Twenty-Five Questions to Think like a Photo Competition Judge

Photo of an impala drinking. Impala Drinking. This image has a feeling of tranquility. The lighting and soft focus background of the impalas reinforce the feeling of a peaceful scene. The subject pops and helps create story. © Donna Brok
Impala Drinking. This image has a feeling of tranquility. The lighting and soft focus background of the impalas reinforce the feeling of a peaceful scene. The subject pops and helps create story. © Donna Brok

By Donna Brok

Camera clubs offer members some great opportunities to learn and practice their craft, one of which is regular photo competitions. In addition to whatever points members earn toward year-end recognition, seeing other members’ images and getting critiques on your own is one good way to improve your photography. Thinking like a photo contest judge is an even more powerful way to rapidly improve the quality of your entries. In this article, I will explain my thinking as a photo contest judge and the 25 questions I ask about every photo I evaluate.

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Get Outside for National Public Lands Day!

National Public Lands Day 2020 logo © NEEF
National Public Lands Day 2020 © NEEF

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

Saturday, September 26, 2020, is National Public Lands Day. Each year the fourth Saturday of September is so designated in an initiative created and sponsored by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF). Typically, this is the “largest single-day volunteer event for public lands,” with hikes, workshops, cleanups, demonstrations, and all sorts of opportunities for people to participate. Last year, more than 200,000 volunteers took part. With the Covid-19 virus still a threat, things will be different this year, but there will still be many chances to get involved.

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A Quick Photo Trip to the Badlands

Landscape Image of the Sculpted Contours of the Badlands , South Dakota  © Tom Haxby
Sculpted Contours of the Badlands , South Dakota © Tom Haxby

By Tom Haxby

Recently I found myself wanting to visit and photograph the Badlands. Just visiting South Dakota would be a first for me. It’s one of the few states I have never set foot in. Like many others during this pandemic, I feel more comfortable avoiding crowds, driving, staying in a tent, and doing my own cooking. So, into the truck went the camping gear and camera equipment and off I went on an odyssey to the Badlands of South Dakota!

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Weekly Wow! Week of September 21, 2020

Showcase 2020 Top 100 Winner: “Maasai Herder On Dried-up Lake Bed, East Africa, Kenya's Greater Amboseli Region” © Alison M. Jones
Showcase 2020 Top 100 Winner: “Maasai Herder On Dried-up Lake Bed, East Africa, Kenya’s Greater Amboseli Region” © Alison M. Jones

All of this week’s Weekly Wow! images can be seen in the slideshow on the NANPA homepage at nanpa.org.

The following Showcase images have been selected to appear on the NANPA home page for the week beginning Monday, September 21, 2020.  To view all of the top 250 photographs from NANPA’s 2020 Showcase competition, see the photo gallery on the NANPA website. The 2020 edition of Expressions contains all of the top 250 photos from the Showcase competition as well as interesting and insightful articles. Order your copy here!

The 2021 NANPA Showcase competition closes tonight at 11 p.m. Eastern Time, so enter your best photos today! Maybe you’ll be featured in next year’s Weekly Wows or, better yet, win a prize! Get all the details on the 2021 NANPA Showcase page.

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Mindful Nature Photography

Photo of lichen on rock. Patches of Time, Glacier National Park, Montana, © Frank Gallagher
Patches of Time, Glacier National Park, Montana, © Frank Gallagher

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

In the chaos of a pandemic and divisive political and social climate, I need the calming effect of being out in nature with my camera. Maybe you, too, have had those moments out in the field when all the cares of the world seem to melt away and you become hyper aware of your surroundings. That mental state, of being at one with my surroundings, helps me zero in on what I was finding interesting in a scene and helps crystalize the feelings I want a photo to convey. These moments used to be sporadic and fleeting until I started practicing mindfulness. Becoming a mindful photographer could help you, too.

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Crafting Compelling Captions for Photo Contests, Part II

Desperate Deals, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh, © Scott Trageser/NatureStills
Desperate Deals, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh, © Scott Trageser/NatureStills

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

If a picture is worth a thousand words, it’s certainly worth a good caption. Photos entered in NANPA’s Showcase competition were taken all over the world, of all kinds of subjects, from all sorts of perspectives and show many points of view. A thoughtful caption can help contest judges understand what you were doing and reassure them that you were acting ethically, safely and responsibly. It can be the difference between a winning image and an also ran.

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Weekly Wow! Week of September 14, 2020

Showcase 2020 Top 100 Winner: “Tiny but Mighty Cheetah Cub, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya” © Anita Ross
Showcase 2020 Top 100 Winner: “Tiny but Mighty Cheetah Cub, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya” © Anita Ross

All of this week’s Weekly Wow! images can be seen in the slideshow on the NANPA homepage at nanpa.org.

The following Showcase images have been selected to appear on the NANPA home page for the week beginning Monday, September 14, 2020.  To view all of the top 250 photographs from NANPA’s 2020 Showcase competition, see the photo gallery on the NANPA website. The 2020 edition of Expressions contains all of the top 250 photos from the Showcase competition as well as interesting and insightful articles. Order your copy here!

The 2021 NANPA Showcase competition is open! Enter your best photos between now and September 21st and maybe you’ll be featured in next year’s Weekly Wows or, better yet, win a prize! Get all the details on the 2021 NANPA Showcase page.

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Avoiding a Messy Background!

Images such as this have the background far enough away to blur, but still give a hint of the habitat beyond. This is how the Great Masters painted backgrounds with just a hint of the scene. Nikon D850, 70-200mm f/2.8, 1/500 @ f/4, ISO 50 © Donna Brok
Images such as this have the background far enough away to blur, but still give a hint of the habitat beyond. This is how the Great Masters painted backgrounds with just a hint of the scene. Nikon D850, 70-200mm f/2.8, 1/500 @ f/4, ISO 50 © Donna Brok

By Donna Brok

What the heck is a messy background, as opposed to a good one, and is it boring?

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A Season For All Conditions: Explore the Beauty of Autumn… In Any Type of Light

Photo of autumn foliage along a lake. “Bear Mountain State Park Autumn Scene in Direct Sunlight,” © F.M. Kearney
“Bear Mountain State Park Autumn Scene in Direct Sunlight,” © F.M. Kearney

By F.M. Kearney

As nature photographers, we’re always searching for the best light in which to capture our subjects. What looks good in direct sunlight probably won’t look its best in flat light, and vice versa. It’s not often you find a single subject that will shine equally in any type of lighting condition, but that’s precisely the case when it comes to the colors of autumn.

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