Guy Tal • Rewarding Creativity

Rewarding a photographer for images that express technical competency, but where the subject matter or composition show little creativity, says Guy Tal, is ultimately not doing them any favours

I generally consider art and competition to be incompatible. After all, appreciation of art is a subjective matter and ‘winning’ is no more than an affirmation that an image met with the personal sensibilities of a random judge. Still, competitions do have the potential to be about more than just dazzling prizes or the proverbial fifteen minutes of fame. When adjudicated by a conscientious judge, they can also be opportunities for growth.

One such opportunity can be realized by carefully reviewing the entries. Rather than asking why a given image won, look instead at all other entries and ask yourself why they did not win. What made the winner better in the mind of the judge than all the others? Oftentimes such a review may reveal much about the judge’s personal preferences, biases, expertise and, more importantly, the specific criteria that played into their decision (which may well be different from your own).

There are many ways to rank images. The most prevalent and least useful is to base the decision on aesthetics alone. There is little to be gained in terms of artistic growth from ...

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