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Thread: Problems with photographic competitions!

  1. #1
    Stephen Willard's Avatar
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    Problems with photographic competitions!

    Most competitions ask for a CD or slides of your work. This is very problematic for us LF photographers who use traditional methods for crafting our photographs. Converting our images to slides or some digital format greatly reduces the quality of our work and leaves us without distinction from someone who uses a point-n-shoot camera.

    For an example, in my home town of Fort Collins Colorado there was an international photographic competition sponsored by the The Center for Fine Art Photography. There where thousands of entries and all were judged by an art professor who I do not believe had any background in photography. The image that won the competition was taken in India of a little boy scavenging through and land fill for food. When I went to view the show for all the images that either won or placed I was shocked how poorly executed they were. In fact, I found many of them were no better then one would get from using a Wal-Mart reusable point-n-shoot camera. Many of the images were not even in focus, highlights and shadows were all blown out, and the tonal range was less then marginal. I suspect the CD representation of the work looked much better then the actual print, or if not, then the judge was not competent.

    In the above example, I suspect the CD allowed the entries to misrepresent their work. With LF photography the converse is true. I have never been able to produce a slide or JPEG which comes close to power of my actual prints in brilliance, tonal range, sharpness of image, and color saturation. In my opinion. LF images get dummy down to point-n-images when using these mediums for submission.

    When I have submitted entries to competitions that require actual prints and will not accept CDs or slides then I always place or win. When I have submitted to competitions that will only accept CDs or slides I have never placed or won.

    My wife says I should ignore their submission rules and include an actual 16x20 print along with the CD or slides. I would be interested in your feelings about this matter.

  2. #2

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    Re: Problems with photographic competitions!

    Duplicate onto 4x5 slide film?

    Also, photography isn't only about techincal superiority in prints.

  3. #3
    Greg Lockrey's Avatar
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    Re: Problems with photographic competitions!

    Slides are also used for paintings. How can a mural sized painting really be fairly evaluated on a 35mm slide ? But that's what many shows require since anything larger would be too cumbersome to handle especially if there are thousands of entrys where editing brings the show down to the "best" 125 or so.
    Greg Lockrey

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  4. #4

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    Re: Problems with photographic competitions!

    well - likewise.. photography has ALWAYS been judged by slide reproduction... if anything - the digital image would probably be of somewhat higher quality (only saying this because - at least you can tweak it on the comp) than a slide. I really don't see any problems with this. It also has an additional benefit of filtering out uncaptivating work, so common in the LF community. So this way - content is filtered on the first pass. There should be a second phase however - where prints are then judged by inspection after the digital inspection...

  5. #5

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    Re: Problems with photographic competitions!

    Fall the rules. Having judge club photo competitions, those who don't follow the rules simply piss people off.
    When I grow up, I want to be a photographer.

    http://www.walterpcalahan.com/Photography/index.html

  6. #6
    tim atherton's Avatar
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    Re: Problems with photographic competitions!

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen Willard View Post
    When I went to view the show for all the images that either won or placed I was shocked how poorly executed they were. In fact, I found many of them were no better then one would get from using a Wal-Mart reusable point-n-shoot camera. Many of the images were not even in focus, highlights and shadows were all blown out, and the tonal range was less then marginal. I suspect the CD representation of the work looked much better then the actual print, or if not, then the judge was not competent.
    My guess is that the things you list weren't a main part of the judging criterea, so sending a print of your work (apart from probably leading to your entry being dismissed) wouldn't make much difference.
    You'd be amazed how small the demand is for pictures of trees... - Fred Astaire to Audrey Hepburn

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  7. #7
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
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    Re: Problems with photographic competitions!

    Painters and sculptors have lived with the limitations of slides for decades. You have to trust that the jury knows the difference between a slide and the real thing.

    If the only things that distinguish your work get lost in reproduction, the slides might serve as a wakeup call.

  8. #8

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    Re: Problems with photographic competitions!

    Sometimes when people say "great photography" they mean great content, regardless of the quality of the final image.

    The image of the Indian boy rummaging through the landfill most likely projected a "feeling" and expressed a concept or made a commentary on the state of the world. This surpassed any considerations of technique, if that's even what they were judging by in the first place.

    I just borrowed a huge book at the library, a Phaidon volume called Vitamin Ph, a current look at contemporary photography. Everything, and I mean everything besides about 2 or 3 portfolios, looked like it was shot with a $5 disposable. I also noticed that most of them were printed in huge original sizes, i.e., 109 inches on the long side, etc...

  9. #9

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    Re: Problems with photographic competitions!

    Avoid competitions. Competitions require that someone will be able to recognize potential of your photos from small jpegs or very small prints. Such people are very rare. Even more rare are people that have the ability and at the same time can help you to market the photos. But they do exist, talk to galleries etc.

  10. #10

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    Re: Problems with photographic competitions!

    all questions of skill of 'judges' aside - whether you're submitting to a competition or to a gallery - from outside appearances - it's really just effectively a lottery. Don't let selection or lack of selection affect how you feel about your work. A few people may respond to the work - but most probably won't - regardless of content.

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