Images (L to R) by Philip Chadwick, Ian O'Neill and John Bell


North Wales Photographic Association 2008 Judging Seminar (Revised December 2018)


The Club (but the Judge needs to take note of these)

(PAGB Handbook advice, Conditions Governing Judges Listed by the PAGB, is given in italics thus.)



1 The PAGB Handbook: The judges listed in the PAGB Handbook by member Federations are willing to visit affiliated clubs (of any Federation) for no fee, subject to any restrictions quoted and the conditions below. There is no obligation for a judge to accept an engagement but, once accepted, it is hoped that only serious difficulty will necessitate a change or cancellation by either the club or the judge. Changes must of course be notified as soon as possible.

2 Booking: The PAGB Booking Request and Reply Forms available from the PAGB website are recommended. The initial approach may be written, using these forms, or by telephone where anumber is shown. In either case the booking should be confirmed in writing within three weeks and the Reply Form used to confirm expenses and agreed arrangements.

In practical terms the most efficient method is by telephone. The judge is usually able to give a “yes” or “no” there and then and discuss the nature of the competition and any special arrangements. If it is the first time that a club has used this judge it provides a more personal introduction also. The date and time of the judging can be pencilled in by the judge as well as, crucially, a contact telephone number in case of unforeseen changes.

Post, however, is very occasionally undelivered and sometimes put to one side for dealing with at a later date by the recipient or may arrive while they are away on business or holiday. The result of this is that at best a week may elapse between the invitation and the response. If the invitation is declined by the judge then that is a week lost by the Club in setting up their programme.

E-mail has its place but preferably only once contact has already been established - computer and the Internet glitches are by no means rare but it does have the benefit though of all being in one place and searchable.

3 Reminder: A reminder should sent not less than two weeks prior to the visit and should include clear directions to the venue with information about one-way streets, public transport, parking and other potential problems.

Whilst a map and directions will most usually be sent by post it is wise to remind the judge on the telephone - in the case of bereavement, serious illness or otherwise the post may be being dealt with on a priority basis and a camera club booking would most likely be low-ranking.

A map is sometimes sent with the confirmation of the booking which is no bad thing but as it could be twelve months or more in advance it could well be mislaid. Also, clubs do change venues from time to time even mid-season, sometimes unexpectedly, so on balance it is probably wisest to send the instructions a couple of weeks before with a follow-up telephone call a few days before.

Many judges use satellite navigation systems to aid them en route or check out the area beforehand using Internet mapping systems such as Google Maps - for this reason the inclusion of a postcode for the venue or premises nearby can prove invaluable.

4 Delivery: Normally the judge will receive the work for judging a reasonable time in advance and the delivery arrangements should be agreed beforehand.

This is one of the difficult areas to organise; on no account should the judge be expected to collect the work except where circumstances allow the exchange to take place at a mutual venue (eg a lecture that both are attending or at the judge’s workplace etc).

The time allowed should be respectful of the fact that judge has a home life, family and work commitments, his own photographic work, other interests even and, of course, the distinct possibility that they have other judgings or lectures arranged for the intervening period.

5 Tape/Disk: For recorded judging a new tape or disk of the correct type should be sent. Sensible packing and return postage must be included with the entries.

The quality of recordings heard recently for portfolios suggests that despite the digital age we are now in there are still problems in this area.

6 Syllabus: The club programme/syllabus should acknowledge that the judge is PAGB or Federation listed and should include relevant qualifications and honours. It is courteous to send a copy of your syllabus to the judge in advance of the engagement.

The obvious thing to do is to include this with the instructions a couple of weeks before the engagement. The syllabus is a handy little document as it not only shows what the club is up to as regards lectures, practicals, visits and other visiting judges but also includes the names and telephone numbers of the club officials which can be used in case of an emergency.

7 Arrival: A thoughtful club will reserve a parking space and someone should meet the judge on arrival to carry any photographs and equipment.

This should go without saying but often in the bustle of the evening when preparations are being made (chairs being laid out, projection and print display equipment being assembled and positioned) the judge’s arrival can go almost unnoticed. If the judge has had to park a quarter of a mile away and then struggle in the wind and rain with a heavy print box then the evening is going to start in the wrong mood.

8 Hospitality: The judge is your guest and should be accorded good hospitality, including a meal beforehand and overnight accommodation when required. A drink before starting can be welcome and the event should begin at the agreed time. The club must ascertain and supply any equipment required. Someone should be designated to look after the judge throughout his/her visit to ensure that all arrangements are satisfactory.

Again this should go without saying but so often the judge is looked on as a hindrance rather than a guest. The opening notices need a mention as these should be kept to a minimum rather than to descend into a general discussion amongst the members on some matter irrelevant to the judge and the evening’s proceedings. Remember that the judge probably has the furthest distance to travel after the meeting, in the dark and possibly winter conditions.

A short speech introducing the judge should be made with reference to any relevant achievements, honours etc and some background such as his home club and particular interests. Some clubs request a short CV during their correspondence with the judge but why not spend some time when you are welcoming the judge talking to them and making a few notes?

The worst that happens is when the chairman announces “tonight our judge is Gilbert who needs no introduction” and of course Gilbert doesn’t get an introduction, leaving everyone who has joined the club since Gilbert last appeared wondering: Gilbert who? Where’s he from? Why is he judging?

9 Expenses: The permissible expenses are listed below. These should be agreed in advance using the Reply Form and should be paid on the night without prompting. Cash is often preferred and should always be offered. Judges should be reimbursed for all travelling expenses including full standard rail fare, bus and/or taxi if required. Where the judge/lecturer uses their own car he/she is entitled to be paid for mileage in accordance with the rate published on the PAGB website ( force at the date of the visit).

By agreement at the time of booking judges may claim for: the cost of a meal and/or overnight accommodation a charge to cover the wear and tear of the judge’s own projector and tape recorder to a maximum of £15 the cost of all consumables including a new tape/disk if the club did not provide one.

It is up to the club to ensure that all expenses are agreed in advance of the engagement. Please note that, although no fee will be charged, some judges list additional necessary expenses in their Handbook entry which are also payable.

Some clubs like to give the judge a gift such as a bottle of wine or box of chocolates but this must be in addition to the expenses not a substitute. Cash is always preferable as the paying-in of cheques is not always convenient. If a cheque is offered ensure that it is correctly dated and signed.

Some of the smaller clubs in the less densely populated far-flung areas struggle to meet the full PAGB expenses to which the judge is entitled. Consequently, some judges will accept a lesser amount but will travel much earlier in the day and spend some time photographing or exploring on the way, offsetting this benefit to them against the expenses due. If things have gone badly, if there was no parking space, no help with the carrying, if the judge was ignored before the start, no refreshments offered and generally poor hospitality and organisation the judge is not allowed to fine or financially penalise the club, but when it comes to whether they would accept further bookings . . .

Consider this story about Chuck Berry the rock musician: he used to quote a certain sum and insist on various conditions for his appearances. Then, after the performance, when being paid, he would assess how well the arrangements had gone. If he thought his requirements had not been met adequately he would charge the full agreed amount. However, if all had gone well he would reduce the amount leaving everyone happy.

10 Thank You: It is assumed that the club will always give its members the opportunity to express their gratitude, usually with a formal Vote of Thanks. It is also courteous to write to the judge within two weeks, saying thank you and perhaps including favourable comments from members and any local press clippings mentioning the visit.

11 In Conclusion: Judges, Clubs and Societies are encouraged to report to their Federation any apparent disregard of these conditions.

This really should be a last resort although if needed the option is there. The more people visit clubs, as well as attendance at other Federation meetings and lectures, the more they will get to know the officials and influential members of other clubs so that a quiet word can make feelings known without being contentious.




The Judge

(but the Club needs to take note of these also)

1 The Booking: As soon as contact is made by a club keep a record either digitally or on paper of the details of the booking: day and date (including the year as bookings can sometimes be up to two years in advance), time, venue, contact name and telephone number and the type of competition involved.

When taking a booking refer to the calendar/diary/organiser where you keep all your other bookings, holidays, other commitments etc. This is not only to ensure that you don’t double-book (although some of your bookings may only be pencilled-in) but to ensure that you have enough lead time to judge the pictures beforehand if required.

You may also wish to consider the practical implications of having two or more judgings in close proximity. As well as the risk of taking the wrong set of pictures with you there is a distinct possibility that judging two entirely separate competitions will lead to a mental confusion and make it difficult to gauge the standard correctly. And there is nothing worse, during the actual engagement, of referring to a picture which will be seen later but which is in fact in another club’s set and which, of course, will not be seen later, to everyone’s puzzlement including the judge. For this reason many judges will not allow more than one club’s pictures to be in their home at the same time.

2 The Type of Competition: At the same time establish what type of competition or exhibition is being judged; considerations are: prints or digital projection or a combination is the competition to be a set subject or open if it is to be an internal club competition, how many sections are there in terms of Beginners and Advanced, say, monochrome and colour either combined or separately etc if it is to be an external competition, how many clubs are taking part roughly, the number of pictures in each category to be expected - if you are not happy judging more than a certain number of pictures in an evening then say so. At the moment there is a trend of increasing numbers sometimes combined with a multitude of categories which is to be deprecated - 100 pictures in an evening is more than enough whether it is to be judged on the night or will the pictures be delivered to the judge beforehand and, if so, how soon whether the results are required by the club before the actual engagement takes place for the production of certificates (this can seriously catch you out if you are on a tight schedule and are relying on completing the judging the night before the engagement and then two nights before you get a telephone call asking for the results).

3 The Judging: Take note of the instructions from the club. If they require 1st, 2nd and 3rd plus Honours such as Very Highly Commended, Highly Commended, Commended (not all clubs use all three) then give these as appropriate - usually with the Honours you have a free hand number-wise and it is for you to choose based on your judgement.

If they require marks out of 10 or 20 then that is what you do. Remember that you are only judging the pictures in that competition; you are not judging them against any other pictures you’ve seen in either that club or any other club; neither are you judging them against any other standard. Therefore, the best picture must score the maximum marks; where the rest come is entirely up to you.

How low you go also depends on you. When marking out of 20 many judges are reluctant to go down into single figures let alone into the “fingers on one hand” area. For this reason some clubs ask for marks out of 10 using the full range, in other words the practical range of the "out of 20" system.

Try not to let a club be too prescriptive as regards the results; the basics are set out above but the rest should be based on your assessment of the pictures. If the club wants to dictate the actual scoring (such as “the top three pictures must score 20, 19 and 18”, or “no two pictures can share these top marks”) then there’s really no point in having an independent judge.

Occasionally a club will require a Best Picture out of all the categories - this is easily dealt with but you need to be aware of it.

If the competition is a set subject you must assume that all the pictures submitted are acceptable - a set subject can often lead to the eligibility of a picture being questioned by members of the club and although you may offer your opinion the final decision must belong to the club’s Competition Secretary. Remember that a creative photographer will always try to find a new interpretation particularly if it is a hackneyed subject and will stretch the boundaries when given the opportunity.

4 Setting Off: Although the following notes are obvious, when the actual day arrives and the normal daily routines are put into the mix mistakes can be made.

Make sure you’ve got the right day and that you know where you are going and how long it will take to get there. Aim to arrive up to 30 minutes early as it allows for incidents and unforeseen traffic or weather conditions. If the pictures are to be judged on the night then you really need a full 30 minutes to be able to have a private viewing of the prints at least and your arrival time will have to be brought forward; this would be arranged with the club when the booking was made.

Make sure that you’ve got all the prints and PDI media (check that there isn’t a memory stick or CD left in your laptop) the club has provided. Some judges make notes for each picture and you must take these if you rely on them during the evening but most of all do not forget the score sheets.

Also ensure you have whatever emergency telephone numbers the club has provided with you and, preferably, your own mobile. Having your own pen, torch and laser pointer also makes for a smoother evening.

5 On Arrival: With luck you have been greeted and assisted. Arrange the prints to suit your method of working and hand the PDI media to the projectionist and discuss the order of projection.

Find out from your contact what time they like to finish. Also you need to know when their break is - note that some clubs have their break at the end (!) and you need to be aware of this and allow for it.

Whatever time they like to finish you should never go past 10pm for an evening meeting. After 10pm you will rapidly lose the attention of the members and it is discourteous to the award winners as this should be the climax of the judging.

To achieve this you need to be able to see a clock or be able to read your watch in the dark as the second half is often PDIs.

The timing is really crucial as some clubs do have a restriction on the time they can use their venue till especially if a caretaker is involved. Getting the timing right at some clubs can make you their friend for life and seems to be rated higher than your quality of judging. Timing will come with practice - listen to yourself when speaking and if something doesn’t need saying then don’t say it.

6 The Presentation: Give the title of each picture as it comes up. Sometimes a club member will do this for you but if you have altered the order as delivered to you you may have to do it yourself if the judging is to run smoothly, as you are probably the only person familiar enough with the pictures.

When it is an inter-club competition you will need someone to read the titles on the prints so that you do not see any indication of which club it belongs to. Unfortunately, there never seems to be a list available as they are often assembled and judged on the night. This isn’t a problem with the prints as they can be read from the back but, depending on the software being used, that isn’t easy for the PDIs - consequently some images can suffer through lack of a title.

Occasionally a club will use projection of the prints by using a video camera live or via PDIs supplied by the authors. On no account should you base your judging on the projected image, only the actual print; if possible position yourself so that you cannot even see the screen. Bring each category to a climax with the best pictures announced last; ask for the winners to be identified so that they may receive the approbation of their peers and be made known to you.

7 Winding Up: Make sure that your expenses are paid as required. After receiving the Vote of Thanks a simple “thank you” will suffice - if you’ve had a good evening leave it that, don’t start up a new discussion as everyone by now is mentally out of the door and on their way home or to the pub.

By all means hang around for a chat as this can cement relationships especially if a trip to a bar is involved, just don’t forget that this is your time and you still have to get home.