Excellent Critique by David Eastley LRPS

Meeting Report

Welcome once again to David Eastley – not to judge a competition but to give a critique of our efforts. No prints this time but all PDIs – and over 60 to view so a full evening.

David started by explaining his preference for not scoring pictures. For a competition he uses the short preview of PDIs or a “flick through” of prints to establish his frame of reference for the scores he will give. For a critique no such preview is necessary - David sees the images for the first time and at the same instant as the audience - and the audience seems to listen more closely to his comments rather than only hearing the score.

Of course there was our usual wide spread of subject matter and techniques – David reckoned few photographs would have been straight from the camera, not that there are any rights or wrongs implied with the amount (or lack) of processing involved.

A photograph from Jane Coward prompted some useful comments from David about his division of photographs into 3 categories. Firstly the important, personal ones – unrepeatable pictures of family, friends and important occasions. Secondly record shots – either they are just that or the subject matter is of special interest or appeal to the photographer. Thirdly there is “Camera Club Photography” – photography as art, or for its own sake or however you define it – we know what it is when we see it – or do we?

Jane’s photograph of a boy being led by a very large dog in a dog show was at the crossover between groups 1 and 3. Was the boy a relative of Jane’s, was the dog part of her family? We don’t know and it doesn’t matter. It is undoubtedly a charming photograph and a star for anyone’s family album. But was the charm and amusement inherent in the subject enough to extract a good score from a judge? That’s for you as the competition entrant to deliberate on – but keep these categories in mind when doing so.

There were some shortcomings in the photographs to which David repeatedly returned – distractions, mostly brightly toned, on the periphery of the frame were apparent quite frequently. Then there was cropping – that’s your artistic decision as the photographer but very often a more ruthless approach was needed to remove “stuff” irrelevant to the main subject – less is very often more – but there again not always!

The most tricky issue was that of images appearing brighter when projected than seen on a computer screen – and we heard similar comments from Bob Webzell in the first competition. This seems particularly apparent in black and white.

There are technical issues here – is your screen correctly calibrated? Is the club projector properly set up for images correctly prepared via “Image Prepare” – the answer to the latter is “yes” by the way. Most of us will “soft proof” our images for printing and probably change some parameters to give a lighter, more contrasty and generally more punchy print. Should a similar stage be considered for projected images – to tone things down a little? Rhetorical question by the way – if and how you handle this is up to you.

But mostly it was with picture content and composition where David was so helpful – does the picture work, does it tell a story, does it show an original approach - modern cameras make light of technical issues so this personal input is more important than ever.

The judge’s job is made easier if there are technical faults in a photograph. Make life difficult for the judge – don’t let marks be lost for burnt-out highlights, blocked up shadows, unsharp (or oversharp) images and all the rest of the photographic deadly sins – unless of course they form part of your artistic style and intention – but then you’ll know who’ll be the judge of that.

Thank you David for a useful, entertaining and all round enjoyable evening – one of the most informative presentations we have had in a long time – now all we need do now is to remember it all when we next press the shutter.