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Elements of Image Evaluation

Photograph by JUCO (Julia Galdo and Cody Cloud) – http://www.jucophoto.com/

When critiquing photographic images it is the judges responsibility to help inspire, encourage and educate the maker and other photographers who are present. In order to do that, the judge must be well versed in all elements of image making and be able to talk about a number of different factors during their critique.

Imagine you have a judge who critiques about only two elements the entire evening – lets say sharpness and exposure. By the end of night you will not only be bored stupid, but you will leave feeling that the judge did not take into consideration any of the multitude of other important factors in image evaluation. Worse, you may leave with the incorrect assumption that if an image is not sharp and perfectly exposed, then it is not good – nothing could be further from the truth! While sharpness and exposure are certainly important aspects of successful photography, they are not the only considerations.

Lets say you entered an image that was not quite sharp and was a little underexposed but you had done this on purpose to achieve a dark, sinister, voyeuristic mood, which perfectly suited the subject of the image. So the judge scored or critiqued you harshly. However it was clear to the audience that the underexposure was purposefully done in order to achieve a more sinister mood and the lack of sharpness added to the elusive nature of the image in order to create an uneasy sense of voyeurism. Here you can clearly see that by looking only at the technical elements of image evaluation, the judge is ignoring the aesthetic and conceptual elements, which are equally as important to the overall success of the image.

While it may be true that some judges are narrow minded in their assessment of images, I firmly believe that most judges are intuitively and subconsciously taking many factors into consideration when they judge, however when they critique, some lack the variety of vocabulary to accurately describe what it is that they are seeing.

The purpose of this presentation is to introduce novice judges to the range of  things that they should be considering during the judging process and to help extend their vocabulary and repertoire of ideas to discuss during their critique.

Emma Gilette

Director of Training , Australian Photographic Judges Association (APJA)

Please note: This presentation was given as part of the APJA Level 1 Training Seminar, April, 2017. It is obviously designed to include my dialogue alongside the slideshow, but should still make sense. I hope. At the very least, you will enjoy the pictures :) Many images are my own, but some images are sourced from the web. I did not have time to find all the original authors (this is actually a very difficult process). I apologise to the makers and I will attempt to remedy this ASAP and give credit to all the amazing photographers featured.


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