FROM THE JUDGES: Winning Tips for NANPA’s Showcase 2014

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In past Showcase competitions, we asked the judges for insights and tips on image selection and preparation to help future participants produce winning photos. Here are some of their responses.

  • Study the photos that made it into previous Showcase competitions. Try not to duplicate the images, but go a step beyond them. Never think that because something has won before, it will win again if copied. “There is a lot of talent out there,” said one judge. “It ain’t easy judging this!”
  • If you know an animal or landscape intimately, you can create an intimate picture. Shoot what you know.
  • Bring to mind the pictures that have moved you and try to work out what it is about them that makes you respond. Then use it.
  • If you are not shooting digital, but are submitting digital pictures, check the scans against the originals before sending. The judges may love the composition and content of an image, but be unable to get past the pixilation in the sky or water or the softness of a bad scan. (That’s true for photo buyers as well.)
  • The submission of an image that isn’t sized properly is unacceptable. Follow the competition rules exactly.
  • A rule of thumb: Keep your subject sharp. It’s not always easy, but submitting photos that are in focus and tack-sharp shows a command of your equipment.
  • In-camera or out-of-camera, cropping to obtain the best composition is crucial.
  • Be sure your file does not include an embedded photo credit that would require an immediate disqualification.
  • Advances in image management software have enabled photographers to do nearly anything with their images. It is important, however, to know when to stop. Too much or unskilled sharpening, dodging and burning can easily ruin an image. Oversaturation of images using image management software can become garish. “The art of the natural is far more difficult to achieve,” said one judge.
  • Photo contest judges look at thousands of photos and it takes a lot to stop them in their tracks. They are stirred by a fresh and surprising composition, creative use of color or a new way of seeing an old subject, if not a new one.
  • Catch a moment of interesting behavior to breathe life into tired subjects. It takes persistence and talent to catch that moment in just the right way. For example, flying birds make a nice image, but an image of birds interacting in flight is exciting.
  • If everyone else is shooting canyons and sand dunes, choose the landscape close to home and make a study of it until something new emerges. Think about new ways of interpreting a river scenic rather than just blurring the running water. In other words, think about what people aren’t shooting and consider those subjects. Use your technical skills and your creativity to set yourself apart. Originality is the real art of competing.

For more information on the NANPA Showcase 2014 competition, go to: http://www.nanpa.org/showcase.php

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