HA! That got your attention!!!
Seriously though, I’ve just spent 8 hours printing my entries for this year’s VPPYs in two weeks time, and it got me thinking about what it takes to get a gold. Let me give you a little about my background first.
I’ve been entering APPA since 2003 (I wasn’t even a member!) and I’ve won several awards. I’ve never won a GOLD however I came damn close last year (89 and at review 2 judges wanted it GOLD, three said no!). I’ve won two gold at state level and for the last three years I’ve judged APPA as well as 4 other state awards. I’ve been critiquing images ever since I was into photography (aged 13) and I feel I know what makes a good image.
Here are my notes from judging the NSW state awards several weeks back (these are applicable to Landscape images which I’m obviously most interested in):
1. CLARITY – there’s nothing better than seeing a shot with absolute detail. Capturing your image at the sharpest aperture (and focus staking if need be) as well as sharpening your image before printing is essential. I love the medium format guys like Rob Blakers cause I literally feel I’m there when I look at their images because of the clarity in the shot.
2. SIMPLICITY – The simple shots are often the best! Many photographers see a lot, then try to include it all in their images. It results in an image that is far too confusing. I believe the more you put in the shot, the more chance there is on stuffing up the image! Antonio Ranieri who won NSW Landscape Photographer 2011 had a stunning image of a pier in the sea, headland in the background, shot with a slow shutter speed to blur the water and then treated in black and white. Simple and yet very effective!
3. TONALITY – using a full range of tonality, with strong shadows and bright whites creates impact.
4. PRINTING – take your time to print your images at home on a decent printer and print, print, print until you’re 1000% happy with the image. Look for every flaw in the image and go back and correct it, then print it again. The print at the bottom of this post I”ve printed at least 15 times this weekend alone! Each time I look at it, I see something else I’d like to correct. I’m always thinking about what the judges might find wrong with my print, then correcting it.
5. SOFT LIGHT – The quality of light (or lack therefore) is vital to the impact of an image. I would put subject matter, composition and light (i know they all sound bleedingly obvious) as the most crucial factors in creating a kick-arse landscape image. But it’s amazing how many images I see that lack these three key ingredients! I judged the NSW state awards as I’ve said just recently, then watched the QLD landscape division on my iphone yesterday, and I have to say (and I need to be careful here as I haven’t won a state or national AIPP landscape title), that overall the quality of landscape imagery out there is poor. We as judges want to reward good imagery, but what I’m seeing lately is poorly composed shots, very poor subject selection, poor photoshop techniques trying to make up for poor quality of light, etc etc.
Look at the points I’ve made above. Next time you go out shooting, look to incorporate all of these into your photography and see what results you get!