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Competition Judging Bullets

by Bob Dachelet

The following list of competition judging bullets was put together to provide a list of discussion topics for a judge to use in commenting on club images. It is not meant be comprehensive and certainly not all images need commenting on. To often club competition judges tell us they really like an image and then don't say what they like about the image or tell us better images are coming without saying what is lacking in the current image.

This list is meant to accompany my essay on Camera Club Judging.


  • If the judge does not feel an image fits the topic definition for salon (both judge and club members must be using the same definition) then is the image: 1) not judged, 2) judged with open images, or 3) judged but not eligible for an award?
  • Are there other club rules regarding matting, size, etc which would disqualify an image?

Impact...Tells a Story...Evocative...Staying Power

  • Does the image have impact to catch your eye and be considered for an award?
  • If the image has impact to get noticed, then does it have staying power (story/originality/composition/technique/presentation) to maintain interest or to win?
  • Is the message so important (photojournalism) that minor technical details seem unimportant?
  • Was the image taken at the decisive moment?
  • Does the image stir emotion or convey sense of place?


  • Does the image challenge the viewer?
  • Does the image reflect a personal style?
  • Is the subject new? If the subjective is ordinary, is it handled in an interesting or new way?
  • Is the perspective or point of view new or unusual?


  • If the image breaks generally accepted rule of composition, does it benefit?
  • Does the image have a center of interest?
  • Does the image allow the eye to travel around and stay in the frame?
  • Is the subject emphasized by placement, contrast, framing, simple background, or by vectors and leading lines that draw the eye to the subject?
  • Does the subject fill the frame?
  • Are there any distracting merges of subject with foreground/background/edge of frame?
  • Are there any extraneous distracting elements in the image?
  • Is the image balanced re weight/color/contrast/symmetry?
  • Is the subject looking at the viewer or at something in the image?
  • If the subject is moving, is there room within the frame for subject to move and stay within the frame?
  • Is the use of negative space appropriate?
  • Is the image dynamic or is it static?
  • Do colors/textures/patterns enhance or overpower the image?


  • Was the photographer's choice of film/digital/lens/depth of field/exposure length appropriate?
  • Is the lighting/time of day unusual/dramatic/appropriate?
  • Is motion conveyed by panning/long exposure, or implied by zooming during exposure?
  • Is the aperture chosen appropriate to achieve a depth of field appropriate for the subject?
  • Is the horizon level and at the appropriate level to emphasize the subject?
  • If the image was altered from "reality" in the camera/darkroom/Photoshop, does the change enhance or not change the image?
  • Is the color and tonal scale realistic or appropriate?
  • If all or part of the image is blurry, was it intentional and does it work?


  • Does the choice of printing medium influence the image?
  • Does print size/format influence presentation?
  • Is the print/slide quality good?
  • Is matting/framing appropriate?