2017 02 - Competition 5 Prints

18th February 2017
Retford & District Photographic Society - Press Release - Joy Allison
16th February 2017
Images by Des Lloyd & Russell Nye

Print Portfolio Competition

Our annual portfolio competitions are a challenge for members and a large audience arrived to see this year's event featuring printed images. We welcomed judge Erica Oram from Sheffield. She arrived early to look through the entries to prepare for the judging under the lights and assess where to pitch her early marks. This competition is designed to show the versatility of our photographers across the range of photographic possibilities and to achieve this each has to submit five images.

There is a perennial difficulty in making clear exactly what the criteria are for this competition, not least because the equivalent competition has different rules in different clubs. It is essential to ensure that the judge understands the requirements the members are working to. Because the images are displayed together they appear to be a panel in a similar way to our earlier 'Panel of Three' competition. There we require a definite theme, while for the portfolio we ask the authors to present their best work in a variety of genres e.g. portrait, landscape, travel. They are helped by looking good together on the stand and this can be assisted by mounting them similarly and positioning them to best effect, but there is no requirement for a theme. Having agreed that the overall appearance and relationship between the images was not a major consideration Erica decided on her approach to the judging.

Just to complicate matters further we ask for a minimum of four different genres of image, i.e. that only one may be duplicated. Erica is familiar with the requirements of the Royal Photographic Society for their Licentiate qualification and they ask for a demonstration of versatility with the camera as well as the subject matter. This enabled her to draw attention to the use of different shutter speeds, ability to handle varying light levels and to differentiate between different styles according to the lenses used as well as simply the subject matter. This worked in favour of some members whose images she found similar in more than one category.

The colour class was first with an entry of 14 portfolios - a total of 70. The prints from each person were placed together side by side on the print stand in the order designated by the photographer. Erica then gave her view of the overall portfolio and its adherence to the rules before commenting on the individual images. Almost without exception each set had one or two which stood out for various reasons and another which was weaker.

As Erica worked through the submissions she was impressed overall and commented that there would be number of portfolios scoring 17 - just outside the final three places. She made a number of remarks which would be helpful on other occasions, such as that human forms always attract the eye and so should generally be placed towards the centre of the display. A strong blue colour and a very symmetrical image were also deemed properly placed centrally.

Erica reinforced previous advice that the outside images should draw the eye towards the centre rather than away from the set. She generally agreed with the positions allocated by the authors but rearranged some sets to illustrate her point before judging them as presented.

The key features which scored well were an overall breadth of subject genre with each image in balance individually and also within the portfolio. Good handling of light and a well cropped, mounted and printed image scored well. As always each image was examined for sharpness where it needed to be sharp. Some fared well in this judgement and a few were found wanting. Erica seemed very aware of the handling of light and picked up on any suggestion that the white areas were over exposed and any failing to retain detail in the black areas.

Most portfolios were marked as they were viewed, but four were held back for the final judging. At this stage their marks were awarded in reverse order. Jayne Mair and Gerry Kemp both scored 18 points. Erica declared that she would have been very happy to have produced either of the portfolios remaining and they were displayed together on the stand. After some deliberation and looking for faults in images she clearly found very closely matched, the second place score of 19 was awarded to Des Lloyd with Russell Nye emerging the winner with 20 points.

After a well-deserved cup of tea Erica considered the five monochrome submissions. She looked for similar criteria to the colour prints, but with a smaller entry was able to mark them all at the end after thoroughly considering each print.

With monochrome the process of printing the image comes into play with additional importance. Judges look for true monochrome without any hint of colour. One set was found to have a slight magenta cast in four of the images, but as they were a strong set they still scored well.

Issues with contrast were picked up and seemed more evident with the mono images than the colour. In most cases if there was a problem it was too much contrast causing the blacks to lose detail. Only one, an image of a wedding couple, was judged to be really lacking in contrast, with even the bride's dress not being a good white and all shades rather less defined than ideal.

With the colour removed similar images to the colour class fared rather differently. Losing the colour from crowds in the background made them less intrusive while sharply lit trees assumed a dominance in monochrome. Skies had a different impact and provided a dramatic background for some images, especially when taken from a lower angle. Joyce Bell had used this to particularly good effect in several of her images.

Having seen all five portfolios Erica awarded the marks. She felt that overall these panels were not as strong as the colour class and decided on that basis not to award 20 points. The placings were Des Lloyd 19 points and first place, Joyce Bell 17 points in second and Jayne Mair 16 points in third.