Guidance as to what to consider when marking a club photography competition

When marking an image, you need to consider the following and mark each photo out of 20 on your scoresheet. The main factors to consider are:


Composition is a very broad subject and has many attributes depending on what type of photo is taken. Here are a few of the things to consider.

• Is it clear what the subject of the photo is? Does this meet the competition subject?

• Are there leading lines guiding your eye through the photo?

• Are the horizons level, are buildings standing upright?

• Rule of thirds. Is the horizon or subject located on one of the thirds to create balance?

• Breaking the rule of thirds. Mirrored reflections, symmetry or even a lone tree are normally placed or preferred on the centre line of a photo.

• If required, has the subject in the photo got space to move, or look, into?

• Has negative space been used?

• Does the subject dominate the frame or get lost in the image? Make sure the image is not too cluttered with distracting objects.

• Are parts of the subject missing?

Focus / Sharpness

Sharpness and Blur help direct the eye towards the subject of the photo. Again, here are a few things to consider:

• In landscape/seascape photography it is normally considered a good practice to have a sharp focus throughout the photo. This may require focus stacking.

• Wildlife and pet photography may be sharp from front to back or have a shallow depth of field giving a blurred background. It is normally perceived that the focal point of the image should be the closest eye. Is the focus on the eye sharp or not?

• As with wildlife photography, it is considered to be good practice to have a sharp focus on the closest eye in portraiture or model photography. The depth of field becomes again, irrelevant.

• For other photographs, it is normally accepted that the subject, or the star, of the image, should be sharply focused and then it’s the choice of the photographer to decide on the blur for the rest of the photo.

• If an image is blurred. Is it because of camera shake or has the focus been set incorrectly?

Exposure and Colour

Exposure and colour are important factors to try and get right in camera. With modern processing software, this is normally one of the main areas where photos are adjusted or corrected, not always with success. Here are some things to consider.

• Do the colours look correct. Have they been over processed and look too contrasted, e.g. Blues and greens looking almost neon.

• Is the exposure correct for the photo? Are the whites blown out or the blacks lacking any detail? This may be intentional, especially in mono photos.

• Does the lighting within the photo draw your eye to the subject or are there distracting bright spots pulling your eye away?

Artistic Merit

Artistic merit gives the photographer free reign to do what they like. It is probably the most difficult subject to cover in such a short section. Maybe look to see if any of these or other approaches have been applied:

• Does the photo show a sign of purposeful motion blur to purvey movement?

• Has the lens been purposefully zoomed or the camera rotated during the exposure to give the photo a unique perspective?

• Has the photographer used double exposure techniques to create an artistic look?

• Is the photo an abstract photo?

• Has the photographer used a shallow depth of field to create an artistic effect or to draw your eye to the subject?

• Does the photo portray a story or stir an emotion in you?

• Framing or cropping an image in a particular way can help levitate a photo to fine art status.

• Has the photographer created a composite art piece by using pieces taken from multiple images? e.g. a fantasy scene or a dreamlike photo.


Is the photo unique? All photos in their own right are unique, but does it look like a photo you’ve seen taken many times before. If it’s of a particularly well known building or location is there something that the photographer has captured differently or uniquely to what you’ve seen before.

Image Quality

Is the photo showing signs of noise in the dark areas or shadows? This is normally an artefact of high ISO settings or long exposures; however, noise can be introduced into a photo during post-processing. Adding sharpening, contrast, clarity or dehaze or recovering shadows can all increase or add noise.

If the photo is a composite image, has it been processed correctly, and not evident that part of another photo has been added into the original photo?

Have panoramas been stitched together correctly? Are noticeable seams showing?

Note: Images are to be marked on your scoresheets up to a total of 20 points. Printer banding is to be disregarded when judging printed images, as members may incur problems printing images on occasion.