Month: March 2021

Some thoughts on ON1 Photo RAW 2021

Some thoughts on ON1 Photo RAW 2021

Although I use On1 routinely for most of my editing, I so far haven’t really mentioned it to any great degreeon this blog, even though most of the images you see here will have been processed using On1. I’m therefore going to take this opportunity to put this right today.

This hugely competent editor from OnOne is a full featured editor available for both Windows and MAC. It combines comprehensive RAW editing with the ability to use a huge number of Presets and LUT’s with a fully integrated layer management system. It also includes a very usable Digital Asset Management system (DAM) for those that want to apply keywords and descriptions to their images and to manage image locations, albums and virtual copies etc. This now includes the ability to find and delete duplicates as well as group your images more efficiently. Albums are hugely useful in that they help you to group images across multiple directories. For example you could create an album called Reflections and include any image within that album that includes a reflection of some kind irrespective of in which directory that image is sitting. Albums can be any size so no limit to the number of images you can add. I use them extensively.

ON1 offers a single user interface and recent improvements include the ability to work on and improve your portraits without having to leave ON1 to go to something like PortraitPro. This now includes Frequency Seperation of a sort plus the ability to relight the face and improve the eyes, skin and mouth. These can be applied together or independently. For male portraits I tend to just work on the eyes bit for female portraits, it’s not unusual to use all three. This feature, although releatively new but has a lot of potential. At present it does exclude a lot of the functionaly you will find in products such as PortraitPro but nonetheless, it is very usable and the results can be great.It still falls way short of PortraitPro and Affinity in this respect but it’s a good step forward.

The On1 interface is relatively simple to get to grips with with various panels providing information to the left and right of the main editing panel. The left-hand panel can be minimised to provide additional real-estate to allow you to focus on your editing in the centre panel. The right-hand panel contains all the features you need to create amazing post-processed results, often in just a few minutes.

If you need to add layers, ON1 has all of the features you need access to plus as mentioned, you can create a virtual copy at any time to branch into a different editing approach if needed. The results from ON1 are exceptional thanks in part to the ability to use a vast number of presets and LUT’s which take out the heavy lifting and help you create a particual look, for example an analogue film look, black and white images etc etc.

What I like particularly about ON1 is the Effects Panel. This gives you instant access to a number of features including B&W converison, Vignette, Colour and Tone Controls, Contrast Controls and much more. Each these controls in turn have a number of presets you can choose from or, if you prefer, you can edit manually using the sliders. This makes editing RAW files effortless for the most part, especially if you are doing a straight edit.

Another good feature is the ability to create your own presets. For example, recently I wanted to convert some digitised images taken from film negatives so I fully edited one from the batch to exactly how I wanted it, then created a preset which I then applied to the other 35 images in the set. While there was still a need to do some very minor adjustments, for example to exposure because of the changing light conditions, this vastly reduced the amount of effort needed to convert and grade each negative.

The final option availble during editing is Local Adjustments which is basically where you do the your fine tuning of your image. This provides you with a huge range of possibilities including the creation of complex masks. When using local adjustments the tool set on the LHS of the screen has several additional tools that can be used to help in the creation and refining of masks. Depending on the complexity of the object being masked, this process can take anything from a few seconds to a few minutes. The quality of your mask ultimately controls the quality of the resulting images so time taken on mask creation is time well spent.

As mentioned earlier, ON1 allows you to work with images to create composites such a changing a sky on one image for another or adding a texture or background image. Each layer can have it’s own adjustments and effects so it’s possible to create quite complex composite images using this technique. Here, I’ve simply removed the backround of the main portrait and substituted this for a textured background to give more dynamic appeal.

The latest version of On1 Photo Raw 2021 now also works as a plugin to Affinity Photo. When installing On1, if Affinity Photo is loaded on your computer the necessary plugin files are automatically loaded. Plugin files also exist for Adobe Photoshop and again, if On1 locates Photoshop on your PC, it automatically loads the necessary files. Why is this so useful? Well, Affinity Photo is a comparible editor to Photoshop in that it can do pretty much anything that Photoshop can do. The main difference between the two is that Affinity Photo is sold on a perpetual licence, this is currently under £30 (as of 26/03/2021) whereas Adobe Photoshop is sold alongside Adobe Lightroom and Bridge for about £10 per month. That means combining On1 Photo Raw 2021, which I bought for under £50 and Affinity Photo at just £25 equates to an immediate saving of about £45 in the first year. Thereafter, even renewing On1 yearly means more and more savings year on year. Will you notice the difference other than in your pocket? If you are a proficient Photoshop user then probably, there are a lot of presets only available to Photoshop. If you have never used Lightroom or Photoshop, probably not, the functionality of On1 + Affinity Photo matches the Adobe products pretty much feature to feature. I personally have never felt I was losing out by not using Photoshop although there have been times when I have seen 3rd party add-ons that are only available to Photoshop users and I have felt a little disappointed. Then I think how much I have saved and the world’s OK again!

PROS

  • Comprehensive image editing
  • Now works as a plugin to Affinity Photo as well as Photoshop
  • Perpetual licence – buy once and only upgrade if you feel you need to
  • Reasonable cost – often much less than £90 normal price (currently it’s just £58 plus you can often apply vouchers)
  • Relatively quick learning curve
  • Create virtual copies to work on
  • Layer based editing system with the ability to add effects and do local adjustments
  • Portraiture Features
  • A huge number of LUTS and Presets are available to help you create stunning images
  • Comprehensive print and print layout options

CONS

  • Can be slow to load and export images
  • Some lag noticable when masking / adjusting images
  • Mask refinement while good is not perfect
  • Layers are limted to image layers (although you can duplicate layers)
  • UI is busy but well layed out and easy to navigate

ON1: This helpful and complete guide to using ON1 PhotoRaw 2020 is a great reference document for anyone using, or thinking about using ON1 as their primary editor. Find it here.

Nik Analog Efex

Nik Analog Efex

Every so often I get the urge to play with Nik Efex. I can’t help myself, it’s such a fantastic artistic resource for photographers. The above image, not to everyone’s liking I’ll agree, is a simply me throwing a straight image from a photoshoot back in 2019 (which seems an age ago now) and playing with options in Nik Efex. The app I used for this was Nik Analog Efex, a smorgasbord of effects such as film type, lightleaks, motion blur, frames, camera types e.g. toy, classic, vintage etc and a whole lot more. You can simply choose a set of presets e.g. Classic Camera or you can make your own camera kit. If you love to experiment with your images, you’ll get where I am coming from.

The image above uses just a couple of effects built using the Build Your Own Camera option, these being a classic camera, film type and light leaks. No need to over-egg the pudding, I liked the base image and just wanted to add a little interest. Besides, it’s good to keep your hand in with apps like Nik Efex or you forget you have them and more importantly, how to use them.

As I mentioned, this type of experimentation is like marmite, some will love it, some will hate it. It doesn’t much matter which camp you fall into as you’ve read this far so you must be interested! So, if you want to download and play with Nik Efex, you can. It can be had free from the DxO website by visiting https://nikcollection.dxo.com/nik-collection-2012/. Go get it!

A walk with Ilford FP4 Plus 125

A walk with Ilford FP4 Plus 125

Skateboarder, Victoria Park Paignton 2021

This is the second roll of film I have put through my aging Pentax KM and I’m very much more pleased with these results than for the Kentmere 400 (also an Ilford product) that I tried first. Now, that could be down to inexperience, it was the first roll of film I had developed in over 40 years, or it could be to the way I was using the camera / lens. I certainly found the lens to be challanging, it was the Pentax 50mm f1.7 lens, which althrough equally aged does tend to get good reviews. The problem I found was in focusing it and the Kentmere images are definately off focus for this reason. For these shots, I went with the Minolta 35-70 F2.8-4 as I’d used this on my Lumix GX-80 with a lens adapter and achieved some really nice results. I felt than that I had a good chance on improving on the 50mm f1.7 and looking at the reults here, I think I did. For the next roll I shoot with the Pentax, I am going to shoot twelve on the Pentax 50mm, f1.7, twelve on the Minolta 35-70 and twelve on the Pentax 55mm f1.8 that came with the camera all those years ago. I’m keen to revisit the Pentax 55mm as I recall images from that lens being quite sharp. This approach will at least enable me to judge whether it is technique, or equipment.

All of the above images were processed in Bellini chemicals. For the developer I used Bellini Hydrofen @ 1:39 dilution for 6 minutes, for the fixer, Bellini FX100 ECO @ 1:4 for 3 minutes. The stop bath was just tap water. I digitised the negatives using a home made digitising rig consisting of a light box (flash lit), Lomography Digitalizer 35mm Scanning Mask, tripod and a Nikon D600 with Tamron 90mm f2.8 1:1 Macro lens.

Nailing the Film Experience

Nailing the Film Experience

Not being able to accurately digitise film makes it pretty difficult to work out if you actually took good pictures or not. Was the focus off, was the lighting good, was the subject matter sufficiently interesting to even bother! This is exactly the position I found myself in recently when I decided to experiment with B&W film and an old Pentax KM SLR that had been sitting in the cupboard for 40 years plus. Truth was, I was really keen to experience the whole emotional journey of taking the photos, developing them and finally, digitising them.

Now each part of that journey has challanges. For example, taking the photos is not quite as simple as pointing a modern digital camera at the scene and pressing the shutter. For those of you you that have experimented with the manual settings on your digital cameras you’ll know exactly what I mean. There’s a lot to think about with an SLR, especially if you have a fully manual lens attached. Firstly there’s managing the light. Old SLR’s such as the Pentax KM expose for the average light entering the lens. That means that providing the light is well managed the highlights aren’t blown and darks aren’t too dark. However, all too often the sky loses detail and the shadows can be a little too dark. Unlike digital though, it’s really difficult to pull any details out of areas that are too dark or too light. Getting the right exposure then becomes an art form and it’s the reason you used to see good photographers use external light meters in order to work out the best exposure for the scene they were photographing. The second problem is capturing an image worth the effort. With digital we are in “a throw away society” and any image not up to standard, whether through poor composition, poor exposure or poor subject matter, is tossed in the bin. Follow that same approach with film and I guarantee you that you’ll have only 5 or 6 decent images out of 36. You simply can’t leave anything to chance with film. Finally, there’s any number of things that can go wrong from poor focus through to incorrectly developing the entire batch. Trust me, you need nerves of steel to get something good with film.

Taking everything above into account, the images below are from my earliest experiments with film, in this case Ilford FP4 Plus 125.I chose FP4 because I liked the look of various images I had seen on Pinterest etc so it seemed a good start point. My very first roll had been Kentmere 400 but while I got some images from this roll, I wasn’t hugely impressed, either with my compositions or my focus. I chose to use the Pentax 50mm f1.7 for that roll and I had some difficulties with nailing focus. With the FP4 I chose to use the Minolta 35-70 f2.8-4 and the results from this lens are shown below. I think that here focus was a lot sharper plus the various images had some interest. Hopefully, you’ll agree.

The gear used to achieve these images was as follows:

  • Pentax KM SLR (circa 1980)
  • Minolta 35-70 f2.8-4
  • Ilford FP4 Plus 125 36 exposures
  • Bellini Hydrofen developer & Bellini FX100 ECO fixer
  • Home built flash-lit digitising rig using Nikon D600 and Tamron 90mm f2.8 1:1 Macro lens
A cautionary tale on why I both love and hate Ebay

A cautionary tale on why I both love and hate Ebay

Anyone following this blog will know that I love experimenting with photography. Whether that is playing with film, building stuff, digitising my negatives on a shoestring or just having fun with stuff like Nik Efex.

A couple of weeks ago I was experimenting with digitising negatives and it became very clear that the lenses available to me were not going to be ideal for this task. They worked, just not ideally. What I needed to do a professional job, albeit it’s a home grown digitising setup, is a sharp, accurate 1:1 macro lens. Various online searches resulted in recommendations for the Nikon Micro 105mm f2.8 1:1 macro lens and I duly searched for one on the various shopping portals. By chance, this particular lens was due to complete on Ebay in a couple of days and so I set my top bid price using the Ebay automated bidding system which in this case was £239. As it happened, I won at £195 which was a good price for this lens so I was well pleased. I was surprised that the shipping option was 2nd Class Signed for but as its a 2 – 3 day service I felt reasonably comfortable. The item duly paid for it shipped next day and the shipping info was supplied. All good. Fast forward 11 days, and several messages with the seller later, still no lens. On day nine I had agreed with the seller that if the lens didn’t arrive in the next 24 hours he would refund. I have to say at all times the seller was courteous and responsive and as promised, on the 10th day he refunded my payment and the agreement was that I would refuse the delivery if and when it arrived. A couple of days later it did just that!

Now, for a few seconds I did think about accepting the lens and reversing the refund. What stopped me was that it arrived in a flimsy Royal Mail plastic bag with practically no packing. At best it felt like it had a single layer of micro bubble wrap as I could clearly feel all of the lens features. To my mind this is no way to ship a £200 lens, especially one that’s just had an eleven day trip around the UK. The opportunity for damage was simply to high. The lens was refused and returned. Hopefully it will reach the seller in good order but quite honestly, it’s somewhat of a lottery.

This obviously left me with a problem in that I still needed a macro lens. While waiting for delivery I had the opportunity to rethink my strategy and this latest research yielded several alternatives to the Nikon 105mm, for example the older version of the Tamron 90mm f2.8 1:1 macro. Searching online yielded several options but eventually I alighted on one in excellent condition, again on Ebay, this one for £179 on Buy It Now. There were a few other options available to me but I felt that I might wait 2 or 3 days and still pay close to £179 so I pressed the button and bought it. Literally 48 hours later I was unboxing a perfect example of the Tamron 90mm f2.8 and with it popped onto my Nikon D600 I digitised my first negative strip. Perfect results.

There are several things to learn from this story. Firstly, I only ever buy from sellers with close to 100% satisfaction rating and a lot of shipped items. Despite this, I got it wrong with one and right with another. Both were however courteous and responsive and that’s a big plus point. Secondly, my experience with the long and finally aborted delivery of the Nikon 105mm led me to ask the seller of the Tamron 90mm to upgrade shipping of the lens from Royal Mail 1st Class Tracked and Signed, a 48hour service, to Special Delivery which is a 24hour fully tracked service. I offered to pay extra but the seller refused the offer but still shipped by Special Delivery. That is outstanding customer service by any measure. I also asked if he could ensure it was packaged appropriately and indeed, it arrived boxed and well protected. Thank you Ebay seller jklewis133, I thoroughly recommend you to my readers.

Lomography Digitalizer 35mm Film Scanning Mask

Lomography Digitalizer 35mm Film Scanning Mask

I’ve mentioned the Lomography Digitalizer 35mm Film Scanning Mask (Lomography Digitalizer) in a few of my blogs but I thought I’d focus specifically on it for this one.

Firstly, the Lomography Digitalizer is a simple scanning mask which can clamp and hold a strip of up to six 35mm colour or B&W negatives. You could use it for any number of negatives between one and six of course but six is ideal. It consists of 3 parts, a metal baseplate, a plastic hinged frame which clamps the edge of the negative and a plastic central clamp which holds the film flat when you close the frame. Magnets are incorporated into the design to provide the clamping force between the various parts. Basic operation follows the procedure of placing the metal base plate in the bottom of the frame, placing the negative strip in the frame holder, placing the clamp on top of the negative, it has location guides for this, closing the frame and then removing the clamp. Because the magnetic attraction is now broken with the base plate, this falls away and you are now left with the negatives securely held in the frame ready to scan.

Loading the Lomography Digitalizer is a little fiddly especially if the film is curling. If the curl is along the negative strip then this is one problem but often the curl is along and across too so it’s really important to ensure the film is positioned correctly before clamping down the edges. This is where the central clamp does it’s work. However, because this locates on four tiny plastic prongs, it is possible to knock the film moving it slighly in the rebate when loading the central clamp. However, once the central clamp has secured the film flat against the metal baseplate, you simple close the frame and this secures the edges of the negative strip. You then remove the central clamp which drops away the metal baseplate – remember I said everything is secured using magnets. Now, while it is impossible using this technique to completely flatten the film in the holder, it does appear to do a reasonable job. Of course, the flatter your negatives, the flatter they sit in the frame. You are now ready to scan the negatives.

I should have mentioned that before doing any of the above, I recommend blowing off any dust that might be on the negatives. Cleaning both sides of the negative makes for a far better result when digitising.

In use, the Lomography Digitaliser is relatively simple to position but I do recommend either a jig or frame to ensure that you can quickly position each negative frame perfectly with respect to the camera lens. If you don’t do this, you will spend a lot of time fiddling around trying to position the frame in the right place. This is doubly relevent if you are using a 1:1 macro lens as the negative fills the frame so accuracy becomes far more important. There are other products out there that do a better job of negative positioning but they are more expensive, some very much more expensive. You pays your money and makes your choice as they say.

With regards the digitising process, if the negative is held flat, using something like a light box, mine is lit by a flash head, positioned under the frame with the camera set on say F5.6 or F8 at 1/125 or whatever your camera syncs at, ensures that you have a good DOF through the frame. This should result in a crisp, accurate digitised image. I am using a Tamron 90mm f2.8 1:1 Macro which is ideal for this task.

Nik Efex | A goldmine of gorgeousness

Nik Efex | A goldmine of gorgeousness

Every so often a piece of software is born that truly excels at what it does. One such gem is Nik Efex. Originally developed by Google as a range of free software applications for various tasks, Nik Efex has now been taken on by camera / lens guru’s DxO. The big change though is that while the Google version was free, the DxO version is part of their DxO stable of advanced editing tools, as well as being available as a paid plugin to Photoshop. However, all is not lost, Google in it’s infinite wisdom made sure that the original version of Nik Efex remains available to those, like me, who are quite happy to use an older stand alone version.

So, how do you get your hands on the free 2012 stand-alone version of Nik Efex. Well, if you search the DxO website you’ll have some trouble finding the link because DxO want you to spend money on all their new goodies. However, to make your life easy, you simply need to visit https://nikcollection.dxo.com/nik-collection-2012/ in order to grab your free for ever copy.

The tasty image above is a Nik Efex worked jpeg from my Nikon D600. In this case I used the gorgeous Nik Analog Efex to create a soft, dreamy look for this mustang with eye popping vintage colours in the background. Taken during a recent photo shoot, Nik Analog Efex makes short work of choosing a particular look for your images that really help make your product stand out from the crowd. Give it a go today, it’s 100% free after all.

I’ve been doing it all wrong!

I’ve been doing it all wrong!

I recently posted my thoughts on how to win more club competitions by considering the judging process in more depth and in particular, looking at what typically does and doesn’t do well. Does this process work for me? Well, truthfully, no as I simply don’t enter competitions with anything less than something I love and that is often going to be at odds with what I know a club judge is going to like. I care about what a judge thinks of course, indeed I care about what all of you think about my photography but not so much as to change my mind as to what I will or won’t enter into a competition.

So recently, I have begun to rethink my strategy on photography and in particular whether entering competitions has any real merit for me personally or whether I should just concentrate on projects and doing what I mostly enjoy, which is reportage, candid photography and street portraiture.

The image above, without doubt one of my all time favourites, is from a trip to France from a couple of years back. It is a shinning example of how the judges dialog can be totally at odds with the end result of the judging process. Now, I don’t so much mind the comments I get from judges with regards the technical elements of my images, these are often valid points as anyone who has taken a candid shot on the spur of the moment will generally tell you. The opportunity for perfection in such cases is practically zero after all. What I do find amusing though is that when judges are faced with something outside of their comfort zone, where they struggle to apply their normal rules, that they have to resort to slight of hand to make a coherent appraisal of what is before them. Honest and blunt judges quite often just say, “nope, didn’t get it, don’t like it” so at least you know that it’s a bust. Judges who do not like to offend will use other tactics but effectiveley, they are saying the same thing.

Now, this image is typical of my photography and so are the comments it received. The judging comments went something like, and this is from memory, “I don’t know if the photographer meant to create a 40’s style image but if they did then clearly, they nailed it. I particularly like the b&W treatment here, it gives it an art-noir feel, authentic of reportage photography from that period. The image also makes you wonder who this guy is, a waiter perhaps (good guess that one) or an office worker on a break. I wonder actually if it’s a staged shot (it wasn’t). Technically, I don’t mind the subject being very slightly out of focus, it adds to the ambience of the shot and the dark background really focuses the eye on the subject. Overall, a great image, well seen and well handled in post”. Now, you’ll note the lack of any real negativity in these comments and I remember thinking at the time, this one’s a winner. I waited espectantly for the magic words “and we’ll hold that one” but sadly, as all too often, they never came. This is quite typical of photos which slip outside of the box with regards the comfort zone of a particular judge.

As yet, I have never met a judge on the club circuit who likes and specialises in documentary photography, other than one of our own members who judges internally and who is a member of the contemporary group at the RPS. His understanding of documentary photography in particular is extraordinarily broad and he has influenced me enourmously over the past few years. He is however, unique as the vast majority of judges I have met, while highly proficient in their own fields, judge much more conservatively and the results often indicate that they are following well defined rules of what good club photography has to look like. Should I be disillusioned or disappointed then when my images bomb? Well, disappointment is a human traite as it’s never easy hearing a negative critique about something you feel passionately about. However here, there was nothing negative in the points being made so there was an expectation, incorrect as it was, that the judge liked it enough to place it. What this image did do though is to raise the questions as to what I should expect from competition and club judging and whether in reality I was going to let this have any impact on my particular style. In truth, it didn’t and while I have entered a few “mildly sanitised images” into competitions since then, this image is from 2018, I haven’t moved too far from my personal perspective of what makes a good image rather than what makes a good club image. I feel that these two things are somewhat at odd’s with each other.

In summary, I think that as photographers we are looking for some form of acceptance, whether that is gaining likes from posting on Instagram or Facebook or entering and winning competitions. We are born of an age where likes equal value and this all too often pushes us in directions other than where we had hoped to go. For some of us though, photographing and making something interesting from the mundane and ordinary is what marks our work as purposeful and this can and often often does lead to sometihng exceptional.

How to win all your clubs photography contests!

How to win all your clubs photography contests!

When you join a photography club it can be for several reasons. You might want to associate with others having similar interests. You might want to learn about photography. You might simply join in order to be able to enter competitions. Whatever your reason, what you need to do when you start your club journey is to park the thought that everyone knows more than you, that everyone else is right, at the door! And that’s because no matter how good a photographer is, no matter how helpful or critical they try to be, they all come with baggage. The fact is that we all tend to like what we like and it takes someone truly exceptional to put that baggage to one side and to see through the eyes of the photographer they are critiquing. Unfortunately, and through personal experience, club judges rarely fall into this category because they are expected to do the job in a certain, well bounded way where the norm far outweighs the unusual, quirly or downright different. In club photography then, what you think will do well in competition undoudtadly will if it conforms closely to what typically and historically does well. Doing well in competitions is therefore less about innovative photography challanging the senses, more about knowing and being able to create a winning entry based on knowledge.

Having said all this, there is absolutely nothing wrong in wanting to succeed in club photography and just like any process, you simply need to learn the rules and to carefully study what historically does well in club competitions. This approach will maximise your chances of podium placings as well as improve your club photography.

So, what does a club judge look for in a winning image. Let’s take a look.

  • Club judges are pixel peepers: When having to differentiate between one image and another they will revert to technical imperfections in order to choose one image over another. It’s a proven technique that works as it provides them with justification to discount or mark down an otherwise good image.

  • Club judges are traditionalists: Unless the competition is themed, club judges will often prefer to stay with stuff they know and stuff they know their audience will appreciate. Landscapes, sports and wildlife all do well for this reason, portraits less so unless the judge has an interest in them (and that can be a little dodgy as they will undoubdatly be looking for flaws) and finally, at the end of the list, documentary / reportage. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this genre of course, it probably comprises most of the published works in history, but it is a genre that judges all too often seem to avoid.

  • Club judges seem to like obviously emotional images: I have seen similar images win multiple contests even in the same season. That tells me that you can’t go wrong in club competitions if you tug at the judges heartstrings especially if the image is technically on point. That means paying real attention to the quality of your post processing. With animals, mother and child shots, especially primates seem to do really well. If you live close to a zoo or wildlife park, this type of capture is not particulalry difficult either. Just remember to pay attention to the details and nail the post-processing.

  • Judges like good post-processing: As I mentioned above, good post-processing is a must if you want to win competitions. This is often why reportage photography (often called street / candid photography) falls down as the capture of the image is often an instant decision and everything else, such as lighting, composition and technical perfection has to take second stage. You can offset these limitations to a certain degree in post with some deft manipulation but be careful as sometimes the post-processing lessons what was captured. So to reiterate, judges love well composed and post-processed images and much of what you hear in their judgmements relates to how well or poorly an image was post-processed.

  •  Judges love good composition and rules: Leading lines, the rule of thirds and odd-numbers are important differentiating tools for judges. If you are able to think about your composition before you press the shutter, that is the way to take a winning shot. Bringing in leading lines with due reference to thirds etc won’t do your image any harm but bare in mind,for many scenarios the judge will have seen it all before. Keep it fresh!

  • Judges hate clutter: If your image is difficult to read due to clutter or being overly busy it is likely to fare badly. Judges love a central subject and the least amount of detail around that subject the better. If your eye wanders around the image, so will theirs! For macro and wildlife eg insects, birds and animals in the wild it’s all about controlling bokah and any spurious foreground objects that detract from the image. For landscapes its all about composition and viewpoint and for portraits, it’s about controlling and manipulating light efficiently. Before entering your images, ask others for their opinions, Quite often we seem images differently and taking on advice before pressing the submit button will often pay dividends.

  • Judges like what they like: I hate to say it but research your judge before entering your images. Your club will often post information on your judge prior to the competition, or at least email you with their name, closing dates etc. All you then need do is visit any resources where they add their own images. This could be the associations they are affiliated to, their own personal website, instagram or facebook. Knowing your judge doesn’t mean an automatic placing but it does mean you are maximising your chance of the judge understaning your work and being naturally drawn to it. Be aware though, judges might often feel that they are at the top of their game and you presenting an image that is close to, equal to or, worse still, better than anything they have done, might not go down too well. Just a thought!

  • Judges like familiar things done a little differently: If you are a judge you are going to see 1000’s of landscapes, 1000’s of wildlife shots and 1000’s of sports images. Differentiating your image from others in the competition you are entering, or from all those that the judge has seen before, is what is going to win you a placing or a spot in the top three. It’s no good choosing that image from your archives on the day of the competition, those decisions need to have been made before you pressed the shutter. Location, position, angle of view, getting high, or low, weather and a whole lot more will come into play here so be thoughtful, be wise and be patient.

  • Judges are taught how to judge: Get hold of a copy of the guidence issued to judges by the various associations they are affiliated to. There will be judging guidence issued by those associations because judges are trained to judge. If you know what they know, then you are better able to consider what of your photography will work best.

There will be other things club judges look for in a competition entry but I think the above guidence, certainly from my experience, constitutes a good start point. Personally, I rail against club competitions because I am less interested in winning than I am about what the photograph means to me. For me, it is often the imperfections and vageries of my images, that would no doubt degrade my chances of success in competitions, that attracted me to press the shutter.

Do I enter club competitions? I have done with some success but as my interests continue to evolve, that need is becoming less and less attractive nowadays.

Being different is everyone’s dream

Being different is everyone’s dream

If you are anything like me you want to show work that is different from those around you. One way of doing this is to photograph what you see but then present it in ways which aren’t necessarily expected. I found that this became a whole lot easier when I dsicovered Nik Effects from Google, now DxO of course. Nik is a treasure trouve of effects covering everything from black and while processing (Nik Silver Efex) right through to Noise Removal (Dfine 2). There are tools for vintage stylisation, analogue stylisation and much, much more – all of it free is you know where to look on the DxO website.

This image is one such image. Taken a couple of years back, it bombed in a club competition for technical issues such as the overly bright highlights. It’s true I could have toned these down in post, perhaps I should have but you know what, it is what is it. It’s not meant to reflect technical perfection, it’s supposed to illicit a non techincal response in the viewer. I spend a lot of time looking at images like this and for me, if they prompt more questions than answers I tend to think that was a successful image.