Are your photos bombing in club competitions?

Are your photos bombing in club competitions?

Are your photos bombing in club competitions? Here’s how to improve your chances of success!

Club photography competitions are a lottery at the best of times. What you think is a great photo also has to resonate with a judge to have any chance of winning. Put a foot outside of convention when it comes to club competitions and you could be on a hiding to nothing!

Some examples of club competition photography

Before telling you the approach I use, let’s take a few minutes to look at my own clubs photo competition results by visiting These are the latest season results.

You might also like to visit our photographic archives as we have some 4 -5  years worth of competition results stored.

Together, these archives host a wealth of images which will give you a good idea of what type of photography goes down best with a wide range of club judges. It’s not foolproof, but knowing what does and doesn’t do well in competitions is a great start and will give you an edge!

Let’s talk about my approach?

if you visit the links above you will see my work scattered throughout the images presented.

My own approach to club photography is not to go safe. I hate using “safe” images so I tend to go out on a limb by including images that generate emotions. I always feel that if the viewer has a strong reaction to an image, whether that is negative or positive, then it leaves them with a lasting impression.

My interest in candied for example is primarily through influences by photographers, both past and present, who leave me with a lasting impression of their work. In truth I am pretty sure that many of the people I admire have probably never been near a photography club let alone entered a club photography competition! There work is probably all the better for this.

It’s true then that I often take chances with my entries although I do tend to follow my own advice. That is to include what is described by many as a banker, i.e. a photograph that any judge can read and hopefully like. together with something a little right of center, this might not be to every judges taste as well as something that will test a judge, i.e. the joker in the pack.

The Banker Image

I would class this first image as a great option for a banker image. It is well seen and well composed, The lighting is good, nothing is too dark or blown out, the colours and tones are really good, there’s a recession of tones into the hills in the distance and there are no obvious distractions. Best of all it raises questions, what are the people doing, are they a couple, why are they distanced, where are they etc. Improtantly there’s nothing spurious or unnecessary in the image that would annoy a judge or indeed any viewer. A good banker image from my perspective.

Are your photos bombing in club competitions?

The Right of Center Image

This second image, again on a candid theme, was captured in Cannes at the same time as the image above.Plus points are that it is a great candid shot, it has good compositional elements and it is well seen. The colours and tones are excellent and it tells a story. All of these are real plus points to me as a photographer. In fact I felt that this image was so well handled with respect to the technical aspects of photography that there would be little to negate it’s inclusion in the top 8 images on the night.

Are your photos bombing in club competitions?

The Joker in the Pack Image

The joker in the pack is an image that I enjoy but that I know will perplex a Judge. In general terms it could be something that has been processed a little differently, that doesn’t quite fit into one genre or another, one that tests the rules of photography or one that simply jars so much you have to keep coming back to it. This image pretty much ticks all of those boxes. I felt that the interesting treatment I had gven it, along with the the subdued mono-colour effect would perplex and engage the judge enough to place it or at least win it a highly commended.

Are your photos bombing in club competitions?

So, how did they do in competition?

Image 1 received a highly commended on the night. I had hoped for better as it was a really good image that told an interesting story yet left you asking questions. The judge really liked it for all the right reasons but clearly not enough to promote it higher. More conventional club photos did better on the night which perhaps tells it’s own story.

Image 2 received glowing praise but no awards. The judge indeed waxed lyrical about the strong colour and tonal palette, how well seen it was etc yet dismissed it as a “snapshot taken by a friend of a friend”. That type of critique is crushing to a serious candid photographer like myself although in hindsight, perhaps I should have seen it coming. As it was, the judge, with that single comment, immediately negated the validity of the image as a serious candid photograph and relegated it to the all-so-rans on the night.

Image 3 again received praise for it’s unusual treatment but the excessive negative space in the middle and top of the image was a killer for the judge.

In Summary

Although you can do your best to mitigate failure on the night, the one thing you simply can’t control is the judges attude, interests, likes and dislikes. You also can’t “undo” their training on how to judge photographs – yes, most judges are trained to judge. This means that if you are going to take risks with your submissions then there is always going to be some jeopardy when the results are announced. Should that change the way you see the world, the way you take pictures? Absolutely not. You have to remain true to yourself and you have to photograph the things that make you different from everyone else in your club.

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