The role of judges in camera clubs

When people join camera clubs they often do so with the aim of improving their technical understanding of how best to use their camera.  They quickly realise that clubs are not just about camera craft, but offer a pathway to mastering a form of visual communication that exemplifies the art of photography. It is by entering images in club competitions and exhibitions for critique by experienced judges that club members get the feedback necessary to hone their photographic and post-production skills, and learn to see the world in a completely different way.

Judges play a critical role in this development pathway, because it is their comments that educate and assist photographers in their journey to master the art of photography.

General principles of photographic judging

What is being judged?

The relative or absolute merits of photographic imagery in both print and digital format

What events are being judged?

  • Photographic club competitions and exhibitions
  • Professional competitions and exhibitions
  • Community and organisational competitions and exhibitions
  • Photographic images and exhibitions in museums and galleries
  • Photography students assessment

What is being judged in an image?

While each competition has its own set of rules and guidelines, judging is basically an assessment of the quality of the image based on a set of criteria, usually derived from accepted standards of good visual communication in art and design. 

What does a judge do?

Good judges:

  1. Evaluate - images are assessed against defined (subject/category) criteria and then against quality criteria, and given some form of score or ranking.
  2. Educate – explain (justify) the reasons for the rank or score in such a way that the audience/artist understands what they can do or avoid doing next time in order to improve the image.  It typically involves the application of specialist language and knowledge.
  3. Encourage – reward creativity, originality, imagination and skill
  4. Entertain – club competitions and exhibitions are meant to be fun, not boring events that last forever.  A good judge manages time effectively, while keeping the audience entertained.

What minimum training/experience does a judge have?

There are currently no defined minimum criteria for someone to call themselves a photographic judge.  Traditionally they have come from the ranks of experienced photographers, whether amateur or professional.

Photographic judges may have some or all of the following:

  • Experience in photography, either as a professional or amateur,
  • Qualifications or experience in the field of photo imaging, art and design or related studies,
  • Good communication skills,
  • An understanding of visual communication and visual literacy, and
  • A desire to help others.