Opinion BEFORE THE JUDGE AnnMiles FRPS
Each issue, a respected judge or exhibition selector shares their thoughts and experiences with us. This month, we put exhibition selector and RPS distinction panellist Ann Miles FRPS in the hot seat
Selecting and judging is very subjective, which is why selection panels comprise three people – you sometimes get disagreements among the panel, with one selector giving a 2 and another awarding the top score of 5. RPS distinctions are normally judged by a panel of five assessors and a chairman. Sadly there are some poor club judges around. Generally the poor ones describe the content of the picture rather than constructively commenting on the image. Or they have a pet like or hate and they tell you that, then mark up or down accordingly. Judges need to give a rounded feel for what does and doesn’t work and whether they are getting a feel of what the photographer intended and then point out that it’s personal opinion. I know from experience that some of my images won’t do very well with certain judges and do better with others. It’s always going to be like that. When I enter a competition I never look at who the judges are. It can go either way. If they do a subject themselves they may mark you down because they think yours aren’t as good or they might mark you up because they know how difficult the subject is. I think the most common mistake judges make is not giving enough positive criticism. And they don’t give the person the help that they need to improve their work. In terms of trends, the Europeans, particularly the Germans and Eastern Europeans, are producing artistic, beautiful and creative work which we are generally not seeing over here. In this country the trend in the national and international exhibitions where I select is towards images featuring a lady or figure, often a Goth, in some sort of attractive gear, superimposed onto a scene, like a landscape, a dark sea or coming down stairs. The people producing this type of work are very, very skilled workers and their work stands out because of that. It would be good to have a wider variety in the winning images, but this seems to be a trend. In around 1997 when I was getting fed up that my pictures weren’t being accepted, I manufactured one with a lady in a lavender field – it got accepted wherever I sent it. Non-manipulated images do have a problem competing against this type of highly manipulated work. When you enter a club or other competition, you are playing a game and there are ‘rules’, not written down but there nevertheless. You might have a photograph that breaks the ‘rules’, for example by having a very bland, light, distracting sky. When criticised, you might say ‘well, I like it like that’. You might like it, but you have chosen to play the game with its ‘rules’. I think the best advice to improve your success rate is to take lots of pictures. I have a daily blog and that forces me to take pictures. My husband and I compete to see who gets their blog entry up first when we have been out photographing. It gets me thinking about pictures and getting images off the computer – so take lots of pictures!
Words by Ann Miles
MEETTHE JUDGE AnnMiles FRPS : Selector and judge, Ann photographs people, architecture, nature and landscape, often combining her images with watercolour painting. She also lectures and offers one-to-one courses.
Sadly there are some poor club judges around. Theydescribe the content of the picture rather than constructively commenting
Strictly speaking, I am an exhibition selector rather than a judge. I do the occasional judging, but I don’t stand up week after week and judge live. I am a PAGB judge but that again is selecting pictures rather than judging them. Selecting means I pick work but it’s rarely in front of an audience of the photographers. Of course where I do comment on people’s work is at the RPS – I am on the Associate and Fellowship distinctions visual arts panel. There, you are expected to say what you think about the panels in front of you whether they pass or fail. I have been selecting for at least 15 years. Selecting for exhibitions is very satisfying. It’s hard work too. Sometimes you can have 3000 pictures to look through and a lot of them can be very poor and then you get a run of better ones. When you have finished and decided the pass rate, seeing the final selection is satisfying and, actually, the standard is very high. I do a number of RPS distinction advisory days and I do enjoy helping people with their panels before they submit – I give advice via email too. Often the panels can be quite poor and you know you’re going to disappoint the authors, but they have to know there is room for improvement. The standard of ‘everyday’ photography has improved enormously, especially with software like Adobe Photoshop Elements, which is priced to be within range of most people. The latest version has everything most people need or they just use Lightroom. The latest Raw converters let you get the most tones out of an image without blown highlights, and no blocked shadows. The quality of printing has improved enormously too. Certainly the overall technical standard of pictures has gone up, but I think the mood of pictures has gone down. Now that you can fill the shadows and pull back the highlights it means you don’t get that lovely contrast you used to get with darkroom prints.
Home club Cambridge Camera Club, www.cambcc.org.uk
What is your favourite camera? I’ve had the Canon EOS 5D Mark III for just over a year. I also have a Canon EOS-1D Mark IV for sport. What is your favourite lens? I have two, the Canon 300mm f/2.8 for birds and the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 standard zoom. I got the latter when my 24-105mm was off being mended and I had a wedding coming up. What is your favourite photo accessory? I have a fairly lightweight Manfrotto tripod that’s just about good enough for wildlife work. Who is your favourite photographer? Josef Hoflehner – his work is a bit like Michael Kenna’s, but I think he is even better. I went to St Petersburg because of him. He works in film and digital and he did some fine pictures at Maho Beach on the island of St Martin in the Caribbean Sea. This is the beach where jet airliners roar over as low as four metres above the sunbathers’ heads and Hoflehner’s images are simply amazing. A book, Jet Airliner , is available for €59 from his website, www.josefhoflehner.com. What are your favourite subjects? Buildings, snow, trees, people, nature – anything. Creative work using multiple layers in different blending modes to combine photographs and watercolours. What awards have youwon? I am an FRPS, MPAGB, EFIAP. I got my fellowship with a visual arts panel.
BELOWOne of Ann’s own prize-winning
images, taken on a rainy day at the Louvre, Paris.
above Winslow Edge.
Issue 2 | Photography News
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