Stamford Photography Club Judging Guidelines 2020-2021


  • Photos are judged in categories.
  • First, the moderator previews all images in the category.
  • Then, three judges electronically score each photo in the category on a scale from 5 to 9 using a keypad provided by the club.
  • Next, the judges take turns briefly critiquing the photos in the category.
  • The moderator will guide you, step by step, on what to do and when. This lets you focus on the images and your scoring and your brief commentary… and on having fun.


Digital projection
Open Subject – Color or B&W – Class A
Open Subject – Color or B&W – Salon Class
Assigned Subject – Color or B&W – Combined classes (comments on winners only)

Open Subject – B&W – Class A
Open Subject – B&W – Salon Class
Open Subject – Color – Class A
Open Subject – Color – Salon Class


After the three judges score a photo, the three scores are added together, equaling the final score for an image. The highest scores win. Ties are allowed. The club uses a 5-6-7-8-9 scoring system with 5 being the lowest score and 9 being the highest.

– A score of 9 is reserved for superior photographs. These photos succeed both artistically and technically and are without significant shortcomings. Less than 10% receive this score.

 A score of 8 if for a very good photograph. About 30% receive this score.

– A score of 7 is for an average or good photograph. About 40% receive this score.

– A score of 6 is for a photograph that does not work on some level or that has some technical flaws. About 20% receive this score.

– A score of 5 is reserved for poorly designed and executed photos with few redeeming qualities. We do not have many of these – usually only one or two an evening.

No need to agonize over your score. Chances are your first impression is the right one. So, be thoughtful and take aim, but don’t fret about throwing the dart, even before you’re entirely ready. Overall, the competitors benefit from a compact evaluation and scoring process.

Grade on a curve: Consider the skill level of the photographer. Within each skill class of photos, the better images should get an 8 and perhaps even a 9. The weaker ones should get a 6 or perhaps even a 5. Those in the middle get 7s.

  • Class A photos (less skilled) are more likely to have deficiencies that, in fairness, deserve to be downplayed in the scoring (but are mentioned in the critique for maximum teaching opportunity). This means that high scores (even a perfect scores) can be awarded to Class A images that wouldn’t deserve the high scores if judged by higher standards.
  • Salon Class photos (more skilled) are held to higher standards than Class A photos and are scored with less leniency on deficiencies. However, again, in deference to our amateur status, leniency is still in play. Therefore, perfect scores are possible, even if the images fail to meet your ideals of photographic excellence.
  • For the Assigned Subject categories (where all skill levels compete together), grading on a curve still applies with one difference: all Assigned Subject images are evaluated as if they were made by more advanced Salon Class photographers.

Scores for photos in the Assigned Subject categories should reflect how well the photographer captured the assigned subject.


The commentaries are NOT for saying HOW MUCH you liked or disliked each image (the scoring does that), but rather for saying WHY you liked or disliked the image. If an image delivers less than a perfect score of 27, let the maker know of the improvements necessary to turn the photo into a perfect 27, if possible.

Suggested phrases:

  • The high score I gave this image reflects its general excellence, especially the composition and colors. I would have given it an even higher score if  you had taken it from a different angle.
  • I gave this a low score because… there’s no subject… it’s out of focus… etc.
  • I took points off because…cut off foot… focus could be sharper… etc.
  • I would have given it a higher score if… more punch… better composition… etc.

It’s often frustrating for the photographer when a judge awards a photo a low score and then offers only praise. What’s more, given the the leniency in grading to accommodate lower skill levels, high scores might even justify some criticism, couched as teachable moments and helpful advice. In short, we hope you won’t shrink from making negative comments. Needless to say, criticism, offered in a constructive and friendly manner, can be very instructive and rewarding.

Commentary is given on all images in the Open Subject categories. For Assigned Subject images, comments are reserved only for the winning photos.


At the end of the annual club season in May, we hold our final competition to select the best photos of the year (POTY – pronounced ‘poe-tee’). The standard judging process applies except for the following differences:

  • POTY is a contest of the top photos previously submitted in monthly competitions that year. No new photos are eligible.
  • 3 photographs–a digital image, a B&W print, and a color print–are each crowned as a Photo of the Year. These are club-wide honors, not class-specific.
  • Members may enter up to 2 of their best, previously-submitted images per category in their class. Those images can’t be be altered in any way from the previous/original submission.
  • POTY doesn’t distinguish between subjects. Members may enter open subject photos or assigned subject photos at their choosing.
  • Ties are broken by run-off votes from the judges.
  • The judges take turns critiquing the images.

POTY consists of two rounds of competition:

Round 1 identifies a First Place photo in each of the following categories:

  • Digital Images (All Subjects)
    • Color or B&W – Class A
    • Color or B&W – Salon Class
  • Prints (All Subjects)
    • B&W – Class A
    • B&W – Salon Class
    • Color – Class A
    • Color – Salon Class

Round 2 pits the 1st place winners from Round 1 against each other, irrespective of class, to identify a club-wide Photo of the Year in each of the following categories:

  • Digital – Combined classes
  • B&W Print – Combined classes
  • Color Print – Combined classes


The moderator will walk you through the evening, keeping you on the straight and narrow. The most important parts of the judging process–the parts we hope you internalize–are the critique and scoring guidelines. If you have any questions, please give us a call or shoot us an email at the contact info below.


David Kaplan  
Chris McManus