For the past few years I have been actively participating in photographic competitions at the state, district, and national level. It is challenging and helps me to be creative and constantly improve my photography and editing techniques. We had our state photographic competition last month, and I’ve spent this week going over my images that did well, listening to the judge’s feedback, and planning what 4 images I will submit to PPA’s Southeast District Competition. Sometimes no amount of editing can “fix” an image and after a round of judging a photo comes to the end of the road competition-wise. I wanted to share a few of those.
I have photographed a couple rodeos and I decided to edit a couple of my favorite rodeo images to see how they would do. In the state competition you can enter up to 8 images, so it’s a good place to “try out” photos to see how they will do with the judges.
“Holding on for Dear Life” received a 78 – The above average category. (You are aiming for 80 or above, deserving of a merit). I struggled with editing this image. I tried to make the audience fade into the background and the rider and horse stand out. You can see my poor attempt at this – especially around the horse’s legs! The feedback I got on this was that some parts of the subject are out of focus and there’s a lot of noise. Since I can’t fix an out of focus image, that’s the end of the print competition road for this photo. Bull and broc riding usually takes place in low light and the movement is incredibly fast. You have to increase your ISO in order to have a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the motion. I think I was at 1/400 and this still wasn’t quite fast enough.
“It Takes Three” received a 79 – the above average category. The feedback I got with this one was that my focus was slightly off and I needed a higher depth of field so that both the cowboy’s faces and the horses heads were in sharp focus. Also, lots of grain due to high ISO (5000). The judge also saw some dust spots I should seen and removed and pointed out my bad Photoshop job on the light post in the back.
My take aways with rodeo images – consider going earlier in the night when there is more light so I don’t have to have my ISO so high. Make sure I’m using AI-Servo for focusing, faster shutter speed, and get better at Photoshop!
“Victoria” scored a 78. I knew this one would not merit when I entered it, but I’ve only had a couple portraits score 80 or above and I wanted some feedback. Feedback: lacked impact, mat color did not complement the dress and therefore took away from the image, and not a strong composition.
“Home Sweet Homestead” – scored a 78. I love this image, but as soon as I listened to the feedback it was obvious why this didn’t do well. There is no impact. Due to the overcast day the lighting is not exciting. I thought that the path helped lead your eye to the barn, but the judge thought that the bottom half of the image should be cropped out! They also didn’t like the shadows losing detail on the left side of the barn. I’ve tried making this image black and white, cropping differently, etc., but I don’t think any of these things improve the image.
I have 3 or 4 images from the state competition that are going on to the Southeast District competition and hopefully IPC (International Photographic Competition), so I can’t share those until after. Stay tuned…
If you are interested in what makes a merit image, you can read about the 12 Elements of Merit Image here: https://www.ppa.com/events/photo-competitions/ipc-international-photographic-competition-overview/the-12-elements-of-a-merit-image
Thank you to Professional Photographers of South Carolina (PPSC) and all the judges for putting on a great print competition!
Sarah Goldman is a photographer in Charleston, SC.