved just that, with her two outstanding floral Images.

The competition was naturally shown as a PDI through Zoom, but the judge took into account with his marking the qualities which would also make the Images good prints.

Thank you to everyone who took part and congratulations to Denise and the other high scoring authors on the night. Once again an enjoyable evening where we maintained our high standard of competition entries, through the creative and Inspiring Images presented by our talented members.

Steve


Cat’s Corner

For the Love of Mono

Our own Cat Humphries muses on monochrome photography…

This week I was invited to judge a monochrome competition at one of the local camera clubs. Being asked to comment on images is always and honour and so I decided that I should do a bit of homework in advance of the competition to make sure I was up to the task.

The club chairman had given the advice for their members to “feel free to experiment, not only with black and white images, but also sepia, cyanotype or shades of any other colour.” This echoes our own club’s rules on the Andrews Cup for prints, so I was in familiar territory.

Looking back through my own competition entries I initially thought “I don’t really do monochrome” but then I realised that although my camera club images are usually in colour, I’ve been producing mono conversions for theatre rehearsals since the 90s. Removing any problematic chroma noise in low light shots and toning down the often-colourful notice boards in community centres and rehearsal rooms.

As Stewie Griffin will tell you “Ooh you took a black and white picture of a lawn chair” and you think you’re an artist! Well, the 17-year-old me certainly thought so, and she had the film enlarger to prove it. Maybe the winter lockdown is the perfect time to look through the archives and see if a monochrome conversion can bring some life to my other images?

Monochrome has been used since the dawn of photography and since the young upstart of colour came along, mono has been used by authors to distance their subject from the “real world” we see around us. Presenting the viewer with an image where form, texture and pattern take centre stage. It’s probably most well-known for street photography or photojournalism, but it can be used to great effect on almost any subject.

The grand master of the monochrome landscape Ansel Adams’ once said that “the negative is similar to a musician’s score, and the print to the performance of that score. The negative comes to life only when ‘performed’ as a print”. Not averse to the odd bit of dodging and burning myself, the equivalent today is the Raw colour image file being interpreted as a black and white photograph. As authors we can choose how we process monochrome images to produce our own unique view on the world.

Using Photoshop or Lightroom to adjust the lightness of a colour in a monochrome image can help us darken blue skies, change the tones in a grassy landscape, or lighten the red on a stop sign. If we need more help as a starting point we can use presets or specialist plug-ins like Nik Silver Efex that have a range of conversions to try on our images, fine-tuning them to our own tastes. The 2012 version of the Nik Collection is available to download from the DXO website for free and there are tons of freely available Lightroom presets like these from On1 (https://www.on1.com/free/lightroom-presets/), so it’s easy to give it a try.

How have I got on with my experiments in mono? You’ll have to wait for the next few club competitions and see.

Cat.


Club Night Summary #99

Rosebowl Third Round

Our journey in this years external Rosebowl competition finished last week with us contesting the third round against Imagez, Ealing and Pinner Camera clubs. Once again we fielded a strong selection from our talented membership, but unfortunately we couldn’t quite get the points we needed. Cat Humphries was our star of the night scoring 2 x 19s with her held back Images. We also got 18s from George Purchase, Mike Brankin, Stuart Craig and Steve Bailey Congratulations to Imagez who won on the night.

We gained valuable experience from the competition and it was a great opportunity to compare our Images with other clubs.

Thanks again to external competition Secretary Stuart Craig for his final selection for each round, taken from the committee chosen pool of Images representing our club.

We now look forward to next years external competitions to build on our success of this season, where we reached the semi final of the NW fed competition. A tremendous achievement. At our Workshop last week we got the chance to have a look at some of the high scoring Images so far this season. A nice Informal Interactive evening which is highly suitable for the Zoom meetings. Authors gave an Insight into some of their excellent Images, sharing detail of their thought process and other Information.

A very enjoyable night, filled with good humour and plenty of photography conversation.

Steve


Club Night Summary #98

PDI Competition Night

We have started our 2021 section of our programme at pace, with a workshop on ‘quick editing techniques’ presented by some of our talented members followed by our first trophy competitions for Nature and Triptych. This was then followed by a great talk ‘The world of a wildlife photographer’ presented by David Boag. We also squeezed in two external competitions with the Rosebowl and a semi final of the Nw fed competition, which unfortunately we narrowly lost to Amersham CC.

Finally we completed January’s programme with our first open league competition. Judged by Lloyd Moore it was the usual tightly contested encounter with some great Images presented for critique and attaining points to enhance the members league position.

Congratulations to the higher point scorers for their excellent Images and thanks to everyone who entered in making it such an entertaining night. Judge Lloyd Moore made a complimentary reference regarding the overall high standard of our clubs Images.

We now look forward to our February programme, which is once again carefully planned to give our members maximum variety, Including a members workshop, a print open league competition, a talk on Improving your photography and finally a themed PDI competition with set subjects ‘Lines’ and ‘Creative/Experimental’.

In this turbulent world we currently live in, could there be a better distraction!

Steve


Club Night Summary #97

Defeat at the NW Fed!

Part of our ongoing pledge to our members is to try to provide Inspiration, generate enthusiasm and creativity. We had plenty of Inspiration and enthusiasm provided by our latest speaker. David Boag who gave us a riveting evening as he presented his topic of ‘the world of a wildlife photographer’ David the Author of eighteen published books, filled the evening with wonderful Images and stories of his travels around the World capturing some amazing Images. He covered a tremendous amount of material in the allotted time, explaining among many things, his business ethic and how photography life had changed from when he first started his career to the current day.

Thanks to club Secretary Denise for once again providing another top class speaker making this such an enjoyable night for everyone.

Earlier in the week, our semi final in the NW federation competition resulted in a win for our opponents Amersham. Some great Images were entered by both clubs which meant a very competitive encounter. Unfortunately Amersham had the edge overall winning with 317 points against our 307.5. We had entered a strong selection of Images from our talented membership, with our top scores going to;

  • Cat Humphries ‘ Haunted’ 20 points
  • Gordon Calder ‘ Bodacious’ 20 points
  • Cat Humphries ‘ Hollywood Starlet’ 19.5 points

It was a tremendous achievement for our club to reach the semi final of this competition and there was certainly not a lot to choose between the two sets of Images entered by each club. Thanks to external Competition Secretary Stuart for his diligent work in organising and his careful final choice of Images to represent the club.

Thanks also to those that were able to tune in on the night for the Zoom meeting to support the club.

Steve


Club Night Summary #97

Rosebowl

Second round

On Tuesday we took part in the 2nd round of the prestigious Rosebowl competition. Hosted by Witney cc on Zoom, with Buckingham and Windsor camera clubs also taking part We finished joint third on the night in this very tightly contested event.

  • Windsor 271 points
  • Buckingham 266
  • Croxley 265
  • Witney 265

There were some great Images entered by all the clubs which meant a very narrow margin on the final scores. We had some great scores with Mike Brankin receiving 20points for his ‘the eyes have it’ Image. We also received 3 x 19’s for;

  • Cat Humphries ‘Haunted’
  • Stuart Craig ‘Reclining nude’
  • Steve Bailey ‘Character’

Plus four Images that scored 18 points. Thanks to all that represented our club and for presenting such a high standard. We now look forward to our next external contest, the semi final of the Nw fed competition on Wednesday against Amersham. On our club night on Thursday we had our first Trophy competitions of the season for both Nature and Triptych cups. Judged by Peter Cox, there were some great entries amongst the 55 Images, spread across the competitions.

Our multi talented Cat Humphries was the recipient of both trophies with her great images in both competitions. The full results were:

Triptych
1stLove triangles on Sunset BoulevardCat Humphries
2ndTriple pointeAnthony Highet
3rdThe defining bootsMike Brankin
Nature
1stRobber fly at restCat Humphries
2ndEmerging otterSteve Bailey
3rdDragonflyRod Lacey

Many congratulations to Cat and the other placed authors and thanks to everyone that entered both competitions, making it such an enjoyable night.

Steve


Club Night Summary #96

Quick Fire Editing

Members share their tips

As we start 2021 we wish everyone a Happy New Year. Thank goodness the vaccine is now being rolled out at pace and there is sight of some form of normality on the horizon. We hope that soon we will then be able to continue our wonderful photography hobby, without the caution and restrictions we are currently enduring.

At our first meeting of the new year we continued our excellent programme with a members forum/ Workshop evening, featuring quick fire editing techniques given by a number of our talented members. It was a great Interactive evening led by Anthony Highet with David Eckland, Arron Dowdeswell, Alan Rhodes and ‘Ant’ all contributing editing techniques, that they use as part of their editing workflow. Each of them shared their screens and presented the varied Information, which ranged from photoshop tips through to a background ‘walk through’ Information on ‘Capture one’ software. It was a fascinating workshop with lots conversation and creative Information shared by the members. Thank you to all that made this such an enjoyable night.

We have a very full January programme which Includes two external competitions. On Tuesday 12th we have the second round of the prestigious Rosebowl competition which is hosted by Witney cc with Buckingham cc and Windsor cc also taking part.

On Wednesday 20th January we have our semi final of the NW fed competition against Amersham cc. A very busy month which also features a Wildlife talk, two trophy competitions and a an open league PDI to enjoy.

Steve