"It can be a trap of the photographer to think that his or her best pictures were the ones that were hardest to get."

-Timothy Allen

A Note on Judging

While there is a certain degree of subjectivity in the evaluation of photographs, we have made an effort to provide a objective scoring system and feel that a full explanation of the judging process should be provided to the participants up front.

Our judges will rank each image on a 6x10 scale, awarding a score of 0 to 10 for each of the 6 criteria below. The score from each judge will be averaged to provide a score for each category of 0 to 10. Each judging category is weighted as listed below and will be totaled into final composite score for each image that will range from 0 to 100.

Each judge will score according to his or her personal standards for amateur photographic work. As a result, scores are a representation of a scale of 0 to proficient, not a scale of 0 to perfection.

The composite score for each category will be made available for each image after the awards are announced. Below you will find a list of the six judging criteria and a brief explanation of what the judges will be looking for in each.


Exposure, Contrast, and Color

Images should be properly exposed and contain sufficient contrast. All pertinent detail should be clearly visible. The image should be free of blown highlights and dark spots. Blown highlights and dark spots should not be confused with areas of white and black that are essential to an image; high key, noir, and harsh lighting contrast are acceptable, but must be executed effectively.

Images should use color effectively as well. Images will be judged on white balance, judicious use of color, freedom from distracting color elements, etc. In the case of Black and White images, the technical expertise of the black and white conversion and the aesthetic of the tonal variations within the image will be considered.

This category comprises 30% of your final score.

Focus and Depth of Field

Images should be in focus. The focal point should be placed on the subject except in situations where an alternate focal point reinforces the thematic intent of the photograph. If an image is out of focus, it must be done with intent and it should be clear that it was not merely a mistake.

Depth of field is the thickness of the area that is in focus. This is not to be confused with the amount of the image that is in focus. The correct depth of field for an image can be somewhat variable, and images will be judged on how well the choice of depth of field serves the image.

This category comprises 20% of your final score.

Framing, Composition, and Energy

Images should be well cropped. The rule of thirds, the golden spiral, aspect ratio, and use of both positive and negative space may be considered. Images are not limited to the 2x3 or 3x4 ratio captured by the camera. Images should also demonstrate good composition, including the organization of the elements within the photo. Symmetry, asymmetry, placement of elements, and the effective use of foreground and background elements will be considered.

This category comprises 20% of your final score.

Artistry, Originality, and Appeal

Images are judged on overall artistic merit and originality. For the competition, contestants are encouraged to deny the box’s existence. This category represents originality, innovative thinking, and elements such as thematic contrast, emotional resonance and visual impact.

Appeal is the first impression the photo leaves on the judge before making technical observations. Basically, is the image engaging and interesting, does it make the judge want to take a closer look, and does it have passion and soul?

This category comprises 15% of your final score.

Execution of the Theme

Does the image execute the category or categories into which it was entered effectively? Images scoring less than a 5 in this category will not count toward the entrant’s point total.

This category comprises 5% of your final score.

Weakest Link

A photograph is only as strong as the weakest component, and when considering the overall quality,a photo’s weaknesses count against it more than its strengths count toward it. This will be scored equal to the lowest individual score from each judge in the other 5 categories.

This category comprises 10% of your final score.

Our Judges

Michael Chamberlain

Michael Chamberlain is a 20-year veteran photographer, retouch artist, and graphic designer. His work has been featured in both national and international publications. He is also a consultant who provides training in Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.

Zacque Hitchcock

Zacque Hitchcock has been a portrait photographer for over a decade. He teaches photography classes and workshops throughout the greater Knoxville area.

At least two more judges will be selected before the start of the competition.