Thursday, April 14, 2011

Does this mean I can call myself "Award Winning"

I'm a member of the Tampa Area Professional Photographers Association.  I joined last year, mainly because I felt that I didn't know enough of my fellow photographers in Tampa.  It's been a great experience so far, everyone is very nice and welcoming.

One of the things that they take very seriously in The Professional Photographers of America is competition.  It's called a "Salon" and it's very cool to watch.  I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.  There are three judges and your score is the average of their three scores.  The judges are free to challenge any score and argue with the other judges.  It was fascinating to watch the whole process.

I should point out that the biggest reason that I enjoyed it so much is that there seems to be great care taken to reach a fair decision.  Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am argumentative by nature.  If there's a contest, I'm the first person to point out any potential flaw in the judging, etc.  The PPA system of judging is very impressive.  (I won't go into it here, I'm sure it's online somewhere.)

I should also point out that the judging is as fair as it can be, given that art is subjective.  While it's true that there are certain "rules" to photography, there's still a lot of personal feelings that go into judging.  For example, one time when the judges were debating a print, one of them said, "You know how much I love black and white."  So, does that mean I stand a better chance of a high score if I convert to black and white?  (Let me be perfectly clear that I am, in no way, saying that judge is biased.  Rather, I'm saying that it's impossible for anyone to be completely un-biased when judging art.  Emotion is part of the process.  Without emotion, you have no art.)

In addition to the big Salon that is only once a year, they also have a monthly competition at the meetings.  In the monthly competition, the members all judge and there is a simple scoring system.  Everyone just writes down their favorite image in each category and then they tally the scores.  You can't really take it too seriously for several reasons: 

First of all, there are several members who have spouses or assistants who are also members, etc, so they are going to get some instant votes (I mean, who wouldn't vote for their wife?  I know I would..). 

Secondly, there are very few categories (portrait, event, electronic imaging, books and albums, commercial, un-categorized... maybe one or two more I'm forgetting).  You have to have at least three entries in a category for it to be voted on so you can't have twenty categories.  Still, it's tough to pick between an album of portraits and a wedding album since they represent two very different skill sets. 

Finally, each photographer gets to select what category they compete in.  This leads to a dozen different interpretations of category.  For example:

This is a portrait of a bride at her wedding.  Does it go in the "wedding and event" category or the "portrait" category?  It was shot at the wedding so it's a wedding image I guess.  But what if we had shot it the day before the wedding?  Does that make it a portrait?

"Portrait?"  "Un-categorized?" 

I see a lot of images that, to me, are clearly in the wrong category but many more that are just on the fence.  For example, last night there was an image in the "un-categorized" category of a girl hitting a soccer ball with her head.  Since there is no "sports" category, thet seems the logical place for it.  However, if that shot was set up (as opposed to being shot during a game) then isn't it a portrait?  Who's to say?

By the way, the above images were entered in "wedding/event" and "un-categorized."

So, the overall point that I am trying to make is that you can't take the monthly competition too seriously.  Best to use it as a great opportunity to compare your images to others and hopefully get some knowledge and ideas.  Don't worry about whether or not you win.

That being said, I won bitches!!

That's right!  The Boo-man managed to win 2nd and 3rd with the two images you see above!  Go Booray, Go Booray, It's Your Birthday!!

Let's be fair.  The wedding dress shot won 2nd out of three total entries.  So, I could have entered a picture of my big toe and won 3rd.  Unless it was a truly awesome picture of my big toe, then maybe 2nd.  I'm not saying it didn't deserve 2nd, just that I wish It could have competed against more images.

The "feet" shot won third out of maybe 8-9 images.  "Placing" in the "uncategorized" category is a mixed bag.  There are always a couple of images in there that could be argued don't belong and others that are just hard to compare (this shot competed against a picture of a prairie dog, for example.)

Personally, I think that most images fall under "portrait" but then, is it fair to compare a portrait done with natural light on location against one shot in the studio with five lights and a make-up artist?  You see why there's no perfect answer...

I was surprised that it placed.  I love the image and I get comments on it all the time but I love it because I know the feet.  It's a couple who's wedding I shot.  He's a fireman and she's a dancer.  I wonder what people think when they see it...  do they just like the juxtaposition of the two types of footwear?

Who really cares.... I got a ribbon.

You can see more of Booray Perry's award winning photography at