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Georgia photographer, Judith Ann, was lucky (and talented!) enough to earn a merit on her first time entering PPA photographic competition. In this guest blog, she shares the funny story behind her merit image and an afterword with her thoughts following the International Photographic Competition (IPC).
Dog Gone, I Received a
By Judith Ann
A lack of communication and poor note taking almost cost me a very important session last year. I'll tell you upfront, the good news is everything turned out better than planned. Pardon the puns, but it caused me to dig deeper into my artsy side when I realized I had been barking up the wrong tree for most of my morning.
The day started off like a typical morning at my studio, beginning with a review of appointments, ordering sessions and events to help my day flow smoothly for the next eight hours. I have always prided myself on my ability to plan and custom fit each client's session based on their requests. This particular time, my daily calendar informed me I had a pet session scheduled for 10 a.m. My assistant had booked the appointment the day before and the details were sparse. So bright and early I got my chain rattled and had to react quickly to this situation.
The notes said, "English Bulldog/pet picture" and being comfortable with dogs I believed for a hot minute that this would be an easy session--that is until I got up from the computer and started walking to my shoot room. My assistant appeared suddenly and filled in the details about my soon-to-arrive client. The client recently added a "man room" to her home--thus the need for the bulldog portrait for the wall.
"Really?" I asked excitedly. Then she said the portrait was to be based upon the poker playing dogs. I stopped walking.
"Huh? What are poker playing dogs?"
My assistant gave me the look that only the younger generation can give as if to You gotta be kidding me! Have you been living in the dark ages! "Like, they're everywhere" she said, "I'll show you."
I must have had the dumbest look on my face realizing I was totally unprepared for this session while I stared into a computer screen to see bulldogs playing cards, smoking cigars and looking generally illegal.
"How old is her dog?" I asked.
"I believe it's a puppy."
What da' what?
Soon after I heard a car door close and a barking dog headed my way--my moment of truth had arrived. The only thing I had going for me was the fact that this client was a regular customer who trusted me with her family portraits for years, at least up until this point. The studio door cracked opened and the tip of a furry nose nuzzled through and the wrinkly bulldog puppy came barking, jumping and running straight into my lobby.
I stood there dazed and confused and in my squirreliest voice said, "Hi Jennifer!"
Jennifer gave me a curious smile and said, "What's up?"
"I just realized I don't have a deck of cards," I said. "Would you mind leaving your puppy with me and running over to the store to get a pack while I get the lights set?"
Ha! lights set? How about trying to pull off the fastest-built set in 15 minutes flat?
She agreed and when I heard her car start up I sprang into action. The puppy was left to run around the lobby while I began to think...
My son-in-law was in the studio the day prior drinking the brown, old-fashioned root beer glass bottles. I dug through my trash and apprehended two bottles from the bottom of the garbage can. Yes! Close enough to a beer bottle and now I need a cigar and I think I have one from the proud parent of a baby boy! I hope this pup won't eat my only cigar!
Some further hunting around the studio produced an antique checker board with chips, an old camera and a quick hand dive into my purse brought up some change and dollar bills to hopefully round out the set. We cleared off a side table from the lobby, moved it into the shoot room and carefully arranged the newfound items. Jennifer returned with the fresh deck of cards and it was time to put our puppy to the test.
We placed our furry little friend on the table and he curiously looked left, right, up and down and in a split second scooped the cigar into his mouth and brought his head up into the cutest pose. Click. The image was captured in the blink of a (puppy's) eye!
(Side note: The puppy was not harmed in any way in the capturing of this image. As a matter of fact he enjoyed all the attention. The cigar was not lit--we created the smoke and red ash in post-processing.)
My assistant and I discussed better communication techniques through more detailed note taking and a big HEADS UP on unique session requests. As a bonus, we have had several clients request that particular image as artwork for their home.
In this, my first year of PPA image competition, I included "Hold 'Em Ace," and was pleased to earn a merit seal at my state (Georgia PPA) and district (Southeast) competitions I'm excited to hear the results from the IPC! My fingers are crossed on being chosen for the Loan Collection.
It's official! I've come full circle in completing my first year of competition. I entered the same four images from start to finish (GPPA>SEPPA>IPC) and am excited to say that three of the four images merited! After I received my judge's critiques from the GPPA/SEPPA level, I made some adjustments on three of my four images. "Hold 'Em Ace" had already sealed and I was told you NEVER break the seal once you merit.
My judge's critiques helped me see her perspective on how I could improve my images and I was mostly happy to make the suggested changes. I have to admit I did take a little offense on my critique of "Bonny Boy." The judge made mention on my child's sausage fingers on the bike handle, I took it personally because, to me most children have little sausage fingers. After growling about the comment for several days, I took another look at those baby sausage fingers and began to see why the judge had pointed them out.
I agreed that maybe they were standing out more than they should, so I took my burn tool and ever so slightly browned those little sausages. My images went from being what I considered really good prints to great images with just a few small changes. As a suggestion, don't take the judges' comments to heart--they are there to help you become an even better photographer.
I was glad I took the time to compete and successfully survived entering into a whole new world. I bet you have already guessed about how I feel about next year, that's right, I'm thinking about conjuring up brand-new ideas that will hopefully earn more merits. It's a win, win situation that will benefit my clients. My final thought is that being able to resource a judge with years of experience, compete with your fellow photographer peers in the industry is bringing me closer to my goal: award-winning photographer, Judith Ann, M.Photog. (master photographer).
You might have heard, but the International Photographic Competition (IPC) was last week!
The results are in and they are GOOD! More images, more merit images, and WAY more images going loan. Way to go everyone! Here's an excerpt from our official press release below:
A panel of 45 eminent jurors from across the United States selected the top photographs from nearly 5,000 total entries from August 4-7 at Gwinnett Technical College in Lawrenceville, Georgia.
Judged against a standard of excellence, just over 1,800 images were selected for the General Collection and 918 (roughly 18 percent) were selected for the esteemed Loan Collection--the best of the best. The Loan Collection images will all be published in the much-anticipated "Loan Collection" book and over 200 selected General Collection images will be published in the "Showcase" book by Marathon Press.
Images accepted into the General and Loan Collections will also be on display at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee Feb. 1-3, 2015 during Imaging USA, the annual convention and expo for professional photographers. These images constitute one of the world's largest annual exhibits of professional photography gathered simultaneously under one roof.
Those who didn't earn merits this year didn't have to leave empty-handed. Critiques from the IPC judges were available upon request, and the judges completed roughly 1,800 during the competition. The critiques are offered as a way to help participants find areas of improvement and prepare for future photo competitions.
And for the first time, this year's IPC was streamed live online and 1,570 unique visitors from 13 countries tuned in over the four days. 643 of those weren't involved in this year's competition, showcasing the widespread curiosity in competition, but tentativeness to enter. This is something PPA hopes the live stream will help change.
"This was truly the biggest and best IPC yet," said IPC manager Rich Newell, M.Photog.Cr. "Those critiques must be working; we had about 250 more images go Loan this year. And we're thrilled with how many people viewed the live stream. We hope it showed all the non-participants who watched what truly goes on at competition. Hopefully they won't hesitate to enter next year!"
The IPC challenges photographers to grow their artistic and technical photography skills by creatively capturing and presenting their best images, and by doing so, improving their businesses.
Here are a few photos from the judging:
To view full results of the International Photographic Competition, visit PPA.com/IPC. And go ahead and start practicing for next year! Let's see those numbers soar even higher.
A first-timer's account of the International Photographic Competition
By Penn Hansa, PPA Intern
I naïvely thought I had been at PPA long enough to know what to expect when we went to the International Photographic Competition - lots of images, seasoned judges sitting in a dim room deciding whether the image presented should merit and a solemn air of importance surrounding the entire event.
I was only half correct. IPC is much, much more.
It's an invaluable experience, a chance to learn from some of the most talented photographers in the industry and oddly enough, it feels like a family reunion -- if your family were made up of experienced IPC judges, that is.
"Do you want to see my granddaughter?" a judge asks, while waiting for the next round of judging to start. He pulls out his iPhone and flicks through the images before anyone replies.
"Only if I get to show you mine," another judge replies. "And then we can judge the images!" They all laugh.
But when the session starts, it's all business. In the digital room, the judges sit in twos or threes, and as an image comes on the screen in front of them, they'll review and tap in their vote on an iPod Touch. Oftentimes, they'll lean closer to the screen to see the image more closely, viewing it from different angles to make sure they haven't missed a pixel when considering it.
A common misconception about IPC is that the judges will favor images that suit their style. Because they score in a matter of seconds, it seems easy to believe it. But when a judge challenges an image, it's all laid out on the table and it's clear to see that their deliberation is intense. They'll each speak at length about why they favor an image to merit or what fell short, citing the 12 elements of a merit image.
"It's not about the treatment of an image, and whether I like it or not," said Allison Watkins, M.Photog.Cr., CPP. "I have to put my preferences aside to see the image impartially."
I wanted to see more of the thought process behind the deliberation, so I headed to the critique rooms, where judges offer their thoughts and constructive criticism about the image. For each image that is being critiqued, the judge will talk about the image as a whole, explaining their stream of thought as they look at it, including both the positive and the negative. It's a real learning experience to see exactly what makes an image merit and truly invaluable.
I settled behind Gregg Wurtzler, M.Photog.Cr., as he critiqued a few images, and then pulled up a new one. Wurtzler has 14 years of judging and critiquing images under his belt.
"What do you think about this one?" he asked me as he made his initial assessment.
I tried to keep in mind what I had learned about the 12 elements from watching earlier judging and critiques, but was drawing a blank. I liked the image, but something about it seemed off, and I couldn't place my finger on the correct term.
He just chuckled at my confusion and started his critique, first complimenting the photographer on his choice of subject and capturing the right moment, then describing how the photographer could have improved his composition, to notice the placing of the subject's hands and the busy background that was detracting from him.
"At first, it's sometimes difficult to look at the image and have to guess why the judges didn't merit it," Wurtzler said after he finished the critique. "But we've all been doing this long enough that we can usually pinpoint what it is."
Later, I sat behind Mark Garber, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, who has helped thousands of photographers with his critiques.
For any photographer who hasn't entered competitions, take this as an incentive: Garber is a huge advocate, and made a point to encourage all the photographers in his critiques to keep entering their images.
"Competition is quickest way to improve photographic skills," he said. "Every photographer has had images that didn't merit, so don't be discouraged when it happens to you."
Convinced of the fun and invaluable experience IPC is yet? Find out more about entering your images, becoming a PPA-approved juror and other competitions at PPA.com/IPC.
By John Owens
The PPA team took its annual field trip up go Gwinnett Tech for the International Photographic Competition yesterday. Last year, I entered the International Photographic Competition as a wide-eyed rookie. This year, as a crusty, second-year veteran, I knew the drill.
But you know what? It was at least as exciting. And it's because the images are new and the judges' passion is unwavering.
There was also the added element of the first ever IPC live stream. When we arrived, Scott Morgan, director of information technology for PPA, informed us that roughly 850 unique users were currently watching. About 250 of those weren't even involved in the competition!
The stream features live audio from each judging room, with the digital image shown on the screen. It's perfect theater for Warren Motts, M.Photog.Hon.M.Photog.Cr., A-ASP, F-ASP, whose baritone voice lent his digital judging room added drama.
What those at home can't see is the added action in the print room. The white-gloved volunteers placing each print in the turnstile. The judges' routine of getting up from their seats for an inches-away look at each corner of the image. Every color correction, every shadow, every pixel. Glasses on, glasses off.
Past PPA president and current chairman of the board, Ralph Romaguera Sr., M.Photog.Hon.M.Photog.Cr., CPP, API, F-ASP, was in his ultimate element (he's never really out of it) in the print room. As one of the rooms' jury chairmen, he led the judging and addressed the live stream audience whenever possible. "Hello out there in PPA land..." began each session.
For the judges, the IPC is photographic summer camp. It's their unofficial halfway point to Imaging USA--a chance to hang with longtime friends and colleagues and share in the passion that unites them. There's an equal share of hugs and friendly verbal jousting. The kind of environment you find in a tight-knit family, one that pulls you right in and embraces you.
A particular welcome sight was Keith Howe, M.Photog.M.Artist.MEI.Cr., CPP a longtime IPC judge whose battle with lymphoma and ongoing recovery has been followed here on our blog. "I'm moving pretty slow," he said. "But I'm happy I'm here."
They come together both for each other and for the greater good of the industry. To keep the competition and quality of winner images moving forward. They come for fellowship and to be wowed be beautiful imagery. They want to see something new.
"It's amazing how much time the judges spend every year nurturing this thing called image competition," said Randy McNeilly, M.Photog.Cr., MEI, API chairman of the Photographic Exhibition Committee (PEC). "I'm more proud to be an IPC judge than everything else I've accomplished in photography."
There are currently around 100 judges in the committee, with 20 hoping to join their ranks in this year's Judges Workshop, running alongside the competition. If averages hold, 3 of them will become approved jurors this year.
As for the IPC itself, the competition continues its upward trend. Total submissions crept over 5,000 for the first time this year, with nearly 2,000 of those earning merits and going back in for a second round of judging to see who will make up this year's prestigious Loan Collection book. 1,800 critiques were given, up from last year's 1,500.
From a photography standpoint, what impresses me most is the selection process. Think about how many images you capture over the course of a given year. Now choose four. That's all you get.
Now refine them into something amazing. Find a mentor and ask for their input. Maybe even enter them in a district competition beforehand to see how they rank. Should this leaf be here? What this line doing there? How's the lighting? The cohesiveness?
Everything matters. Even the title of your image can have a tremendous impact on its... impact. That's most paramount in the print room, when the title is read the moment it is turned into the judges' view. Does your image tell the story your title implies? Does it add something to the image?
It's something to think about.
By mid-afternoon, stream unique visitors climbed to 1,030, with 345 non-participants. Clearly the curiosity is there, so now that you've seen how the machine works, we hope you'll give it a try next year.
Oh, and speaking of that live stream, you can tune in to see who's going Loan right now! Judging continues for another 24 hours!
Coming soon...IPC Live!
You've always wondered what happens during International Photographic Competition judging. You
imagined judges sitting behind the closed doors, in a dim room, throwing out opinions, tearing down an image piece by piece--maybe even yours. Or maybe they pulled numbers out of a hat?
Fear not--the mystery of IPC judging is soon to be revealed! For the first time ever, PPA is live-streaming the whole thing!
From August 4-7, 8:15 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST each day, you'll be able to watch at stream.theipc.org with your desktop device*. If you're a PPA member, you'll be able to log in to view the stream. Non-members can easily register with your name and email address to access it for free. Once on the site, you can switch between rooms based on your interest, such as Portrait, Artist or Illustrative images.
Whether you have images in competition or not, the judging process is still a valuable learning experience. You'll be able to hear judges' comments and critiques, and see exactly what makes a merit image.
Judith Ann Elliott, a PPA member from Powder Springs, Georgia, attended the IPC as a non-participant before she entered her images for competition the following year. "I was sold on IPC after I saw the judges - they're fair and truthful. They aren't just there to tear your image down. They're there to build your image up and make you a better photographer," Elliott said.
"We're excited to offer live streaming so participants and non-participants alike can see the value in viewing the judging process," said IPC Manager Rich Newell, M.Photog.Cr. "Photographers will be able to see what truly goes on during the process, and hopefully this will encourage more to enter in the future."
*Audio is not enabled on mobile devices. For full audio and video, please view on your desktop computer.