How NOT to select photographs for competitions

We've just finished judging over 3,000 images for the VECC National. This exhibition covers entries from UK photographers in four categories: Colour, Monochrome, Creative and Natural History. Now I'm going to ignore the natural history - I don't understand the bugs and birds on sticks bit really.

So, here's some observations:


All judges have seen a gazillion photos of Rannoch Moor, Dunstanburgh Castle, The Bothy, Iron Man contests, Venice masks, Selfridges Birmingham, steam railways in the snow or at night and the British Library. Oh yes, dog racing, remembrance, bikes with the zoom filter as well.

If you really want to submit another one - please try and say something new, if nothing else, don't put your tripod in the previous photographer's spot. We've seen it before!


Using a push button filter on Photoshop does not make an image "creative". We are all old hands, we know exactly which filter you've used and it is not creative, new or clever.

Spot colour on monochrome images is very, very old fashioned.

Really bad cut and paste montage and layering is very obvious.


Actually I like motion blur on the right image, but I can tell you know, it won't get accepted, so don't bother.


Apart from a personal thing that just way too many shots are spoiled by shooting too wide, the whole nearly fish-eye look - especially on portraits - is tired, tired, tired.


Preferably kids with dirty faces. Just because they are foreign and you had an interesting holiday that is not an excuse for a poor grabshot of some poor native person.


The following word lists are based on the last 7 years of entries, though to be honest the subject matter hasn't really changed in all that time.

17 watching

15 concentration

15 abandoned

14 memories

14 bluebell wood

13 red kite

12 sisters

12 robin

11 walking the dog

11 waiting

11 misty morning

11 low tide

11 lady in red

10 tulips

10 tulip

10 solitude

10 reflections

10 red squirrel

10 morning mist

10 holly

10 contemplation

10 beach huts

9 lindisfarne

9 homeward bound

8 winter trees

8 windswept

8 the mask

8 frosty morning

8 evening light

8 determination

8 autumn leaves

8 alone

7 walk on by

7 the wave

7 the engineer

7 one man and his dog

7 leaves

7 end of the line

7 eilean donan castle

7 conversation

7 buttermere


164 winter

127 light

122 blue

121 morning

107 tree

104 water

104 storm

100 autumn

93 mist

85 beach

69 grey

67 sunset

65 time

65 street

61 waiting

60 evening

58 sea

56 walk

55 lady

55 bridge

54 misty

54 girl

53 wood

52 old

51 home

50 snow

49 tide

49 last

47 sunrise

46 window

44 walking

44 dawn

43 man

42 young

42 trees

42 reflections

40 boat

39 sand

39 loch

39 ice


Competition entries need to be different, but not too different. By their very nature they select for a median. But please, before you submit, please look to see if you are doing something new or just re-treading the same old ground.

creative filter entries winter wide Simon Q. Walden,, sqw, FilmPhoto, photography

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