For several years, I have judged the Hunterdon County Library Photo Contest and this week I enjoyed my return visit for their annual show.  I also judge several other photo shows, which seems somewhat ironic considering that I personally have never entered a photo contest.

Some photography contests have strict judging guidelines, following the 12 criterion of the Photographic Exhibitions Committee of the Professional Photographers of America; other contests are more relaxed and judging is based on the whims of the jurors.  In general, all contests are judged on technical quality, composition and artistic appeal.

The Hunterdon show is an amateur contest which includes a student category.  I always enjoy seeing the images of young artists who haven’t yet been stifled by life, rules or expectations.

When I walk into the gallery, I do a very quick scan of all the entries and 99% of the time the winners emerge from that first impression.  I’m often surprised to find so many entries that are technically not up to par, either too dark, too light or simply out of focus.  

Other personal peeves include overly-manipulated images with unnatural coloration or hyper-sharpening .  Although I am judging the image I also consider the presentation and I reject sloppy matting or framing, and conversely I’m wary of images with over-the-top custom framing or photos that exceed the contest’s size limit.  Yes, bigger is better, but playing by the rules wins the ribbon as well as my respect.

After rejecting the technically deficient, it comes down to originality and artistic appeal which is very apparent to me at first glance.