Here’s how I created my 2017 International Photographic Competition Merit print – “A Whiter Shade of Pale”.
One of PPA’s print competition rules is that you can only use the same subject once. That means that my favorite in-house models, Sparrow and Finch, can only have one portrait each. So this year I drafted some of the rest of our pack – Piper, Apollo, and even the cat got their portraits done.
I was not optimistic about asking our six year old Akbash, Piper, to pose for me in studio. She’s never done any modeling work for me and she’s extremely sensitive to any sort of negative feedback. Even “stay” can make her nervous. At 96lbs and an impressive 6 foot reach, she’s not a dog you can man-handle. Even getting our working guard dog to leave her post and lounge around on an ottoman was going to be a challenge.
Boy, did she prove me wrong. Piper was a PRO. She sauntered into the studio like she owned it and, once she was assured there were some treats involved, she climbed up on the ottoman and gave me some of the best shots of her that I’d ever taken!
Although I loved her expression and the contrast on the dark background in the image on the left, there were some technical issues that would not have fared well in competition. So I decided to work on the image on the lighter background. Her pose was a little awkward, though. I wondered if I could possibly get Piper back into the studio for a reshoot. Turns out, she was more than willing. A better pose, a little tweaking of color gradients, and cleaning up the background and I had my first image ready for judging at our state spring print competition! I titled it, “Little Miss Manners”.
It scored an 80, was challenged, and then re-scored at 78. If you’re not familiar with print competition, this is the scoring range:
Deserving of a Merit 84-80
Above Average 79-75
Below Exhibition Standards 69-65
In order to get a Merit image, you have to score 80 or above. Only images that score 85 and above will be considered for Loan judging. So 78… not even close.
If you’re interested in why it was scored that way, the challenge was recorded:
This is the part of the process where makers have a tendency to yell at the computer if they’re watching the judging online.
I did not have any sort of blur or lightening on that leg or shoulder but what matters isn’t what you have or haven’t done, but what the judges are seeing. So I had some edits to make before the PPA Northeast District competition. I got recommendations from my peers, sent the image off to my mentor, but I still had some serious banding issues on that seamless background where I couldn’t get a clean color. At the last minute, I decided to add a textured digital background and this is the image I submitted to the District competition with a new title of “A Whiter Shade of Pale”.
It scored an 83, acceptable… then was CHALLENGED… and scored an 86! This put the image solidly into the “Excellent” category and “sealed” it for judging at the International competition! At IPC, there are two rounds of judging – images that score 85 and above go on to a second round of judging for the Loan Collection. With a score of 86 at Districts, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” skipped the first round of IPC judging and went automatically for the Loan judging.
Unfortunately, the image didn’t “Loan” at IPC and will remain in the 2017 General Collection but I’m quite happy with it. And a general collection image gives me one more merit towards my Master of Photography degree!
SHARING IS CARING!