EP154 A Bit More Different (And Other Thoughts On Judging)

Ah, so it’s the 4th July as I record this so Happy Independence Day to all my US friends and colleagues! 

In this episode, I do my regular round-up of things I’ve heard during judging – I was chairing the Click Expo Print Competition (the standard was incredible!) and I made a few notes from this and a few other things I’ve been involved in.

I mention a couple of products and here are the links:

EVOTO AI – https://go.evoto.ai/PaulWilkinson (if you use this link, you’ll get 30 free credits!)

ACDSee https://www.acdsee.com/en/index/ 

DXO – https://www.dxo.com/



Available To Subscribe On:

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Introduction and Warm (Water) Review

[00:00:00] So, let me read this out to you. I’m loving this podcast. It’s like sitting in a bath of warm water in that the subject matter is gently flowing over you in a warm, friendly, soothing way. When I get to the end of the series, I’m going to start again. I think Sarah sends it to me, so I’m assuming it’s on iTunes. So thank you to Skinny Latte via Apple Podcasts. Yes, it is. It’s Apple Podcast. Who left that review. It made me laugh. I’ve never, ever. I don’t think been compared to a bath of warm water, but Hey. It certainly, it certainly made me smile. And I will take a review worded like that. Poetry in its finest, in its finest watery form.

[00:00:43] Podcasting Challenges and Episode 154

[00:00:43] I’m Paul, and this is the Mastering Portrait Photography Podcast.

[00:00:49] Well, I blew that ambition out of the water. Didn’t I, the let’s do one podcast every week for the rest of the year. Uh, I’ve barely managed three or four, I think. It has been just one of those. years, this is episode 154. And really it’s just been busy.

[00:01:23] As I record this, it’s the 4th of July. So, happy 4th of July, to all of our American. Listen is in so many ways. The 4th of July might be something of an independence day for us too certainly with a little luck, a day of change.

[00:01:37] Busy Year and Listener Feedback

[00:01:37] Um, it’s just been really busy in a year like this everything’s working really well, but we’re having to work that little bit harder to get there. Everything’s a little bit more expensive. Clients have a little less to spend and somebody wrote in the other day. And said that they were waiting for episode 154. And partly because having the podcast, this podcast out there, from someone who is living and breathing the same industry that you are. It’s feeling the same things that you are going through the same processes, the same client experiences that you are is comforting.

[00:02:11] And just knowing that they’re not alone. So here is episode 154. In that sense, I think we really are. Um, a market, we’re a collective of individuals. We’re all going through the same thing, but on our own. It’s useful to know. Uh, that there’s other people out there going through the same thing. So I don’t sleep very much. Uh, we’re working flat-out I love every second of it.

[00:02:35] Don’t get me wrong. Having having a camera in my hands is just the most natural thing in the world. So, and taking pictures for a living. Well, I couldn’t ask for a better way to put food on the table, but that’s not to say it isn’t really hard work. And in fitting in all of the other things that seem to have crept up into my world. Um, it just takes a little bit of time.

[00:02:58] So apologies that the podcast has been a little bit more sporadic then I would have liked. Uh, before I get any further, I would just like to say thank you to everybody that filled in the questionnaire that Sarah has sent out. Um, It’s really, really, really interesting. The data in it is incredibly insightful.

[00:03:18] And what we’re trying to understand is what do we do with Mastering Portrait Photography? How do I push it and prod it and coax it forward? Um, we’re due to give a really big kick this year? That’s what we’re trying to do, but at this stage we weren’t entirely certain where to focus. So we now have an awful lot of really insightful, useful data. And the biggest thing that’s come up is that it’s well-worth. I know that sounds really bizarre. You know, I know people read our articles.

[00:03:48] I know people like the diagrams, our stuff is out there in Professional Photo Magazine. And this month also, In Digital Photography Magazine, you want to pick up a copy of that. On the news stand of a Professional Photo. Uh, it has gone all Digital, but Digital Photographer. Is there a paradox there that professional photo magazine is now all digital, but Digital Photography magazine, you can pick that up on it. I can’t. I think there must be a paradox in there somewhere or an irony. Maybe it’s an irony. I never entirely certain. The difference between an irony and a paradox. Anyway, anyway. Um, thank you to everybody who filled that in. Uh, I was due to record his podcast. This podcast was meant to be. It was meant to be a podcast from the land Rover. Uh, but it’s been a very hot day.

[00:04:33] I was working. A two hour drive away. So two hour drive, half hour shoot, two hour drive back, and I was going to record one, maybe two podcasts. Um, weirdly the Landrover was more rattling than usual because, and I don’t know why there is a toaster in the foot well. You know, when you get into a car and you, you, you drive away and you can either clanking rattling. There’s a little Chrome toaster in my foot.

[00:04:56] Well, I need to pick that up with my son. Uh, anyway.

[00:04:59] Family Pride and Personal Updates

[00:04:59] On the topic of kids. Both my kids. I know. It’s got nothing to do with photography, right. But I’m a dad and you can’t help, but be proud of your children and this couple of weeks. I am beyond proud. Uh, today. Jake got his degree. Uh, Sport Technology from Loughborough University.

[00:05:18] So you got a two, one. Uh, degree in BEng. In it’s literally engineering with balls, there’s no other way to describe it. That’s what it is. They study balls and things with which to hit balls. Cricket bats, baseball, bats, golf clubs, football boots. And then they also, uh, research things like, uh, helmets.

[00:05:37] So when the ball hits you, it stops you being an unconscious cricket player or backstop or whatever. Uh, so truly, truly a magnificent result for him really, really proud of him.

[00:05:49] And just as proud of our daughter who has for the past few weeks just started her new job, working in London for one of the biggest creative agencies, creative marketing agencies. In the UK. Um, as a creative account manager. Uh, she’s just going to tear the world apart. She’s super organized, super creative, super lovely to work with.

[00:06:10] She’s a grafter and I could not be prouder of both of them. So forgive me for saying that and giving a shout out to my children, but Hey, my podcast. You don’t have to listen to it. Uh, so where are we? Right, it has been a very busy. Uh, I think it’s about six weeks since I’ve done an episode.

[00:06:28] Workshops and Masterclasses

[00:06:28] Um, so I cannot I’ve lost count. I usually I’ll give you a quick count up of everything we’ve done. Numerous hearing dogs shoots a load of workshops and one-on-one master classes them. I just. Do you know what? I never thought. I honestly never thought I’d enjoy running workshops and masterclasses as much as I do. There’s something. And I don’t know why, but there’s something really thrilling about being in a room with a few people who genuinely want to, uh, take ideas and create ideas and push boundaries and try things and discuss things. Um, and that’s turning into actually a really, really, for me, a really rewarding part of our business.

[00:07:10] And I never, I don’t know if I ever really expected that. It’s, I’m certainly not one of those people. That I want, you know what, I really love doing training because it’s giving something back. It’s none of that. It’s not that at all. There’s just an incredible buzz. Of a group of people working towards creating an image and explaining. And understanding and learning how things work and why more importantly, why we do things, why it’s always, everyone tells you what. You know, when you look at things online, everything’s about the what and the how, but why, why do we do things?

[00:07:42] Why do we approach. Light the way we do why’d we approach the camera settings the way we do. Why, why, why, why, why? I just find the Y. So much more interesting than the what and the, how. And I think probably more valuable because if I understand why then I’ll do it. If I understand the what I won’t necessarily do it, it might be a useful tool or it might be a useful technique. But if I don’t really get why I’m doing something, I will bin that off as just not useful.

[00:08:12] But if I understand why there’s a rationale to why. And so all of our workshops and masterclasses now are premised on why. Anyway, that’s a slight aside we’d last week we had a couple of students work placement students that are. Uh, 15 year old and a 17 year old. Two brilliant. Uh, young students who had approached us to come and spend. A few days with us in the studio.

[00:08:36] Military Photoshoot and Student Experiences

[00:08:36] Uh, they came with us to the hearing dogs for shoot. And then we did, um, a shoot here, uh, with, um, a guy in military uniform. Um, it’s one of those, the shots. Uh, this was the perfect sheet for me. Um, a guy said, I want to do something. Really sort of vintage modern cameras, modern lighting, all the rest of it. But he sent me a couple of pictures that must’ve been taken.

[00:08:57] I’m going to guess in the 1940s at, I don’t know the exact date, but I’m guessing around there from the style, my grandfather. Both my grandfathers had pictures like these in their military uniform. There’s something about the way it’s lit. Something about the way it’s styled something about the way it’s posed and finished.

[00:09:13] And of course it’s on film, black, white film. And he said, I want to, we create these, but you know, he’s a, he’s a soldier. He’s at the very top of what you can be if you’re a noncommissioned officer. Um, and he wanted to celebrate that moment. And so we photographed these incredible images and there was a moment in the shoot, where literally the hair stood up on the back of my neck and I realized what I was looking at with the same pictures that I would have seen of my grandfather’s the same styling, the same vibe, same feel.

[00:09:47] And it’s a sort of, it’s an almost indescribable styling that makes all of that hang together. Anyway, it was absolutely wonderful. And I would love to share them. But I can’t because he works for one of the top secret, um, units in the military. So I’ve got these beautiful pictures. It’s of a guy that I can never tell you about and never show the pictures. I can tell you I did the shoot because it’s of course nobody knows. Uh, but it’s a real shame, but I really, really, really enjoyed it.

[00:10:14] So now looking around for anyone with a military uniform of the similar style, That we could do something that we could do something with I can share. So if there’s any of you out there who have, uh, retired from the military, but still have your number two uniform. I’d love to. Uh, love to take some pictures just for the sheer joy of doing exactly the same thing, but then I can share them. Uh, I think the students really enjoyed it too.

[00:10:38] And then the day after that, a brilliant magician . I’ve worked with Sam strange. Probably for 12 years, I think now. Um, incredible magician. Part of the Champions Of Magic him. Uh, Young and Strange, he works as part of a duo with Richard Young. Uh, but this was a shoot just for him. Sam Strange, wonderful guy just playing. I’m so lucky in the studio that the human beings that come in here. Uh, I think some of the nicest people in the world, I mean, I have only met a tiny proportion of the people in the world.

[00:11:08] I’m sure there are other nice people. But my client base is genuinely. Uh, just a never ending stream of people who I love to spend time with a, Sam Strange. Is right up there. So he spent ages taking pictures of him. And as, as a kind of, we wanted to get some shots where he was genuine, genuinely performing.

[00:11:25] So the two work placement students became instantaneously his audience, uh, some card tricks. He did these card tricks. One of the students looked quite confused. I’m not entirely certain that she understood what had just happened while she was holding the card with her name on it and a knife hole in it. Anyway.

[00:11:43] It was very funny and absolutely. Uh, wonderful. We’ve done a load of portrait shoots. The weather has been kind for a couple of weeks. Which is a pleasure. Uh, so we’ve been out in the sunshine, um, And just. It’s just, it’s. What I came into photography to do was to laugh in the sunshine, taking beautiful pictures. Uh, so that’s really, really, really lovely. Um, we’ve been judging the monthly’s the BIPP. The BIPP the British Institute of Professional Photography.

[00:12:11] Monthly’s over the past couple of months. I think we’ve done two. Monthly since I last spoke with you, sorry. That’s my bad, just busy. That’s all it is. We’re just busy. Um, I love doing, I love chairing the judging.

[00:12:23] And then on top of that, Um, I was asked to chair the print judging for the click expo.

[00:12:28] Judging Competitions and Photography Tips

[00:12:28] That was up in the Midlands a couple of weeks ago, some big names there, Lindsay Adler, and a few others. Uh, with some of the photographers presenting, it was. Um, it wasn’t the biggest expo in the world, but we had a really good entry into the foot print competition. And the standard is out of this. World.

[00:12:45] And when you see a panel of judges, we had judges on rotation. So five judges at any one time and me chairing it. And when you see the excitement, you see the judge’s eyes just light up. When they are appreciating the very best of the craft of photography, I think, you know, there’s, I don’t know how to explain some of this stuff.

[00:13:05] Why that, you know, that feeling when you take a picture right. And you hit the button and you just know, you just know you can feel it. That’s the same sensation that I think we still get when we’re assessing images at the highest standard, there’s something really exhilarating about it in explicable. Uh, but exhilarating.

[00:13:26] I see on the flip side of that, I was laughing with our two work placement students of the other side of the line, which is when you see somebody else take a beautiful photo and they’re in the same session as you. Sometimes when I’m training people, this happens to me. And, you know, with talking through staff were doing ideas and then somebody hit the button and they’ll create a picture. That I wish. I’d taken and then I have to suppress. I have to suppress that kind of. I’m really jealous about that.

[00:13:54] Why didn’t I take that picture? I cause you call and of course you have to celebrate. The absolute, the excitement. I still get the same excitement from the picture. I just wish I’d taken it. Um, Which is quite a weird sensation. I’m getting used to that sensation because if I’m doing my job well in a workshop, I won’t do. My job well in a masterclass, if I’m genuinely. Um, passing on ideas and information, then. Really people in those workshops should be creating beautiful images that I’m jealous of. It is still quite hard though.

[00:14:26] Anyway, we were judging it. Click. Um, and I’m going to come back, uh, to, to that in a moment as the topic of this particular podcast. Uh, but a few bits and pieces. Uh, one of the things that occurred to me this morning, and I’m going to drop this into this podcast because it’s a useful thing to remember. Um, is always remember to pack your bag so that at a single glance, you know, what’s. In it. And will more importantly, what isn’t. I was driving along and I do this thing.

[00:14:56] If you. I don’t know if you’re the same as me. I’ll get halfway down the road and I’ll be like, did I pack my passport? And I literally, I don’t know how many times I’ve done it. I’ve pulled into a lay-by and gone and checked. I still do the same with my camera kit. But this morning I was driving away and I did that thing. Have I, I packed everything I need.

[00:15:14] And then actually I remembered I’d looked over the top of my bag. Um, while it was open and I know everything was there because I pack it in a way that if something is missing, I can see the gap. And it’s like, oh, okay. So, um, you could do it with checklists. Of course you can be much more methodical than that, but just as a simple trick, pack your bag in a way where you can visibly see if something is missing. Right.

[00:15:39] So where are we in our warm bath water? I still think that’s a great review. Thank you, skinny latte. That’s just like the skinny lattes. They use it named by the way. That’s not just me being random. Uh, that is like the best review. I’m going to put that on a, if I ever have a poster. You know, Paul Wilkinson appearing somewhere. , it’s like sitting in a bath of warm water. I don’t know what to do with it, but it’s, uh, please feel free everybody. To write us poetic reviews like this, and I promise you they will get read out because it’s absolute genius.

[00:16:10] Um, I just love that I’m going to have that printed as a poster. I’m loving this podcast is like sitting in a bath of warm water. Anyway. Um, I thought I do these regularly, um, quick updates on things that I heard or saw during um, the judging. Um, So, let me just go over some incidentally as an aside one of the reasons we use, sorry, there’s lots of asides with me. You get used to that or you don’t. That was funny. The night I met someone for the first time and she laughed at me and said, you’re always after the punchline aren’t you. And I was like, yeah, that was really. Is very astute, but it did somewhat stop me in my tracks. Um, I don’t mean to be like that. I just am a.

[00:16:54] One of the reasons we use a panel of judges are more than one judge. Is so that we get a more reliable score, but I was judging in the monthly’s this month round. I. So I wouldn’t say who the judge was, but they were very worried that their score was out of kilter with the other judge. And they had no reason to be.

[00:17:14] I, I can export the judges scores and I can see exactly what’s going on. Um, I’m a big data, nut, I love data. I love the data behind scoring. So I’ve had a look at the data and their scoring is exactly where I would hope it would be, but you don’t always agree. And that’s really important. If every judge for every image gave the same score, we’d only ever need one judge. That’s not how it works. That is so not how it works.

[00:17:43] It’s not supposed to work like that. A panel of judges are all supposed to bring different experiences. Different backgrounds, different hotspots that they look for different passions, different prejudices, different biases by using a panel of judges. You will always get a different score or you should always get a different score from every judge or you haven’t picked your panel of judges very well.

[00:18:09] And we pick up panels of judges incredibly carefully so that they are different. They bring different ideas to the table. We pick the panel of judges so that they’re going to get on, they’re going to work as a team. So if there’s a challenge, if there’s a discussion or they’re not going to get into an argument, they’re going to develop. Uh, thought process, and come to a considered view.

[00:18:28] That’s why we use a panel of judges. It’s important that the judges are reliable and they are experienced and they’re top of their game. Of course. But they will give different scores. Anyway in the, from a Click. At this time and a little bit from the monthly’s I thought I very quickly go through one or two things I heard.

[00:18:45] It’s just useful stuff. You know, there’s nothing major in that.

[00:18:48] Um, so paper choice. Paper choice comes up in every single printer competition I am involved in. Just does. Um, the big one, this time was be careful, where. Um, If you’ve got a textured paper and you print something like a baby on it with smooth skin, it can look like the baby’s skin is wrinkled, particularly when the baby or the face of the baby is quite small in the frame, newborns.

[00:19:12] This was typically a criticism. What’s your paper choice. If you’re going to. Print things that would have a smooth texture in the real world, smooth skin, that kind of thing. Use a smooth. Paper. Uh, that said if you’re using fine art matte, papers, go and figure out how to get your blacks to map correctly because typically fine art matte papers.

[00:19:33] Don’t give you much. Uh, changed between the grades of black. It suddenly goes, it goes. Sort of dark. So you get blocked up areas that aren’t quite black and then suddenly when it gets to a slightly lighter. Like a lighter tone. You’ll start to see texture again. There are ways of printing for that. Go look them up. Uh, Sanjay Jogia, I’m going to give Sanjay quick shout is a brilliant printer. Brilliant technician. Uh, he does, uh, workshops and seminars on printing. You can do a lot worse and go talk to Sanjay. And he’s a super lovely guy, too.

[00:20:06] Uh, stray hairs. We had one assay. This was in a digital file, um, in the competition. Uh, this month there’s a stray hair in the print in a file. And that’s clearly on the sensor. With print and competition judging. The judges are gonna zoom these things in. They’re going to look at them under a light on a light box. If it’s a print, they’re going to zoom it to a hundred percent on a big Eizo monitor if it’s a digital competition. If there’s a stray hair or a dust spot, they are going to see it. So go find your files, go, go over them and over them and over them.

[00:20:35] If you want to do one in competitions, get the little details, right. Uh, because that score that dropped, I mean, so many points. It was a great image. Great idea, creatively. Brilliant. But if you’re letting things like dust spots and stray hairs go through, that’s not going to be regarded as competition standard.

[00:20:53] Mounts. We saw some incredible mounts.

[00:20:55] We saw circular mounts and oval mounts and, uh, one photographer. I don’t know if it’s the same author, but I’ve seen this technique a couple of times where they cut out the edges of the mounts of the landscape picture goes all the way across and breaks out the sides of the frame.

[00:21:09] Mounting and Presentation Tips

[00:21:09] Um, they’re brilliant. Um, you remember that with a print competition?

[00:21:12] Typically the mount is part of the puzzle. So make sure your mounts are complimentary. Make sure they are adding to the image. They’re not distracting from the image. Um, make sure that your everything is super accurate, super, just square. It needs to be lined up. We had one. Uh, image where the horizon wasn’t horizontal. Uh, it was a seascape. And it wasn’t horizontal and it may have slipped in the mound or maybe that the author just didn’t notice.

[00:21:40] I don’t know which of those two things is true, but of course it’s not going to do that. Well, So mounting is really, really important and we do zoom in to make sure the quality. Um, is there.

[00:21:50] Uh, a few dead come up with banding issues, JPEG issues. In this day and age where computers are pretty powerful and you know, the sensors and cameras are at least 14 bit these days. Um, if not 16, Um, then please do just get your techniques down.

[00:22:06] So if you got a big blue sky, make sure it’s a big blue sky without banding in it. Um, it’s just one of those things.

[00:22:12] The Debate on Titling Images

[00:22:12] Uh, titling. I don’t. This comes up every single time. I don’t like titling. I don’t think it should be necessarily part of an image competition. Um, but I’m out there as I’m in the minority. I think. Um, but I just don’t like it. I think we should judge what we see in front of us. But, uh, if the competition asks for a title, enter one, create one, invent one, stick your image in an AI generator and get a title. I don’t care how you do it, but put a title in on average. Now I’ve only heard this anecdotally and I’ve no idea what the research was, but anecdotally, a couple of judges told me that titles typically give you one additional mark on average, if it’s a sensible title. It certainly can add poetry to it. It can add a meaning to it. So if you put a picture. I have no idea. Uh, of, uh, a sad looking child. I don’t know, making this up a sad looking child with no title. Well, it’s a sad looking child. Put up a sad looking child and give it the title, Daddy’s Gone Again. Suddenly, you’ve got a very different tone to how the view is and the judges. Our assessing an image.

[00:23:23] Now this is why I don’t agree with it because I don’t think that’s how it should work. I think we should judge the image. But given it’s an opportunity to get a mark or two. And given you’re entering a competition, which is a game. Then play the game. And put titles in.

[00:23:37] Attention to Detail in Photography

[00:23:37] Uh, where are we? Um, a couple of images came up this time round, which I wrote down all details and reading this and we notebook. I carry a note book almost all of the time.

[00:23:46] It’s a throwback to my PhD days. I think always had a notebook. Uh, title, sorry. All details. Some so EEG cushions, this was a, an image that came in where the hole that the room had been styled to perfection. But when you looked at the sofa, It looks like. Somebody had just sat on it. So the cushions were fine. Like the back cushions, the throws and all of those, but the actual seated part of the sofa. Had been left as if somebody just sat on it, perhaps sat on it to plump up the cushions. I don’t know, but it just, it drew our eye to X. Everything else in the image was so pristine. What’s your details, particularly with architectural and commercial.

[00:24:25] Uh, confusion.

[00:24:26] Understanding Image Composition

[00:24:26] This came up. Where we weren’t certain or the judges, weren’t certain what to make of an image. I’ve talked about this a few times. It’s not the judges, job to decode your story.

[00:24:40] It’s your job as the author to tell your story in a way that the judges can get it. It’s got to be approachable. Um, you can be as clever as you, like, you can be as subtle as you like, but in the end, if you’re not telling the story in a way that the judges can understand decode it, that’s not the judge’s fault. Um, so just, you know, make sure, maybe test it on other people and see what they think at image before submitting it.

[00:25:04] Uh, we saw a few of these. Uh, what have I written down? Uh, They’ve written down. Uh, the only image here. Okay. I wrote down if only if only is one of those things. Have you ever done that with your images where you look at an image in Lightroom and you’re just like, oh, if only. If only the background was clean. If only I hadn’t blown a highlight, if only the eyes were sharp. You know what I mean?

[00:25:29] You have these if only moments where the image you’d done everything. Right. But then you’ve missed a bit. Well, don’t enter those into a competition for a star. Um, There was one image that came up and. It felt to me like. It felt like a grab shot. It was a beautiful shot, but a grab shot. Now the construction of the image was one we see all the time dog in a basket, nothing particularly clever about that. Um, or, you know, rare in that, I suppose.

[00:25:56] But the particular angle, the way it was framed, felt like they grabbed the shot. Now, if you said to a fine oil artist or pencil artist, or a cartoonist or a commercial air brusher, create me a picture of a dog in a basket. They would have a real angle on it. There’d be something about the way they place the objects relative to each other and relative to the frame. There’ll be a way of doing it. That would have a certain aesthetic, a style, a cleanliness for me, my particular thing is I love when the lens is absolutely horizontal. Low down in the frame, preferably on the floor. If it’s a subject that is on the floor so that everything for me, I feel like it climbs into that world.

[00:26:42] That’s just my particular aesthetic. It doesn’t have to be anybody else’s. I mean, please. Everybody. I’m a Muppet. I don’t know what I might have out, but I liked the idea that I’ve done something that has a, it has a statement to it. It has a shape to it. I love the work of E.H. Shephard who drew A.A. Milne’s books, um, Winnie the Pooh and house at Pooh. The corner and when we were young and all of these beautiful Christopher Robin stuff. The drawings always feel like you’re in the small characters world. You’re not an adult looking down at it.

[00:27:13] And I think that’s the point I’m trying to make is have a view. Think about it. Think as if you’re drawing it, don’t think of it as a photograph thing. Okay. Take a step back. If you’ve got time. Sometimes you don’t right. If you’re a news photographer, you haven’t got time, but step back from your image in your head. Say, okay, these are all of the bits of the puzzle. This is, I’ve got one of those, two of them, three of them. I’ve got these colors and this shape, this light. If I was drawing this, if I slowed down and somebody said, draw those on a piece of paper. So that made sense. How would I do it? Uh, you know, there’s an, there’s another picture.

[00:27:49] It was a picture. Um, it was a newborn picture. And there were objects in the foreground. So it was, it made it feel like the baby was amongst objects and then objects behind the baby. But what’s happened is they’ve. Thought that because we mutter a lot, and I’ll come on to this one later. don’t crop things at the edges of a frame. They pulled the objects.

[00:28:11] That baby is surrounded by, away from the edge of the frame, but that meant, it felt like there was only a few objects. In this instance, using the objects and cutting them at the edge of the frame as if there was millions of them receding into the distance that would have made sense. And visually it would have had an expansive feel to it, rather than I only have four of those objects, so I’ve placed them where I have. And it’s that sense of thinking about your layer? And if you look at the very best of these types of images, The guys really do know their way round it.

[00:28:41] Uh, comping compositing. Combining images. It must be invisible. We actually, as photographers, don’t have a problem on the whole, unless the category says you can’t use composite images. We don’t have a problem with it. Judges don’t worry about it.

[00:28:55] We just don’t want to see it. So the compositing, the bringing different images and elements together has to be invisible. Uh, there are skills to this. Practice them. Because if you, the minute a judge spots that it’s a composite, it’s failed in its job. I mean, obviously there are obvious composites, you know, if you’re doing a. King Kong thing of a gorilla climbing, a skyscraper. Fair enough. We’re going to know straight away. That’s not real. But it still has to look real, has to be believable. Uh, okay. What else have we got?

[00:29:26] Um, baby skin. This has come up a few times. Be careful of. Using blue and dark green style filters, filter effects in your monochrome conversions. Uh, blue filter typically turns the lips dark, which is fine. If you have, um, You’ve got a model and smooth skin like ultra smooth skin and makeup that’s flawless because you’ve got red lipstick and you punch them on a Chrome with a bluish or green filter. It drops the lips to a very dark color and that could look incredible. But with babies would it also does. If there’s any red in the cheeks, it makes those go blotchy too. So you have dark lips and bruised looking cheeks, and that’s not really, how probably you want to have. A baby photograph, by the way, if you can hear stuff going on in the background, I’ve got all the windows open because it’s a really warm day. Um, and I’m sitting just recording. Uh, where are we?

[00:30:23] On the converse side of that. So we’ve got blue filters, making skin look kind of grungy and textured and blotchy. Equally, we are still seeing way too much over smoothing. Um, on the skin work. Um, it just. It doesn’t look, if it doesn’t look quite right, you know, and it’s really subtle. I don’t know how to describe it, but we know as judges, when we look at I I’m a big one for, when someone applies makeup to a face really well, really beautifully. It smooths out the lumps and bumps, but what it doesn’t do is remove the texture.

[00:30:59] There’s still pores, there’s still skin pores there’re still fine hairs. There are still little tiny ripples created by blemishes underneath the makeup. So, if you want to make it look real, when you’re doing digital makeup or digital smoothing. You have to remember to leave details in that show reality, even when you’re doing really fine art kind of work.

[00:31:21] So just what’s that. Um, incidentally, a shout again to EVOTO.AI. Um, I’ve just had a new release of that this week. Um, incredible bit of software. Uh, in that you can control how much you do. So it’s not, it’s not all the bells and whistles that make these things good. What make these things good is when you can turn it down, so it’s imperceptible. Uh, EVOTO.AI is actually very, very good. Please do go and have a play with that. I will drop a link down in. Uh, further down in the show notes.

[00:31:54] The Importance of Image Sharpening

[00:31:54] Over sharpening. Uh, this came up as a bit of a debate actually, me and Sanjay don’t entirely agree on this. I don’t think. My view is that you don’t need to sharpen images anymore. Um, I’ve never heard, not once have I heard. Uh, judge say this image needed more sharpening. Not once I’ve heard images get critiqued, cause they’re soft by the which, I mean they’re blurred. And the minute you try to rescue a blurred image using, um, Topaz or, you know, any one of the sharpening tools. Unless you’re really on top of it and really, really, really careful, it looks like it’s sharpened. However, I’ve heard many times. That an image looks over sharpened over, over you see halos, you see this kind of slightly, really weird edge effect. Um, I took the decision a couple of years ago to stop sharpening my images, because it removes one or two problems when you. Because for us, we don’t, uh, we produce the same file to be printed at different sizes.

[00:32:49] I don’t worry too much. Um, about, uh, scaling at 300 DPI for A4, 300 DPI for seven by five, three to DPI. I just give the guys one file. Um, and our sensors now is so sharp that they reproduce and they give a, for me, they give a slightly smoother finish. Um, And I’ve only ever been pulled upon over sharpening when I did it.

[00:33:11] No one’s ever pulled me up on under sharpening. So I would say don’t sharpen Sanjay. Doesn’t say that he says you should do sharpening, but know exactly at which point in the workflow to do it. And that’s fine. Um, Sanjay is a master at this stuff. So he does sharpen. Uh, I’m using Sanjay as an example because he’s one of my judges, uh, this time round. Uh, so is there an interesting thing. My, if you’re not absolutely a hundred percent certain of what sharpening to do, don’t do any, you’ll be fine.

[00:33:40] Uh, where are we?

[00:33:42] Final Thoughts and Recommendations

[00:33:42] Um, oh yeah, one of the things. It has come up this come up in conversation a little bit is why we as judges get so picky about which images get over the line to be a merit or a bronze. So typically with all of the associations all slightly different. But around about the 80 mark for most associations is the break point for bronze or merit. Now. The thing about a bronze or a merit is that is something that’s likely to end up being used on a website or being used in social media for the association. Um, maybe with the societies, it’s going to end up on their display boards at the convention.

[00:34:23] And that’s why we’re picky. That break point between professional standard is a lot, the associations call it and a merit or bronze. That break point defines what will be displayed to the public and to the rest of the photography industry. And as such the message we’re sending is that this image is what you should be trying to attain. So when I go round, if I’m, uh, if I’ve entered a competition, I go round and look at all of the things that have. Uh, they’re being displayed in the convention or they’re in the magazine or in a book.

[00:34:55] I look at those images from bronze to gold. As the things I should be aiming for. And that’s why as judges, we’re very careful what goes over that line. And if we find a defect that we think, do you know what the photographer should have spotted that. You’re going to dump marks really quickly because the judges don’t want to have that out there as something that becomes an exemplar for what a successful image should be.

[00:35:16] That’s why. That’s why that break point is so tough. Uh, so just what you, it was quite funny, this in the competition this time round. Uh, and the monthly’s is, uh, one of the images looked like the horizon. Wasn’t quite level, it’s a digital file. So it clearly wasn’t anything to do the mounting. And by the way, it was a degree or two out, which is. I don’t know. I don’t know why people do that. Why would you do that? Given you just put into Lightroom or Photoshop and align with the ruler to it anyway, my two judges, I’m watching both of them on, uh, our Squadcast screen. So we record these sessions. Um, One of the judges went to his EITZO monitor took the file, put it into Photoshop and checked the horizontal alignment.

[00:35:57] My other judge went to a cupboard. I watched them do it, went to a cupboard behind them, opened the cupboard door, got a ruler. And started measuring her screen, which is quite weird when you’re watching it on the webcam that’s on her screen. She’s measuring the screen. It was quite old school, but it did make me laugh.

[00:36:13] Anyway, things like horizons, check them.

[00:36:16] Uh, Great. Well, so if we got, oh yeah, when you’re, there’s a lot of actions around and even I’ve written a few where you’re going to soften or blur the edges. Um, So there was a particular file. Where I think a baby skin had been softened. You could see that it had been, and it was fine.

[00:36:36] It looked very good actually it looked like they got a good technique on it. But what they hadn’t done is lift all of the skin onto a new layer, just cut it out and drag it onto a new layer and softened it there, what they done is soften it on the original layer with all of the. Um, blankets and clothing around it. And what that did is, it dragged color from the blankets into the soften skin. So you could see a slight coloration around the edges where the softening had been done. And you expect that if you’re using a blur. It blurs across the boundary. So what you have to do is cut out the skin onto a new layer. So it’s transparent all the way around except for the skin, soften it there, and then you can drop it back in and you’ll get no color contamination. Um, but we spotted it and of course it’s a real shame.

[00:37:19] Uh, With babies and with faces, the light, the light source should always be above the nose.

[00:37:25] I heard this said a few times by different, uh, I think I was working with Elli Cassidy who is just like one of the best judges to work with, she’s lovely. Super lovely, super nice person. Um, great newborn photographer and she raised the same point as did lots of others. The light source should be above the nose, nine times out of 10. It’s very rare. Do you want the light coming up from underneath?

[00:37:44] Um, I love this quote. This is one of my judges. He just, he liked a particular image because it was a bit more different. If ever I have another podcast in this industry, I’m going to call it The Bit More Different Podcast because I know it’s a great title.

[00:37:57] It’s not English, but it’s a great title.

[00:37:59] Um, final bit on this bit. Is cropping at the edges. We can’t, I kind of talked about it a minute ago with the baby and the objects. Just look around the edges of the frame. There’s an amazing news image, this time round. Loved it. I’m not going to say what it was cause I’m not gonna draw attention for the author. But there was a scene in the middle of his action in the middle.

[00:38:23] And on the right-hand side of the frame, there was nothing contaminating. Everything was kind of contained, but on the left. They were knuckles and elbows poking in onto the edge of the file when just moving the crop edge in by. I dunno, a couple of hundred pixels on a six megapixel file would have removed all of that, and focused, directly on the story in the middle. And it’s such a silly thing.

[00:38:47] We see it all the time. Is we get sidetracked by what’s going on in the middle of our picture, the bit we want people to look at it and we forget to look. All the way around the edges of the frame. I look around the edges of your frame carefully. And if there’s anything there that’s distracting and pulling your eye away. Just change your crop or clone them out, whichever is easy for you.

[00:39:08] Um, So that’s it. Those are the notes. I mean, there’s loads, of course there’s loads of things. I carry copious notes, but I thought those are the most interesting. Um, to talk about, uh, particularly as we’re, heading towards, uh, at this time of year, when people start to hive images away ready for the competitions, uh, for the BIPP print competition. Um, and eventually, you know, the doors will open for the society’s convention as well.

[00:39:30] So I thought there’d be useful. Um, The other thing, a couple of updates. Where are we with things that I’ve been asked? Uh, to look at. Uh, where are we? DXE DXE. CXO asked me to play with. DXA labs. Uh, the DXA labs for, I think it is an, a DX oh, film pack seven. Now the XO labs. It’s not really the photo lab is not really for me because it, Lightroom is at the heart of my workflow. Um, we used the XO pure raw anyway, which is brilliant, pure, or for, by the way. Brilliant.

[00:40:03] Absolutely love it. Uh, so don’t, for me, that’s not necessarily something I’m going to put into my workflow. I’m sure it’s very good. I’ve used it a little bit, but however, the DSO film pack, film pack seven. It’s an absolute blast. Loving it just for the moment.

[00:40:17] I use effects quite a lot, but I like it if I can for it not to look effected. If you see what I mean that of course, the minute you really easily apply a film preset, of course he looks effected, I’m not an idiot. Um, but I love those kinds of tones. They feel very analog to me. Uh, it’s really, uh, really, really, really good.

[00:40:34] So, uh, highly recommends if you get a chance to have a play with that. I’m sure they do a trial. I haven’t looked. Uh, DXO Filmpack 7. And the other thing I thought I’d give a quick shout about today. Um, his ACDSee, which I’ve continued to use again, they approached me and asked me to have a look at it and say what I thought it’s really, really good.

[00:40:55] Um, it’s not good at high volumes of face recognition. I discovered that as it. just crashed my computer basically. Um, but that not withstanding. It’s blindingly quick is great to have it there . Lightroom for us is our management tool for all of our raw files. Um, but the RAW files get archived away, and we then have all of the JPEGs that I’ve generated for print. Hi res. Uh, low compression JPEGs.

[00:41:21] So having ACDSee that looks over all of my Dropbox folders and keeps that as an active catalog. Is great because I can get to any image. I like, in a heartbeat. Absolutely brilliant. So I absolutely, I would highly recommend that. Um, again, I will put a link to, um, I’ll put a link to ACDSee in the show notes. And then finally just a more pop-up it’s our beer festival on Saturday.

[00:41:45] Now. I know none of you are local, but nonetheless, um, I will be at the beer festival if anyone fancies a beer and a chat we’re in, but it had them in Buckingham share. Uh, I’d love to catch up if there is anybody around, because it’s, I’m hoping that there’s going to be good. Um, it’s like the best place to listen to music.

[00:42:02] Have a nice beer. And have a great conversation. And on that happy note, I’m going to go home now and we’re going to open. I hope a bottle of champagne to celebrate Jake’s success and Harriet’s success in her new job. Uh, the sun is shining. And then we’re going to try and stay up and see the results. Of this particular, general election.

[00:42:21] Again, to all our American friends have a wonderful . Uh, July 4th.

[00:42:25] And I’m going to go away and be more like sitting in a bath of warm water. I remember whatever else. Be kind to yourself. Take care.

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