Judging of Images


Judges are looking at three fundamental aspects of your image.

Technical:  Are sharpness, depth of field, light, exposure, colour and other techniques used in a manner that is effective for the subject matter?

Composition:  Does the composition bring the viewer’s attention to the point of primary interest? Is space used effectively? Does the image minimize unwanted elements effectively?

Emotion:  What mood is conveyed?  Is there a story or a message to the photograph?  How was visual impact achieved – use of colour, form, point of view, proportion, etc? Does the image demonstrate uniqueness or creativity?

“A true photograph need not be explained, nor can it be contained in words.” – Ansel Adam

The Professional Photographers of America had a more detailed explanation in their article 12 Elements of a Merit Image .


For competitions with digital and print submissions, typically all digital images are judged first, then all of the prints are judged.

Ordinarily, each image will be judged only once, by secret ballot. The club owns an electro-mechanical scoring machine expressly for this purpose.  The scores are read out for the image.  Any of the judges, or the competition coordinator(s), may spontaneously request a re-scoring of an image should there be, in their view, a serious discrepancy in the individual scores. In this circumstance, the judges will be asked to discuss the characteristics of the particular image and acknowledge, or refute, their individual points of view. Subsequent to the discussion, the image will be re-scored, again by secret ballot. There is no requirement that any judge alter their score from the first attempt. In all cases, the judges’ score is final.  Poor presentation (improperly matted print, damaged print) will result in lesser scores.

The judges are also asked to provide brief comments on the images they score, with the aim being to give participants helpful feedback. However, due to the sheer number of submissions it may be impossible to provide comments on every image.


Three judges each give an image a score out of 10, so the final score for an image is a number out of 30. Scoring guidelines are as follows:

  • 1-2-3: not normally used
  • 4-5: fair
  • 6-7: average
  • 8: above average
  • 9-10: exceptional

The CAPA (Canadian Association for Photographic Art) model of scoring assumes that every image starts with 5 points.  Deduct points for technical flaws. Add points for composition, lighting and the ‘wow factor’.  So an alternate way of looking at the scoring would be:

  • 1-2: not normally used
  • 3-4: extremely poor to poor with very serious faults
  • 5: fair, possibly with minor faults
  • 6-7: good, displays average technical qualities and average impact
  • 8: excellent image, above average in technical qualities and impact
  • 9: exceptional, very high technical qualities and high impact
  • 10: exceptional, demonstrates the ‘wow’ factor with outstanding impact and technical aspects

Competitions with Categories

For competitions with categories, images will be judged by category, so that all of the images in a category, regardless of media, will be evaluated together in the hope of providing greater consistency in scoring. The judges mark down images they deem inappropriate for the category, even if the image has been accepted by the competition coordinator.

When competitions have categories, the editing criteria may be very different for individual categories.  In particular, nature, macro, and photo journalism categories can have very restrictive editing criteria.