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Selecting Photographs for Competition

Five Key Ingredients by Chris Page.

Photographic Competitions have never really been my thing over the years, but every now and again one comes up that sparks my interest. This year I was tempted to put forward some entries in the Edinburgh Photographic Society International Digital Exhibition 2023. There is a total of six categorise, of which you can submit up to four photographs in each. I decided that four of the categories suited my style of work - Colour - Black & White - Landscapes - Creative. That was the easy bit, now I had to make a selection.

Plucking out individual photographs from the thousand taken over the years is difficult, you naturally firstly aim towards those that you like, but are these the best for competition? I collated a draft set of 16 images that fitted into the four categories onto a review sheet and emailed this to my longtime photographic friend Mike Rossi to run his (very) critical eye over them.

draft photographic selection

Mike emailed his reply, with a brutal thumbs up and thumbs down of my draft selection;

COLOUR 1-No / 2 -No / 3 -No / 4 -Yes

BLACK & WHITE. 5 -Yes / 6 -Yes /7 -Yes / 8 -Yes

LANDSCAPES 9 -No / 10 -Yes / 11 -No / 12 -Yes

CREATIVE 13 -Yes / 14 -Yes / 15 -No / 16 -Yes

If you going to ask for someone's option you have to be prepared to take it, even if it goes agains yours. I value Mike's steely views of what would catch a Judge's eye, and also the fact that he knows my photography and what's in my portfolio. So we chatted over the phone a few times, and after some coming and going, in's and out's, we finally arrived at the photographs to be submitted.

In going through this process I realised we were making our selection based on some key criteria that needs to be found in each of the photographs. They didn't need to tick every box, but did need to satisfy the majority of these requirements over and above the technical quality of the image. So here is my list of the five key ingredients you need to find in your photographs for entry into a competition.

PERSPECTIVE - does your photo have depth between the foreground and distance.

INTEREST - are the multiple points of interest to take you around the image.

INTRIGUE - is there something going on that makes you stop and take a second look.

BALANCE - within the composition is there a sense of balance.

STORY - can you create a story around the image.

This is on guarantee that you photographs will get selected, but it is a starting point to help you make your selection. Remember that even if your images don't get picked by a Judge it does not mean they are bad, it's all down to the "Eye of the Beholder". On any other day in front of a different Judge you may be successful with exactly the same photographs, so keep on going!

Here is my final sixteen.


good times margate

PERSPECTIVE - not a great amount, but it is there between the boys and the empty office above.

INTEREST - four boys and the sign are the focal point, but there are bandings of other interest.

INTRIGUE - what are the good times around the corner that the boys are heading to.

BALANCE - the banding of the image and colours gives this an unusual balance that works.

STORY - the story is what will the boys find waiting for them around the corner.

Beachy Head

PERSPECTIVE - big perspective between the foreground rock and the sunrise on the horizon.

INTEREST - the lighthouse is the focal point, but there are lots of different textual interest.

INTRIGUE - a very calm image, although there is a quiet intrigue with lighthouse structure.

BALANCE - full of balance between all the different elements and colours of the image.

STORY - no really story, it's more of a textural feast for the eye.

back street of whitstable

PERSPECTIVE - a short perspective which is visually increased with the depth of the shadows.

INTEREST - multiple points of interest all around the image, no real single point to latch onto.

INTRIGUE - why is there a painted boy on this wall and who owns the two bikes.

BALANCE - graphical balance between all the elements and the harsh angels of the shadows.

STORY - walks down the stairs and opens the door, stops and talks to the boy, then rides off.

the deeps diver of whitstable

PERSPECTIVE - sweeping light perspective from right to left, cut through by the dark bridge.

INTEREST - packed with interest coming at you from all directions, which way should I look.

INTRIGUE - why is there a deep sea diver painted on the wall, where are the lights going.

BALANCE - a criss cross balance between the dark and light .

STORY - a deep sea diver painted on the wall comes to life to go late night shopping.


Russian submarine on the river medway

PERSPECTIVE - from the shadow of the woman to the clouds in the sky, layers of perspective.

INTEREST - you have to get through the foreground to get to the submarine and beyond.

INTRIGUE - full of intrigue, the woman rushing by, concrete tank traps, a submarine.

BALANCE - layer on horizontal layer produces the balance to the image.

STORY - there is a darkness to this story, is the woman being stalked by a Russian submarine.

two boys and a dog at Broadstairs

PERSPECTIVE - the movement of the water and the sweep of the railings gives this perspective.

INTEREST - start with the dog, and then work your way slowly through each joined up bit.

INTRIGUE - does this tied up dog belong to the boys, what are they and the dog looking at.

BALANCE - a balance that pivots around the dog and the sweeping railings, moving on the water.

STORY - a story about something in the water witnessed by two boys, while their dog see's what?

Southwold lighthouse

PERSPECTIVE -figures in the foreground to the lighthouse at the rear gives this great perspective.

INTEREST - take your pick, people, roof top and chimney stacks, topped off with a lighthouse.

INTRIGUE - what are they gossiping about, don't they know there is a lighthouse in the back yard.

BALANCE -produced between the group of people and the lighthouse, balanced by the steps.

STORY - did you hear that the lighthouse keeper is seeing the woman at number 36, and she's........

whitstable car park in lockdown

PERSPECTIVE - perspective is created by the white lines of the car park, no real foreground.

INTEREST - take your pick, people, roof top and chimney stacks, topped off with a lighthouse.

INTRIGUE - why is the car park empty and the sky so dark, what's that brutal looking building.

BALANCE - the building is the pivot point between the white lines going in each direction.

STORY - once upon a time Covid happened and we all had to stay inside, apart from our dogs.


fishing boat

PERSPECTIVE - from the fishing boat in the foreground to the mountains above the loch.

INTEREST - the detail of the boat and its sweeping ropes, to the backdrop of mountains and sky.

INTRIGUE - why is this boat totally out of water and surrounded by mountains and forests.

BALANCE - centre point is where the water and the mountains meet, allowing a off-centred boat.

STORY - one day the moon stood still, the tides stopped, and I was left high and dry!.

church in the marshlands

PERSPECTIVE - from foreground grasses to the church braking the flat horizon line.

INTEREST - early dawn colours across the marshland and remoteness of the church.

INTRIGUE - why would a church be built in such a place surrounded by marshland water.

BALANCE - the water creates the balance on its way to the church, plus the top right brightness.

STORY - Sunday morning and the church bell tolls, a rowing boat appears from the left.

South Downs lighthouse

PERSPECTIVE - fingers of shrubs that rise up to the lighthouse on the cliffs

INTEREST - the structure agains the sharp cliff edge and the line of the road leading up to it.

INTRIGUE - why is this lighthouse so close to the edge of the cliffs.

BALANCE - the tower creates the centre the image with everything else moving towards this point.

STORY - the cliffs began to crumble, we moved the lighthouse back, but the cliffs began to crumble.

Isle of Skye

PERSPECTIVE - it's a landscape, it's got loads!

INTEREST - low side light from the sheep at the loch side up to the craggy slopes of the mountains.

INTRIGUE - not a lot of intrigue, apart from what are these sheep eating?

BALANCE - the V in the mountains created the balance, everything else revolves around this.

STORY - there was once a sheep from the Isle of Skye named McBarr................fill in the rest!


man and horse through a doorway

PERSPECTIVE - moves left and right from a central pivot point.

INTEREST - the wooden horse, artwork on the wall and the man holding carrots.

INTRIGUE - why is there a wooden horse at the door and who is the man, artwork on the wall?

BALANCE - split into three sections that is jointed together with the side light through the door.

STORY - Every morning a wooden horse comes to visit the artist for his breakfast.

interior of blue ridge mountain home

PERSPECTIVE - layer after layer running out to the trees.

INTEREST - a room with a view, someone at the window, man reading, a clock on the wall.

INTRIGUE - who or what is at the window.

BALANCE - like a stage set, with a number of points to lead you in.

STORY - it's two minutes to six, a figure appears at window and makes a silent knock on the glass!

sand dunes on the outer banks North Carolina

PERSPECTIVE - the flowing lines of shadows and light create depth .

INTEREST - textual interest and the scale of the dunes created by the shadow of the figure.

INTRIGUE - who is standing on top of the dunes and the shapes created by the sand.

BALANCE - the curves of the shadows and structure of the sand provides a flowing balance.

STORY - with the late sun behind me I climb to the top of the sand dunes to find the sea.

abstract photography

PERSPECTIVE - an abstract perspective.

INTEREST - reflections of figures moving in different directions through a strange place .

INTRIGUE - who are these people, what is this place and where are they going?

BALANCE - a revolving balance around a central point.

STORY - carrying their belongings migrants travel out of the darkness into the light..

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