guidance for judges

Andrew Caldwell


Thank you for volunteering your time to evaluate the images presented. Our members frequently affirm the value of our monthly image evaluations – your input is greatly appreciated.

The results of this evaluation will contribute to members’ points totals; these in turn influence the major awards presented by HBPS. More importantly, the feedback you provide on the images presented will assist our members along their photographic journeys.

Evaluation guidance

To help you with evaluating images we have prepared some helpful guidelines (see below) with regard to criteria based on the members level within the group i.e. grade A or grade B, the category the images are entered in and guidance on awarding the appropriate commendation and feedback.

Evaluation night

Results are presented at our monthly evaluation meeting, which is held on the last Tuesday of the month. It is helpful if we receive the evaluation results at least a week prior to the meeting, so that we can compile these results for presentation and calculate the updated points tables in advance of the meeting.

The majority of our judges live outside of Hawke’s Bay, so it is rare for a judge to attend the meeting to present the results in person. However, if you do wish to do so, please let us know – our members are always really appreciative when this happens. We may be able to provide free accommodation if you do happen to be in the region. 

Finally, if you have any questions about any of the above, please do not hesitate to get in contact.

We hope you will enjoy evaluating these photographs, and we appreciate your time spent in helping us – thank you.


Categories for evaluation

Members of HBPS are grouped into two grades:

‘B’ Grade: Members who have not yet earned enough awards to progress to A grade.

‘A’ Grade: Members who have progressed through B grade and achieved recognition.

Progression from B grade to A grade is by way of achieving a cumulative total of four “honours” in monthly evaluations. There is no time limit on how long a photographer may take to attain this.

At any given time there tends to be a number of experienced and skilled photographers in B grade. This can include newcomers to HBPS who start in B grade (these photographers may progress to A grade very quickly), or members who have earned four honours but have chosen to defer their progression to A grade. Entries in B grade can therefore encompass a very wide range of abilities.

Entries are grouped into five categories:

Image file name convention: 3xx-image title e.g 301-Boat on River.

The set subject changes each month, and you will be advised of the subject accordingly.

Image file name convention: 4xx-image title e.g 401-Boat on River.

Open entries are just that – entrants may submit any photo they like.

Image file name convention: 1xx-image title e.g 101-Boat on River.

The set subject changes each month, and you will be advised of the subject accordingly.

Image file name convention: 2xx-image title e.g 201-Boat on River.

Open entries are just that – entrants may submit any photo they like.

Image file name convention: 5xx-image title e.g 501-Boat on River.

The creative category is intended to encourage members to use their imagination and creativity. A and B grade are grouped together for this category.

If, as the judge, you think that an entry in the set subject category does not sufficiently comply with the stated set subject, or an entry in the creative category does not display sufficient creativity – then you should give that image “not accepted”.

Defining the “creative” category:

The distinction between “creative” and “open” photography can be a difficult one to make. In its loosest definition, “creativity” refers to the use of imagination, originality, and inventiveness – attributes that we should be seeking to attain in all of our photographic endeavours.

For the “creative” category, we have asked our members to go a step further, and use some technique, either in-camera, or during post-processing, that gives the resulting photo a sense of alteration of reality. These photos may involve a number of different techniques and components that alter the photographic truth. The result may be surreal or abstract, it may be absurd, or it may display a clearly impossible scenario in a way that appears believable and realistic.

In this regard, the use of HDR or a long shutter speed, on its own and without manipulation of reality, is not sufficient. Nor is an unusual perspective on a subject – unless that perspective serves to alter the apparent reality of the subject.

While the above is a pre-requisite for this category, an outstanding “creative” image will go further, and demonstrate originality, inventiveness, and/or provoke an emotive response in the viewer.

Grading of images

For each image you may award one of the following options:

Not of a suitable standard. There are clearly major flaws that adversely impact on the image. This can include (but is not limited to):

  • Major technical errors (subject out of focus, severely over- or under-exposed)
  • Very poor composition
  • The image has been entered into the set subject section, but does not meet the set subject
  • The image has been entered into the creative section, but does not display sufficient creativity (i.e. alteration of reality)

These photos may be re-worked and re-entered in future competitions. It is therefore appreciated if the specific flaws that resulted in an image not being accepted are highlighted in your comments

The author has seen a subject worthy of making an image, and some of the basic elements are evident – but little more. Essentially, the minimum standard that should be expected of a starting hobbyist using modern photographic equipment.

This includes: 

Technically competent “record shots” of little artistic merit. An image that displays some degree of thought in its conception and composition, but which has been let down by significant and distracting technical errors.


A good basic image. The author has demonstrated the ability to select a subject for its special interest, and has presented that subject well, with thoughtfulness. There may still be some technical flaws present, but these do not significantly lessen the impact of the image.

The author has demonstrated the ability to produce an image with some invention and artistic intent. There is good interest and impact. Any technical flaws are minor and do not distract.

An outstanding photograph, one that stands out and has great impact.

We also ask that, for each of the five categories, you select a winning image as the Judge’s Choice.

We deliberately do not set a target distribution of awards – you may award as many, or as few, “honours” as you see fit, as many, or as few, “highly commended” as you see fit, and so on.This is because we view this exercise as an “evaluation”, rather than a “competition”. We would like each image to be evaluated individually, on its own merits and against the criteria outlined previously – rather than by way of comparison to other images entered.

However, we do also appreciate that it is difficult to precisely define the threshold between each award. Therefore, generally (and you are free to go against this if you see fit):

  • “Honours” should be relatively rare, and reserved for those images that really do stand out.
  • “Not accepted” should be rarer still, and limited to images with clear major flaws. If no images are “not accepted”, this would be a great outcome for the club.
  • “Commended” normally, an “average” (“middle of the pack”) image in our evaluations will be awarded a “commended”.

The threshold for each award should be adjusted between A and B grade: the artistic standard required to attain “honours” in A grade should be higher than that required in B grade.

The most important contribution that we request from our judges is that of constructive comments on all images received – this, more so than the award given, is what helps our members to grow, and to progress along their photographic journey.

The standard of entries to each competition will generally be highly varied – our members are in all stages of their photographic journey. Regardless of where an individual photographer is on that journey, their entry reflects something he or she thought was worth recording. Each photograph entered has a story, the full significance of which may only be known to the author.

Even where an entry is far from perfect, we request that your evaluation be a considered assessment of that image that fairly appraises the effort behind the image and assists the author in their growth as a photographer. Our members generally appreciate concise comments that convey an understanding of why you have given the award that you have and offer new insights into their work.