FCC Judging Workshop

Judging/Personal Critiquing for Better Images  by Steve Z.

Our first workshop may seem premature in that we will be asking as many members as possible to judge and score a series of photographs constrained to the guidelines that determine our scoring for our internal competition and any competition that we may have in CACCA (Chicago Area Camera club Association). Experience for this exercise is absolutely NOT necessary. It is designed to direct new photographers to various established guidelines that will help them become better photographers. The experienced will be able to better analyze and critique their own images to better hone their skill sets and improve on their images.

The workshop in two weeks will involve setting up approximately ten unmarked images lying face down on a series of tables. Scoresheets will also be facedown and available to the left of the image. When the exercise begins each member will pick up a score sheet and turn the image over. The scoresheet will have three components.

  1. Composition
  2. Technical Merit
  3. Artistic Impression (visual and aesthetic criteria)

Unlike CACCA each category will be scored between 6 and 9 in ½ point increments, (6, 6 ½ ,7, 7½, 8, 8 ½, and 9), rather than the 5-9 scoring. This is to simplify the exercise. The half point increments, although not in our competition, will allow for a little more flexibility and perhaps more accuracy.

All these scores will be added together, then divided by three. This number will be the average of the three component scores and the single score for one of a typical three judge panel. The number will be circled at the top of the page and placed face down to the right of the image. Each image will be scored in approximately 30 seconds, a little more than a typical competition. The time frame is to enable the judge to assess quickly what his impression is, in a real time frame.

After all scoring is completed, each image will be available for a quick group critique in our normal view box. If fifteen participate, for example, there will be five groups of three score sheets. Each group of three will represent a typical three judge panel. It will be interesting to see the consistency or disparity of the final scores. All of us will have our own biases that are often hard to remove when we view and offer judgement of images. This is no different than the judges that we have judge at our monthly competitions. The difficulty in assessing in a short time frame and the disparity, that I believe will be evident, will also engender compassion for the judges that we would all like to execute after our competition!

Judging photography/art is subjective. Many times there can be no rules. There also can be no right or no wrong. For the purposes of this exercise, we will be holding ourselves to the competition standards that are used for our monthly competitions.

The categories we will be using are:

COMPOSITION : is the arrangement of elements to present a message.

Framing and choice of viewpoint

Foreground, mid-ground and background considerations. Does it create a flow or depth of field.

Does the photographer make use of leading lines to draw attention to the subject of the image.

Does the photographer make use of repetition or patterns.

Does the photographer make good use of the Rule of Thirds

Does the image have a subject or center of interest. Is it placed in the middle of the image ie Bullseye, although sometimes this may be necessary, or is it placed in a contributory fashion

Is the image cluttered or confused

Is the image cropped to reflect or draw to the subject

Has the image been simplified to remove distractions from the content or message.

Is there a message or concept evident in the composition.


Technical Criteria:

Proper exposure and proper focus

Depth of field

Did the photographer make good use of foreground to background consideration to convey depth and movement

Did the photographer make good use of color, or was it over saturated or possess hue abnormalities

Did the photographer utilize proper use of contrast, especially in monochrome images

Is the photograph level or tilted. This is important especially for landscapes or seascapes. If it is off only slightly it will distract from the image.

Is the photograph well presented (mounted)

If the photograph is an animal or human, is the animal or human looking or leading into the image space

Does the photograph contain excessive noise

Is the color presented with proper white balance

Are there areas of the image that have lost detail through either blown out highlights or clipped shadows

Is the photograph properly vignetted if a vignette is being used

Does the photograph demonstrate proper lighting and/or dynamic range

Does the subject have room to breathe

Are there any converging (distracting overlapping) of elements

Is the perspective pleasing?


Artistic Interpretation: This area is highly subjective and prone to personal bias. Judges should avoid these biases and consider that what they feel could be depressing or invoking a degree of revulsion, may be the interpretation that the image was intended to convey. Be fair and judge the image as it speaks for itself. The image should be judged strictly on its merits, or lack thereof. If you are biased, consider the image through the eyes of a person that might be your bias opposite. This might be a helpful in eliminating ones personal bias.

Does the image have impact or is it just a snapshot

Does the image possess content or convey an emotion, mood or feeling

Does the image communicate or demonstrate a purpose for its existence

Does the image demonstrate clarity of expression?

Does the photograph possess a visual design?

Does the image make the viewer think or ask questions?

Is there an aesthetic beauty, calm, magnificence or does it convey depression, darkness or revulsion? Note that these are and should be considered equals.

Does the image invoke the WOW factor.


These are all general criteria, they can be added to or further defined. If there are any questions before our event, please feel free to contact any member and have your questions answered. This exercise should be exciting and fun. It also can be incredibly educating. One of the best outcomes of competition is that it demands that the photographer analyze his entire image, make sound judgements, and prepare the image with his best level of expertise for presentation. This process will provide experience and insight into some of the tools that are available in the “digital darkroom”, and allow us to continue to become better at the hobby we all love.







Final Score _________


Scores are scored in half point increments between six and nine for this exercise

6- Poor.  Improperly done and having multiple problems such as poor focusing. Improper exposure, poor composition, distractions, poor cropping or no center of interest, improper colors or oversaturation.


7- Average, technically correct but has no impact or good aesthetics; may be more of a snapshot or textbook picture quality


8- Good, Technically correct and properly composed. No visible flaws and pleasing to the eye. But no WOW factor


9- Excellent, The technique is exemplary, excellent composition and an impact that knocks your socks off! WOW FACTOR!!


  1. Composition______
  2. Technical______
  3. Artistic Impression_____


A+B+C=_____ Divide by three for the final score and enter at the top of the score sheet.