“..Success in Photography Competitions” by Alan Walker, November 18th, 2020


This week’s meeting was a talk by Alan Walker, one of our most experienced members, on “How to Maximise Your Chances of Success in Photography Competitions”. There are three sorts of competitions that members participate in: “fun” challenges on specific topics that are mostly for entertainment and learning, internal competitions that lead to a league table over the year and external competitions that the club enters using member’s pictures. It is notable that for a small club, Keswick punches well above its weight in external competitions.  Although most of us take photographs for the pleasure of creation rather than the prospect of winning something, competitions do allow us to share our pictures with other interested people and receive, usually, constructive criticism and advice from judges. Most members find that their photography improves as a consequence. Alan is well positioned to give members advice on entering competitions, he is extremely successful himself with accolades in both National and International competitions, but just as significantly, he is a well-respected and thoughtful judge, as he demonstrated in the Society’s previous meeting, when he judged our black and white pictures.


Alan gave a detailed description of how best to process images using the common types of software, stressing the degree of control gained with shooting RAW files as they contain far more information than the standard JPEGs, thus allowing extra manipulation to bring out their best. He then went on to ask what it is that judges are looking for as this will vary with different genres; in Nature competitions the ability to tell a story being more important than technical excellence for example. He also explained that in order to create different scores in the photographs they look at, judges look out for minor blemishes to criticize and it is important to avoid such “judge bait”  as spots caused by dust on the censor, over exposed whites, wonky horizons or bits of the main subject inadvertently protruding out of the sides of the frame.


He proceeded to run through a whole range of photographic genres from Landscape to Wildlife, Sport to Portraits, Infra-red to Creative Composites (which combine different images into the same picture using computer software). In each area Alan gave us detailed advice and guidance based upon his extensive experience and expertise and, perhaps best of all, everything was illustrated with his superb photographs, showing superb examples of each of these categories. This was one of those rare meetings that was both a visual delight and a significant learning experience for all of us.

Tony Marsh