A Camera Club Judge In Action

Chairman: Good evening everyone and welcome. Tonight is our monthly competition and we are honoured to have as our visiting judge Mr ….. …… a man well known to you all and a judge on the camera club scene for many years now. Without further ado I will ask him to take over the proceedings.

Judge: Thank you Mr Chairman. I’m looking forward to seeing the images. Let’s see the first one.


The first thing I would say about this is that the background is very distracting – there’s too much going on, for my liking. There’s also a hot spot on the top left which should have been cloned out as it takes the eye away from the main subject. He seems like a kindly old man but the lighting on his face is all wrong – there are too many deep shadows. The pose is good though. I would suggest photographing him against a plain background and get some advice on lighting him properly. A good effort. 2/10


This landscape suffers from a number of errors. It doesn’t comply with the Rule of Thirds – the horizon should be either on the top third of the frame or on the bottom third. It lacks foreground interest, something to bring the eye into the photo; it would have been better had the photographer looked around for some object that would have provided that – a bench maybe, or better still, a stream running into the river that would give the image a nice leading line. And the lighting is too flat and uninteresting. I would suggest that the photographer have another attempt at sunrise or sunset – a nice golden sun on the top right would lift this image out of the ordinary. 2/10


This is a pleasant enough snapshot and I’m sure it will provide happy memories for the girl and her family. I find that whatever she has in her right hand is distracting and the photographer should have removed it before pressing the shutter. Not bad for a snapshot but that is all it is – it is not serious camera club photography standard. 2/10


Oh dear. I wonder has this been entered as a joke? It looks like an image created inadvertently when the camera shutter was triggered by mistake. What can I say? It’s very red, ha ha! Next! 0/10


A nice child’s tricycle. It could be improved by having a child sitting on it – it would make for a nice family memory. The piece of the car on the right is distracting and the photographer should have been more careful with his or her framing. The sky is very bland and the photographer should have considered doing a sky replacement to add more interest to the scene. 2/10


A good black and white image but I don’t understand why the photographer didn’t exclude the distracting elements to the right and left of the prop in which the model was photographed. Other than that the model is well posed and the B&W processing is good. A little bit of Photoshop work could turn this into a future competition contender. 4/10


Now this is proper photography! All the elements combine to make for a magnificent image – the leading line bringing the eye into the photograph and the main point of interest, the old cottage. The composition, the lighting and the dramatic sky – all combine to produce a quintessential camera club image of the highest quality. Well done! 10/10

And on, and on, and on ….

Some comments on the images:

1. Alfred Krupp by Arnold Newman, 1963.

Krupp was a German industrialist whose factories, staffed by slave labour, manufactured arms for the Nazis during WWII. Newman, a Jew, carefully posed Krupp in an elevated position in one of his factories to indicate that he was of the highest authority. The pose and the harsh lighting were designed to portray the Krupp as the evil man he was. A magnificent portrait.

2. Rhein II by Andreas Gursky , 1999.

The print of this image – 73 inches by 143 inches – was sold at Christie’s, New York in 2011 for $4,338,500. Arts writer Florence Waters in The Daily Telegraph: “a vibrant and memorable – I should say unforgettable – contemporary twist on the romantic landscape.”

3. Untitled by Cindy Sherman, 1981.

This self-portrait fetched $3,890,500 at Christie’s, New York in 2011. No, me neither.

4. Greenwood, Mississippi by William Eggleston, 1973.

Eggleston is one of the most important American photographers of the 20th century and is credited with helping to make colour photography a legitimate artistic medium. From the web: “His 1976 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, Color Photographs, fundamentally shifted how color photography was viewed within an art context, ushering in institutional acceptance and helping to ensure Eggleston’s significant legacy in the history of photography.”

5. Untitled by William Eggleston, Memphis, 1970.

See #4

6. Elsa Schiaparelli, 1948 by Irving Penn.

Another masterly portrait by a photographic genius. One of the greatest ever photographers.

7. Drumluska Cottage, Killarney by me.

This image – and countless others that look exactly like it – is one of the biggest clichés in Irish landscape photography. It seems to be on the To Do list of every budding Irish landscape photographer and every one of them churns out almost exactly the same looking image. It’s tired and stale and I am praying for the day when a storm demolishes what is left of the cottage and someone builds a nice bungalow on the spot. Photographs of the place might have been fresh and interesting for a few months around 1965 but it has been done to death since. Enough already!

13 thoughts on “A Camera Club Judge In Action

  1. I still haven’t photographed Drumluska Cottage. I drove nearby years ago before I knew about it but I hope to shoot it someday. I’ll make sure to mention you when I post it on Facebook to admiring comments from all the local photographers. LOL.

  2. Love it!
    I’ve always been tempted to enter Daido Moriyama’s “Stray Dog”:


    into a competition, just to hear the comments. Perhaps something along the lines of:

    “far too big a dynamic range for a single exposure with both fully dense shadows and burnt out highlights. HDR might have been a better approach. And perhaps a wider angle lens to give the subject more breathing space. Nevertheless, a nice snapshot of your family pet”

  3. I’m not a judge, but I am judging a local cc competition in a month or so and I’m sure it will be a challenge, fingers crossed that I don’t ruin the comp. Historically important photos were very probably ground breaking in one sense or another at the time and could well have shaped future styles or trends, however, as times move on they become less of a draw. Evolution of our craft must happen or it will become stale. Interestingly that final landscape is beautiful and I’ve not seen it before but dare I take a pic of it now 😉

    • Thanks Steve. Don’t take my post too seriously – it was meant as a bit of affectionate fun at the expense of CC judges. And as I have often served as a judge I am poking fun at myself too! Best of luck in your judging. A few simple guidelines: be respectful, try to comment on every image (it’s very disheartening when a judge skips over images); accentuate the positive (that can be difficult at times!) and make constructive comments. I tend to construct my critiques under 3 headings: technique, composition, and aesthetic. Are there any technical issues (e.g. out of focus, camera shake, over/under exposure, etc)? That’s the easy part. Then, does the composition suit the subject? Would it work better in, say, square format? Finally, aesthetic: what is *your* reaction to the image? This is purely your subjective opinion and be sure to emphasise that – what you may like, I mightn’t, and that’s fine. But be sure to say *why* you like it or *why* it doesn’t work for you. I always preface my judging by saying to people to take my comments with a grain of salt, that it is just one person’s opinion, but that hopefully some things I say may be helpful.

  4. The first thing I notice about your latest post that it is your first since Jan.2020 so I am assuming you were attempting to gain maximum exposure, and what better subject to pick on than a criticism of judges in camera clubs. There is a ready-made audience out there with their petty grievances over their failure to win the Junior B final at their club and suffering under the delusion that just because their mammy likes their photo that they should get top marks.
    As to the photos you selected to back up your ‘piss take’ they are an easy selection, but I can’t help but notice that you think money equals quality and this is just not so. The American companies that bought large works of art during the 40’s, 50’s and into the 60’s for millions soon discovered that as art changes their prize paintings were just about worthless.
    I have to assume with your insider knowledge on judges’ comments that you yourself must have been a member of a club. Were you and photos not praised enough? Did you fail to win enough cups or medals?
    And lastly how different and original would your critiques be if you were asked to judge a club’s photos.
    Just to make clear I may have judged as part of a team but I would not be among a list judges that clubs would call on.

    Vincent Brady

    • Thanks Vincent. It was just a bit of affectionate fun at the expense of that fine body of men and women, camera club judges, and as I have often served as one I was poking fun at myself too. Best not to take ourselves too seriously, eh?

      I haven’t written a blogpost for some time as Facebook and Twitter tends to serve as an outlet for my pearls of wisdom these days. However, I felt the blogpost format worked best for my piece of satire. (Memo to self: write more blogposts.)

      Check out my reply to Steve Proctor’s comment as it sets out what my approach to judging is.

      Yes, I’m a member of a camera club – the Cork Camera Group – and I’ve never had any issue with any judge or his/her comments on my own work. There are some excellent judges out there – for example: Bill Power, Brian Hopper and Inaki Hernandez.

      I tend not to enter competitions much these days as commercial photography is consuming too much of my time and I am not doing a lot of personal stuff but I love looking at other members’ images and seeing the club progress.

      As a general rule though, camera club photography in Ireland and the UK tends to be too safe and a bit too bland.

      I remember seeing a camera club exhibition in the concourse of Cork Airport a couple of years ago. The images were very good and represented the range of talent in that particular club. Next to it was a separate exhibition of black and white portraits by a Kerry photographer. They were very left-field – edgy, taken from odd angles, wide angle lenses up close to faces, that kind of thing. They were vibrant and alive whereas the club’s photos were … nice. Another well known West Cork photographer was there at the same time and we were talking about the contrast. He made what I thought was a great comment: “club photography needs to be less like One Direction and more like the Arctic Monkeys”. My sentiments entirely – even though as a judge I am probably in some small way responsible for perpetuating the One Direction model.

      Anyhow, best of luck with your own photography and if I ever get to judge in your club you have my full permission to hurtle abuse and missiles at me 🙂

  5. My thoughts exactly; to many “This is the way it should be done” comments; to many time have I heard judges say that they can not link the title to the photograph! Also they have totally missed the point of having taken the photo in the first place! At last I know that ‘I’m not a voice crying alone in the wilderness’! Thank you very much.

  6. Fantastic, just what I needed after listening to a judge of our first competition. The judge of the second competition didn’t know what to say about my images and admitted to be struggling really hard with both of them.

  7. Always good to think about the evolution in photography John, in today’s world, yes the correct one won, I think your been a bit optimistic about some cc judges, I do judge myself, I always stress that if your image scores low, than it doesn’t mean it’s a poor image, it just means I’m the wrong judge for that image. No2 would of scored 12 for me…lol

    • Thanks Lee. I like your comment about the low scoring image – a nice way of putting it. I must remember that. Gursky’s work – and others like Eggleston’s – tends to attract hoots of derision from more traditional photographers (like myself). But we are looking at tiny images on a screen and they really have to be seen in the flesh, so to speak – hanging on a gallery wall. Gursky’s prints are gigantic and really impressive. Photography is, at the end of the day, all about the print and a beautifully printed image on a wall exerts a power that no digital representation of it can match.

      I used to laugh at the annual Taylor Wessing prize winners but two years ago I flew to London one day to see the prints in the National Portrait Gallery. I was blown away. It taught me to be wary of rushing to judgement without seeing the hard copy versions.

      This pandemic has shifted most camera club activities to Zoom and judging is done, obviously, on digital images only. It’s better than nothing but I yearn for the day when we can return to the world of print.

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