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04-23-2013, 07:54 PM   #1
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Why I hate camera clubs...

This I something that I have had on my mind for some time now, Don’t get me wrong: camera clubs are sometimes a great way to exchange ideas and help others who are exploring the possibilities of photography.

But It turns out I have high standards:

I’m not going to name names, or point fingers – but for the past three weeks I have attended a camera club here in Adelaide, which was allegedly one of the better ones. And to be honest, the judges they had critiquing their work weren’t very skilled or experienced enough as photographers themselves. Some photographs were dismissed on grounds of photographic alteration – when in fact the only alteration done was some dodging and burning on the sky and subject*. While there were other works submitted that were blatantly altered and passed off as a work of art. However the judging of the works presented wasn’t my only issue: a majority of the works displayed were what I would call unfinished works – only one or two images were polished to a degree that I would have been happy with. With a majority of the images were of such bad quality that I wouldn’t even use them to line to bottom of a birdcage. I also saw a considerable subset of photographers who were willing to forgo artistic integrity in order to get a high “score” from the judge by submitting photographs of babies or nude female models – this is actually one of the things that really bugs me the most about photography clubs, you see others pandering to the tastes of a particular judge. Also the reduction of an image to a score from 1 to 10 is also demeaning. The judge was also clearly not up-to-date with his image alteration techniques. If I ran a camera club it would be mandatory for the judge to submit a portfolio of at least 50 images that are at an equal standard to the grade he was judging.

There were plenty of issues I had with the quality of works being presented t the club meeting: when I was there last night I saw a number of photographs without a mattboard, when I see this it unfailingly gives me the impression that the photographer doesn’t care about their work. Mattboards are important in the preservation and presentation of a photographer’s work: they keep the image flat, they protect the corners of the image from becoming frayed. There also was an assortment of coloured mattboards – now I don’t having against the use of coloured mattboards but there are certain rules of colour theory that have to be observed. Another thing is that many of the judges are too liberal with giving a work a high grade. Let my clarify: an image that scores a 9 is something I would like to have hanging on my wall – and image that scores a perfect 10 is an image I would buy. If I was asked to critique the works presented last night there would only be one 9 – most of the images presented would have scored an average of 5. One of my colleagues from the studio where I work was there – and as we were discussing the works presented she was visibly building a mental embankment against the rising tide of ire, at least she offered to buy me a drink at the Irish pub across the street.

*which is a perfectly legitimate technique.

04-23-2013, 08:16 PM - 1 Like   #2
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That's just photography. As a general rule, don't expect others to have your high(er) standards. I still don't like Instagram as a means of "Art through photography", but that's due to me seeing through the editing and realizing it's just a bad picture with Sepia or B&W conversion done. Take it as a badge of honor if you disagree with judges, that means you're pushing the envelope, rather than just accepting what's "Good".

I really don't understand why they'd disqualify for Dodging and all. Of all the photographic editing, it's the longest lasting, most tasteful means I can think of.(My personal policy is - If it can be done with film, it's acceptable in a digital image. Typically, one doesn't develop color film into Sepia or B&W, now do we?)
04-23-2013, 08:59 PM - 1 Like   #3
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My work never does well in competitions (it's mostly portraits). Action shots beat me every time, landscapes beat me every time, macro shots beat me every time, and to make matters worse, I can't print any larger than 8.5x11 with my printer. Couple that with the fact that I'm basically of the photojournalistic school of thought, if there was a trash can in the middle of my street scene, then by God there will be a trashcan in my final print. I don't photoshop them out just because it's more aesthetically pleasing to do so.

Then I realized, I can either create images to make the judges happy, or I can create images that make me happy. So I do, and I feel like I win every tme. Besides, who cares about winning if you can't be true to your own vision? So now, I'll occasionally enter images with bullseye composition, bright corners, telephone poles, and skewed horizons; anything that I know annoys the judges.

Last edited by maxfield_photo; 04-23-2013 at 09:22 PM.
04-23-2013, 09:18 PM   #4
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It is all subjective - so what's the point? People get out of it what they want.

04-23-2013, 11:28 PM   #5
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I should send you some of my pictures to line your bird's cage . I've seen your work; I know you're way beyond me. The goal of a club should be fun and learning. You'll just need to keep searching to find a group of peers that can help you progress. I once went golfing with a few buddies, we'd just started playing. They assigned a solo golfer to our tee time. I explained to him that we were terrible. He said, not to worry, we're all just here to have fun. Part way through the second hole he picked up his ball and said "sorry boys, I need to go play some golf." and he ran off to the next hole. To our credit, at least there was no pretension. I told him flat out we sucked, but he wasn't going to have any fun playing with us (took it too serious, and we weren't going to push him). Like him, you just need to move on. Just don't be a punk about it, like that guy .
04-24-2013, 12:38 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Digitalis Quote
Why I hate camera clubs...
You and me both, I gave them up about twenty years ago, for me a lot to do with attitude of the members being gear heads and not image heads, which was why I was there.

Judges as you say from my experience, tended to be specialised in the own genre only, move out of that box and they really struggled with everything else.

I did enjoy the guest speakers from time to time on various world travelogues, but for the couple of times of year that happened, all the other stuff that went along at meetings had to be suffered.

Just not for me I'm afraid, but each to their own.

Last edited by Kerrowdown; 04-24-2013 at 02:57 AM.
04-24-2013, 01:20 AM   #7
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My club has used Adelaide judges and the main problem I find is that some have absolutely no clue about contemporary techniques. At times some of us have put shots in to confuse the old farts because they are so predictable in what they are going to say It's a small place and the problem is there just isn't enough good judges who have the time to help out by judging for free. It is frustrating to see good creative images bagged because the judge just doesn't understand what is going on.

04-24-2013, 01:27 AM   #8
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Did you get low score on one of your own images?
04-24-2013, 01:40 AM   #9
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Why I love camera clubs....

I agree, there are camera clubs that would be nauseous to be a member of. In a nearby town for example, there is a large Navy facility, and sure enough, the camera club in that town has such a long list of rules and regulations that it would choke a politician. I don't belong to it for that reason. The one i joined in 2007 has NO written rules and regulations. They used to have competitions, which in many cases just turns one member against another members and can lead to a lot of bickering. Thankfully, the members who used to insist on competitions have all left and we now have a smaller group that enjoys talking photography, composition, etc, with the occasional speaker and workshops. One of the members got me involved with shooting promo and rehearsal photos for a playhouse that he acted in. 3 years later and i'm still shooting for them. I now coordinate photographers for that theater, have full access to the theater whenever i want, choose the pictures that will be the pool for the local newspapers and those that will be used to decorate the lobby during the next play sequence. Its been a rewarding and educational experience in so many ways. So for me, belonging to a photo club was life changing experience.

In addition, when Lightroom comes out wtih a version, one of the members hosts discussion groups in his home to discuss how to use the new feature. Also, when i was improving my photoshop skills, i met with another member who was doing the same thing, and we would share our discoveries at each meeting. So it just depends on the club, and your willingness to suggest things that would be of interest to you. We have some guys on the sideline who never come to any of the organizing meetings but always criticize those members who are keeping the club going. So if you're not happy with the local club, then form a new one or change the old one. One to one communication at a club can be tremendously helpful.
04-24-2013, 01:46 AM   #10
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I do quite well so it's not sour grapes for me. The fact is some judges just don't understand digital, for example one had no idea of what HDR is and couldn't work out what I'd manipulated in the shot The camera club comps are for fun for me, if you really want to get a good critique you need to enter bigger comps or join the AIPP.
04-24-2013, 02:41 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by maxfield_photo Quote
who cares about winning if you can't be true to your own vision?
I couldn't agree more - I saw many older photographers, ones who should have known better and should have been setting a better example for the beginners deliberately putting in images that would appeal to the judge. When I teach my students I do my best to provide a good example - i'm not one of those "do as I say don't do as I do" kind of teachers, I set the standard.

QuoteOriginally posted by maxfield_photo Quote
I can't print any larger than 8.5x11 with my printer
That is another point that annoys me too - there isn't anything wrong with small images. they can convey intimacy - because the image is in your personal space. And in many ways they are can be more interesting than 24"X36" prints, Many times I have seen 20"X16" prints exhibited at photography clubs and the judge almost presses his nose to the print in order to inspect it. The judge that was at the club the other night complained that he could see noise and grain in large prints and accused every large print for being over-sharpened - when he was simply looking at the prints too closely. A personal rule for examining a print for me is to take the diagonal measurement of the print as the minimum casual viewing distance.

QuoteOriginally posted by kenafein Quote
. Part way through the second hole he picked up his ball and said "sorry boys, I need to go play some golf."
Just as well I can't play golf - I would go to sleep watching other play it. plus most of the people who play it look like their mothers chose their clothes for them.

QuoteOriginally posted by gorillagirl Quote
My club has used Adelaide judges and the main problem I find is that some have absolutely no clue about contemporary techniques.
This is one of my main gripes - I'm a technically oriented person, but I have an extensive knowledge and interest in the art of photography. And it really grinds my gears when a critic or judge has no idea how to break the image down and realise the concept of the image and display an understanding of the techniques used to create it. The judge at the club didn't even know what the the Dragan effect is - and there was a superb studio portrait utilising the PP technique and he simply accused the photographer of over-sharpening the image.

QuoteOriginally posted by TOUGEFC Quote
Did you get low score on one of your own images?
You have seen my work - I don't mean to sound arrogant but do you think I would get a low mark for anything?

Last edited by Digitalis; 04-24-2013 at 02:49 AM.
04-24-2013, 09:25 AM   #12
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There's good and bad points to all camera clubs, I believe. I happen to love the club I belong to and give it a fair amount of credit for helping me attain the job I have now. Judging will always be an issue in camera clubs. Or rather, it's always been an issue in our club for the 35 years I've been involved in it. And I don't expect that to change any time soon. Camera clubs are like any other organization. They're only as good as the people involved. Our club has members that run the gamet from absolute rank amateurs...up to folks who teach at the university level. Do we have some of the problems folks have talked about in this thread...pandering to certain judges...restrictions on digital manipulation...boring programs? Of course we do. But then we also have awesome programs, like Thomas Shahan...or an environmental portraitist who was a winner in the Ron Howard photo contest...or most recently, a local sports photographer who had done work for Sports Illustrated, but who wanted to share the personal photos he'd shot over the years. I feel it's like a lot of things in life. You've gotta take the good with the bad.
04-24-2013, 09:45 AM   #13
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I don't think this thread is about camera clubs specifically, but about judging. One of our members was assigned with 2 others to judge a "nautical" contest. She arbitrarily decided that sailing ships had been "done to death" in recent club discussions, and threw out all entries with sailing ships in them. At other times, we've had the entire club vote for the winner, and the entries with the most votes get 1,2,3. I find the group/panel evaluations to be a lot more consistent than individual judges
What hasn't been touched on yet, is "juried" contests where a local community organization or gallery organizes a local, county or statewide competition. A co-op gallery in my area does that and hires a professional within traveling distance to come and do the judging. They always hire a professional from the sculpture or painting fields to do the judging, never a photographer.

Sometimes, i just don't think some of these non-photography professionals "get" photography. Many of these jurists seem to want to treat photographs as a paintings - but its not the same field of art in many ways. There's a small fee for entry but the prize money can be lucrative, a $1000 for first place and lessor amounts for 2nd and 3rd in just photography in the local juried coop contest. I've been accepted into 4 juried contests, sold the piece in 2 of the 4, not accepted into 3 more juried contests. Not getting accepted into contests is a plus, it causes me to work harder the next time :-) Applying to out of area contests, such as statewide events is desirable to me, it causes me to visit areas i may not have spent time in before - a plus.

Last edited by philbaum; 04-24-2013 at 09:51 AM.
04-24-2013, 09:58 AM   #14
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There's always the old Groucho Marx adage - "I wouldn't want to be a member of a club that would have me as a member."

It isn't the club. It isn't the judges, nor even the judging. It is the people who are the members.
04-24-2013, 10:06 AM   #15

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It reminds me of a basic art design class I had in college. The professor would have us post our work up front for evaluation. Once I got low marks for using "predictable geometric shapes". When I pointed out the advanced art students were doing that and were displayed in an exhibition, her response was, "Well, they know what they are doing". I just rolled my eyes.

Last edited by tuco; 04-24-2013 at 10:21 AM. Reason: Spelling

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