As of late there have been some comments and concerns sent to out to the mailing list regarding judging, scoring, critiquing and so on. I would like to see those topics continued here on the blog making it easy for all to follow and comment on them. I would like to remind you that you are always free to email and talk to the Critiquing Chair regarding this subject. Your  Critiquing Chair in 2016 is Walt Biddle and he may be reached at .


Please be aware he and the Competition Chair are different duties. All the Competition Chair does is run the hardware and software for the competition itself. Judging, judge selection and critiquing are handled by the Critiquing Chair.


Remember that checking the box in the comments section of this post will allow you to be notified of replies by email. If you have sent out an email regarding this subject I encourage you to copy and past the text from that email into the comments box to get those comments into this post.



Mike the web guy


18 comments on “Judging, scoring and critiquing
  1. JimMehrwein says:

    Hi Monty,

    Thank you for expressing your concerns regarding judging at EPS. Your email to the club confirmed that we were not alone when we struggle with the scores on competition night.

    My wife Sue and I have had the same concerns and expressed them to a few people at the club. This resulted in our being asked to participate on a committee to address judging. We recommended that each judge give a short reason for their score and how to improve the photo. This has not been as successful as we had hoped but it is an improvement in our minds. We still occasionally hear the comment that there isn’t a way the judge can think of to improve the photo but the score given demands that something could be improved or it would have scored a 9 by that judge. Some judges favor cropping, others adding a vignette, still others regularly recommend making it black and white. We have even heard chuckles in the audience during the judges recommendations since the same recommendation was made for the majority of the photos judged that night.

    We also tend to agree with your statement that what the judge likes has more to do with the score than the judging criteria. We like to shoot landscape, but that does not seem to be a particularly high scoring genre (at least for us). I recently submitted a test to see what I would get if I took a picture and through editing turned it into an abstract. I submitted a picture of a piece of rusted metal where I used Topaz to make into something unrecognizable. That picture received a 23, which is the highest score I have ever received for a landscape. I have submitted the same landscape photos scored at EPS to a couple of different on-line photo judging sites where thousands of people judge your photo and had them become the number one for the day, week, and top 5% ever, but those never got higher than a 22 at EPS. Granted we do not know the qualifications of the people judging on these on-line sites but we do know that there are a number of professional photographers participating.

    Jim and Sue Mehrwein

    • MontyMattox says:

      Hi Jim,

      Well after numerous emails and discussions, I finally got what I initially asked for.

      Kurt was kind enough to respond to me and provided both documents and information about the judging process both of which I didn’t know existed.

      Now that I know what the rules “are”, I know how to play the game.

      If you would like the 3 documents Kurt emailed me, please email me direct so that I can send them to you.

      Below at the bottom is Kurt’s email to me (read it first), and then just above is my response.

      ——– Original Message ——–
      Subject: Re: The information you asked for
      Date: 2016-05-20 16:02
      To: Kurt Pratt


      FINALLY I get what I asked for! These 3 documents give me considerable insight into how the judges are to apply scores to the images.

      Especially the EPS Scoring Card!

      Is this SECRET information? Why does not EVERYONE have these 3 documents?

      Kurt, thank you so much!

      THIS answers so many questions..ALSO your statement regarding “the heart of this is in the definition and interpretation of nature” IS at the root of all of this!

      Your last statement however sums up the ENTIRE issue: (key words here – “do not care”)


      “If the judges do not see, notice, or do not care if an image fits the category, and gives the image a score, then the image is in…whether it should be or not.”


      Since I now understand but dis-agree with the EPS definition of NATURE, I will stay away from that category, and submit my Nature images elsewhere.

      These documents should replace what is on the web as the document there is for all purposes worthless.


      On 2016-05-20 11:52, Kurt Pratt wrote:

      Hi Monty,

      I suspect that no one has bothered to send you what you asked for.

      These 3 sheets cover the basic scoring and critiquing instructions that I used when I was Critique chair (last 6 years). I don’t know what the new people are doing.

      The other thing that is, I think, at the heart of this is in the definition and interpretation of nature. Once, nature meant as shot in the camera. That was changed in this club to mean the main subject should be something natural, or have limited hand of man. Sticking to the category themes has been on the honor system, the only enforcement being the people who judge. If the judges do not see, notice, or do not care if an image fits the category, and gives the image a score, then the image is in…whether it should be or not.

      Hope this helps and if you have questions feel free to ask.

      Have a good weekend,

      Kurt Pratt

      Springfield Creamery

      29440 Airport Rd

      Eugene Or 97402


  2. DaveHorton says:

    Great comment. I would encourage dialog and feedback but not in a “reply all” email format. The blog was set up for this purpose and we all can use reminding of its purpose. Thanks Mike.

  3. May I refer you to page 6 of the Standing Rules: Competition PDF at

    It offers the guidelines we as jurors use to critique an image. Some of us have done additional training, thank you Bruce, which has been offered to the entire membership. Other than that we have learned on our own. I, for one, studied sociology and psychology in college and what I know I’ve made the effort to learn. If the requirement is to have a degree in art to be a juror then we may, occasionally, have a jury of one or less.

    I sit on the jury to share my perspective based upon my experience. As you heard the other night, if you were there, we often had different ways of viewing each image. I learned a lot from Kurt & Walt by being open to other points of view and am honored to have sat with them.

    When I agree to be a juror it is because I have something to say that I hope will be of value to some and I know won’t be to others. The jurors are volunteers doing our best.

  4. RickLeBrun says:

    To those that volunteer to critique…my hat is off to you. I have done it…and it ain’t easy! As objective as we would like it to be, there is always an element of subjectivity to it which is a good thing because it provides us an opportunity to hear and see different perspectives of an image. I have learned a tremendous amount from competition night and continue to learn from it. Thanks to all that participate and help make it go!

  5. “Uniqueness” – I believe we all see the world through the lens of our own experience. Thus, every image is unique in some way. The gift of photography is that I see and experience what’s in front of me at a deeper level than “at a glance” and it becomes a part of me, expanding and educating my current perspective of the world I live in.

    This is the reason I make images, for my own growth and to enrich my life. I don’t shoot with others in mind, I shoot for the experience of celebrating the abundance of what the world has to offer.

    Recently I’ve been shooting the night sky. And even though star trails and Milky Way images have become commonplace I absolutely love challenging myself to learn and do something new. Too, I get to be in the company of like-minded friends who are challenging themselves in similar ways. It’s refreshing for me to have FUN with my photography!

    When it comes to being on the EPS jury of our unique images I feel I have no right to say this is good or bad, but I’ve been given the task of identifying how an image can be improved. That’s it! Though I feel weak in some areas of our critiquing criteria I am commit to improving my skills at this.

    In the end, may we all give ourselves permission to experience the joy of photography because it makes us whole.

    • JimMehrwein says:

      Thanks Adrienne, that was refreshing.

      Regarding judging, it seems the challenge is to not only allow each image to stand on its own, but to also obtain consistency between images with regards to the score they receive.

      I can understand how a spetacular image early in the judging may cause a quite good image to score lower than it would if the spectacular image came at the end of the evening. Same thing can happen when poor images occur early on, perhaps an average photo gets a higher score because of the poor photo that precedes it.

      Finally after all images have been scored it is tempting to compare images and the scores they received and question why one scored higher than another. The only way to overcome this is to judge each photo, using the same criteria, as if it were the only photo being judged. Certainly easier said than done.

    • RickLeBrun says:

      Thanks Adrienne, for your comments. I think you touched on an area that I have observed over the years, and that is not all judges are experienced or knowledgeable in all the categories. When I judged, I was quite comfortable with nature and pictorial but not so much with people and abstract/experimental. I think it is to be expected that one who focuses primarily on nature may not be the best to judge people and vice versa. Of course there are some judges that are quite competent in critiquing all the categories. Recently there have been comments regarding what is so great about a bird, or a flower, or a woman covered with tattoos? This is not a complaint, just an observation. Perhaps in our “judging training sessions” it might be beneficial to go a little deeper into each category so we can all learn to appreciate more what we are not familiar with…just a thought.

      • CREATIVE EMPATHY . . .

        Rick, like you, I have my persuasions. What I’m most comfortable with is the abstract, macro, and I see most easily pattern, texture and design regardless of the subject. Yes, I am challenged by some of the images . . . like the woman in pink paint last week, the teal blue car from about 4 years ago or some of the experimental work of sports events. I’ve got to admit it! And yet, my personal opinion of a subject is irrelevant. In every image there are qualities of balance, focus, technique, originality, etc. that I am charged to decide upon as a juror, and that, I can do.
        As far as going deeper into each category during training goes, I see this as a bottomless pit – too deep to rise out of in a training session for me. What would be manageable for me is to take baby steps like talk to David and some of the other people whose art is over my head – find out about their process, their vision, message, etc. I’m sure some members wonder if I’m on drugs with some of the stuff I’ve shared, but I don’t remember being asked such questions.

        I guess what I’m saying is we have an extremely diverse group of photographers and rather than remaining ignorant about them, why not learn more by getting to know them and their work. This is where my understanding would be expanded which would improve my ability to see things I’m not currently seeing in an image.

        Let’s call this Creative Empathy.

        • SusanMehrwein says:

          “And yet, my personal opinion of a subject is irrelevant. In every image there are qualities of balance, focus, technique, originality, etc. that I am charged to decide upon as a juror, and that, I can do.” 👍😊 That hits the nail on the head
          Thank you Adrienne

  6. MikeVanDeWalker says:

    Thank you for using the blog. The whole email thing is getting way out of hand.

  7. MikeVanDeWalker says:

    From Bob Petit:

    As you all know, I am a man of few words. Noting that, I decided to add a few words to the recent discussion regarding scoring and critiquing. Keep in mind, these are my opinions based on my experiences, leadership responsibilities, and opportunities that I have gotten from EPS over the years. You, individually, can agree or disagree. My opinions are subjective.

    EPS is a volunteer organization. We each bring all of our life experiences, skills and education to the role we take in EPS. As photographers, our skills and abilities are at all levels, novice to professional. Learning and getting involved in scoring and/or critiquing is voluntary and brings all different levels of experience, skills and knowledge as well.

    With critiquing and/or scoring I have, in my limited experience, not seen a single photography organization completely satisfied with their critiquing/ scoring methods. Why one can ask? Well, critiquing and scoring are very subjective processes, like beauty, seen only in the eyes of the beholder. No one will always agree totally with any other person regarding a photograph,

    In my time with EPS, the leaders and membership have worked on constantly trying to figure out ways to deal with the subjectivity of critiquing and scoring. We are again in the process of addressing it. No matter what changes, answers, designs, adjustments, or ideas we come up with, there will always be concerns or disagreements because of the subjectivity of the subject and process.

    Over the years, EPS has tried and changed various ways of doing business or having members participate as well. I would suggest that if there is concern about how something is done, get involved and help bring positive and constructive change to the issue. Learn to critique and score, become a board member,, participate on a committee, mentor someone else, put in a bit of extra time to help the organization become better. There are a ton of ways that we in EPS can participate and help each other become better at what we do with our photography in the process. I think in participating one would find it helpful, fun, and a great way to learn more about your own photography. In turn, it will help one and, perhaps others, become a better photographer which is the basic intent of EPS.

    We are a world of volunteers in EPS. We all are subjectively based with our world views and experiences. Step up and try critiquing. It isn’t easy. Scoring is arbitrary. Frankly, to me, the scores mean very little. If I can take a photograph that shows something others may not have seen before or just enjoy, it means a lot more to me than a score of 20 or 21. Scoring, to me, is just a subjective way of attempting to express the general feelings about a photograph to the photographer being critiqued. The key element is that you like your own photograph and have entered it because you like it, not just to score well……Let me use myself as an example….Monty, thank you for the compliment on my burrowing owl photo. I accomplished what I wanted to do with it. Someone else liked it besides me. It had nothing to do with a score of 18 to 27. How many people have ever seen a marmot in a tree before? Certainly not me. I hardly knew what a marmot was before I started doing photography. Well, I enjoyed showing that photo because it was something different for people to see. Now, several people have seen a marmot in a tree. It really doesn’t matter to me how it scored.

    Just my opinion in a few words.

  8. MikeVanDeWalker says:

    From Terry Smith:

    Thanks Ben for your thoughtful post about important patterns & history. You sure make me wish I’d joined EPS years ago! For me, this & your other posts contain very useful questions.

    There has been an enduring or repeating gap between new members expectations & the results of competition. The club has a long and commendable history of efforts to improve judging. Perhaps its past time to reframe the definition of “the problems.” An unasked & important question remains – where do new members expectations about competition come from? What is it about those expectations that isn’t being met? How might these gaps be addressed? How have long standing members expectations evolved & do they remain unmet? Does the club need some kind of on going new member intro/training/welcoming…….?

    The prospect of hurt feelings seems to play a very powerful role in the club’s attempts to balance the various opportunities it provides members. The virtual absence of low scores says that’s likely one of the many powerful factors causing the compaction of scores we see. How does the club board learn there are “too many” hurt feelings? Are there alternatives to major revamping of competition for addressing hurt feelings of new/all members?

    Your’s & others’ comments clearly demonstrate competition night, judging, critique training & access to be a judge are working very well to foster growth of members. The current system is very successful. Bravo. Perfection of judging is not required. So we all can chill a bit-:)

    Your comment about uniqueness is important. That’s actually a criteria in the scoring guide for getting an 8. By contrast, perhaps the most often expressed criteria during introductions to competition is image impact but that’s never mentioned in the rules. These differences may be one of the ways unmet expectations are generated.


    Terry Smith

  9. MikeVanDeWalker says:

    From Walt Biddle:

    Many years ago when my hair was no longer gray, I remember a camera Club member who was judging, downgrade an image because “I’ve seen this before.” He was jumped on Big Time. Uniqueness is not a criteria for how will an image scores. It’s how well the job is done. The other thing is, we have critiquers try not to score One image against another but each image on its own merits. Sometimes for better at that than others. I would encourage those of you who are uncomfortable with the way judging this going. Please join us we will be welcoming. no one’s going to yell at you and we just might get some progress made. thanks, Walt, your critiquing chairman

  10. MikeVanDeWalker says:

    From Terry Smith:

    Hey Monty, good to hear your comparison between the clubs you’ve been in. Such comparisons can yield a helpful conversation. If nothing else, your email will likely cause more folks to reread EPS rules-:)

    I’ve got far less experience to call on so I took a look at your old clubs site & rules. I’m responding here to help clarify your issues & to improve my understanding of EPS judging.

    First thing that jumped out at me was the difference in scoring scales & number of judges: SCC scores from 8 to 12 (by a single judge?) & EPS effectively scores from 3 to 9 (x3 judges). The use of 3 judges @ EPS likely yields greater consistancy.

    But mathematically translating your EPS score of 21 for say the Grebe photo into an SCC score could be done in 2 ways yielding different results because the scales have both different values & ranges. One method would yield a score of 9 (21/3=7, 7*12/9=9.3). But if we account for the wider possible range of EPS scores, your 21 translates into an SCC score of 10. Regardless, my point here is comparing scores between the 2 clubs is not straight forward. Unfortunately, this makes it harder for us to have a helpful conversation using this comparison.

    The other thing that jumped out was the 2 clubs take a different approach to judging criteria w/ EPS having more explicit judging criteria than SCC but SCC has more restrictions on what may be entered in the Nature category. Within these differences, I see a significant difference in a key Nature judging criteria used by the 2 clubs. Your Grebe photo illustrates that difference. SCC rules say “The story telling value of a photograph must be weighed more than the pictorial quality while maintaining high technical quality.” The Grebe shot certainly tells a story. EPS rules focus on strength of content & design, e.g. image impact. I certainly can’t say how EPS judges rated the Grebe image impact. Regardless, the different criteria could yield very different scores. More importantly, both story telling & image impact are significantly subjective criteria.

    From what I’m seeing, the 2 clubs have taken very different & hard to compare approaches to competition scoring of the Nature category.

    From my scan of the SCC gallery & (limited) experience @ EPS, bird photos are a large portion of the nature category submissions. Could the large number of these impact their scoring making it harder to get a high score? Or is the impact criteria harder to achieve for bird photos? To answer that, we’d need to review a year or 2 of past nature submissions & best of all for more than one club.

    Your comment about getting no response to a request for how to improve an image has not been addressed by this review of rules.

    Hope this is helpful.


    Terry Smith

  11. MikeVanDeWalker says:

    Maybe it is time for the critiquing group to look at some changes in the judging process. In my opinion they are stuck in the “way we have always done it” mode. I have been a member for 7 years. In that time I have been competition chair all but one year of it. I have seen all of the birds, flowers and landscapes. Most of it the same old thing. I keep seeing the 21 or 22 images with no real suggestions on how they could be better.

    Let’s face it, some images can’t be made better. The shutter should have never been pressed to begin with. Harsh I know but it is reality. Same old poses, framing and locations just don’t make it. I REALLY don’t like the word Impact that is floated around. On the other hand I to like Unique which some above seem to be having an issue with. Maybe those people need to open their minds a little and expand their their thinking on if unique has weight.
    There are three links below I feel are worth looking at..

    • JimMehrwein says:

      The problem with excluding all the birds, flowers and landscapes is that if you want to attract new members (especially new to photography) and keep the club growing and dynamic, many of those new to photography will want to shoot the birds, flowers and landscapes (which will be new to them).

      We visited the painted hills for the first time this week. We recognized that there are only so many ways to shoot them. We tried to find different compositions, were there at sunrise and also sunset, and had great fun shooting them. But because all those who came before us have already shot them, our take away is to not submit them because they are too common to submit.

      Saying the same old locations just don’t make it excludes the grandest locations in landscapes. Trying to shoot those differently than those who came before us is difficult to nearly impossible.

      Perhaps those who have said just take photos for your own enjoyment and don’t enter them into competition are right.

  12. JannCole-LeBleu says:

    I was asked to put this one the BLOG.

    Greetings Dear Members on a typically rainy day in Oregon,

    I am not a rash person. I have learned to still myself and listen, observe and analyze in all situations. I believe it is the wiser course of action, than being ready to jump into the fray of a heated conversation at the drop of a hat and say whatever comes to the top of my head. I try to not be sorry for my words at a later date. Thus, a discussion has gone on by many about the critiquing methods within EPS until I fear my words will be “overkill” on the topic. I am sorry about that. But, as your elected president, and in my mind, *servant* of the membership, it is my job to create peace and to preside over all affairs with wisdom and knowledge.

    First off, I am a woman, so to start off with, some won’t listen to what I have to say nor give it the least bit of credence because women are dumb. Certainly dumber than men. So, I must combat this attitude within the club. Yes, I witness it and observe it. I am not dumb. I qualify for MENSA but refuse to be part of yet another group of people who think they are superior to another.

    Secondly, my life has been one of hell. I was brought up in a very strict religious cult, my father being a top evangelist for said cult, over the whole NE sector of the United States. I lived a mile away from New York City. But, the beliefs were very restrictive and suffocating to a free spirit and creator such as I. I married a domineering, dictator, zealot man within the cult and things only got worse, culminating in me being totally anorexic (under 70 lbs.) and having two blood clots coursing my veins. Since, within the cult, they do not believe in doctors, I never saw one. One of the blood clots landed in my lung at home. A pulmonary embolism. Most do not survive this. I did, don’t ask me how. Sheer perseverance. A friend from college saved my life by getting me to call 911. He is also the one who was my photography mentor. He is a professional photographer from California. Photography was my therapy, It helped to heal me body and soul in many ways. Why do I tell you this story at all? Because I want you to know where I am coming from. I believe we are on this planet to learn things. To advance ourselves as a person. To grow and become better people. I believe it is good to share my story so that I might help others by it.

    I have learned that each and every day is a blessing! Life is far too short to create all the battles we create as human beings. So, many things that we stress about are very trivial in the grand scheme of things. Our lives are but a nanosecond upon this planet earth. Let’s please not waste our precious time being cruel to each other. I have also learned that if you look for the good in each other and in life in general you will be a far happier person. How miserable is life if we constantly focus on the negative?


    There will never be a perfect set of judges. There will never be a perfect club. People are different. (Hallelujah!!!) We see things differently through the filters of our lives. What is beautiful to one is not beautiful to another. One loves Picasso and one loves Renoir.

    Judging is, has always, and WILL always be, controversial. It is a given! Period. End of story.

    Other clubs have done away with it and dwindled out of sight. Clubs, such as ours, have been split in half over it. It is something that is both loved and hated. I consider it akin to the coral in the barrier reef. It only thrives because of the struggle to stay alive. If you took that same coral and put it in totally peaceful waters it would die. It is beautiful and strong due to its resilience, its strength, its fortitude.

    I am one who likes to get to the core of an issue. So, this is what I have to say. The key to having a successful competition night lies within you! Not in anything else. IT IS IN YOU ALONE! IF you enter a photo into competition you must be man enough or woman enough to take whatever the judges may say. Take it however you wish to take it. Take it as a helpful suggestion. Why did you enter the photo anyway? Only to get a good score and bolster your ego? Ask yourself that question. Or did you really wish to learn? I ask you to please not let it affect you and dampen your spirit if you get a “low” score. We have ALL had them. This really does show your spiritual grow as a person if you can learn to take it and take it in a right way. I know it is hard! We all have to battle that human nature that wants to flare up. I had a show of hands of those who have received a “low” score ever in competition. So many raised their hands. Even those illustrious ones among us who are fantastic photographers. Some of those same photos that got 18s or 21s went on to get top awards in other competitions. See….

    As survivor Jann says, do not give up! Hold on, grow as a person, grow as a photographer, and above all please let’s not be cruel to one another. Let’s not retaliate nor stab back if you feel you’ve been stabbed. Let’s look for the good in each other and have the best club on the planet.

    My deepest regards to you all,


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