Competitions... Competitions are a critical part of a camera club. It gives fellow members a chance to view our own work, we can see their images and, most important, it is a learning experience.
If you are like most photo hobbyists, you shoot a lot of pictures. Most of the time they end up in shoeboxes or stuffed away in a desk drawer. Competitions are an excellent way to display these pictures. You can get recognition for good photos and winning brings a sense of accomplishment and pride in addition to the ribbons and other awards. Critique of the photos will tell you what you can do to improve your pictures.
Competitions allow us to view other photographers' works. This gives us a chance to find out about new places to photograph or new techniques. For example, we can see how a certain film or filter can affect an image. We can learn about panning, night photography or macro. We can see a fresh way to look at a common subject.
The biggest advantage of competitions, in my opinion, is the learning experience through a judge's constructive critique. A good judge will know what makes a picture more than just a snapshot. S/he should be able to balance the quality of the image against its creativity. The quality will include such things as sharpness, following the "rules" (rule of thirds, filling the frame, etc.), contrast and color balance.
We do need to be careful with a judge's comments. Don't be discouraged when the judge states, "I don't like (blank)." The blank could be "green", "horses", "trains", or some other bias. For a print s/he may prefer a white mat instead of a colored mat or vice versus. Some judges prefer traditional images such as a scenic while others tend to go with more creative pictures. Keep in mind that it's OK to break the rules if it makes the picture better. Remember that it's difficult to judge a variety of subjects, for example, sunsets against still life against portraits. Just because one judge doesn't like your picture doesn't mean it is bad. The next judge may love it. After a competition it is often heard that "the judge didn't like my picture." This may be true but many times the image didn't win because the other photos were better. Be a gracious loser and give credit to the other contestants. Use the experience as a means to improve your own photography.
Here are a few tips I use when entering contests.
What makes a good judge? There are several qualities:
Whether you enter these contests or just enjoy viewing pictures, competitions are a necessary part of the club's activities. Use these opportunities to learn and improve your own photography.