Stewards & Judges Manual


The principal function of club image evaluations and competitions is to encourage members to obtain meaningful feedback from a person considered to have superior knowledge and expertise than the general membership. As a by-product, they also provide inspiration as well as encouraging members to prepare work to an exhibition standard. The judge can suggest how a particular image may be improved. Most clubs also employ a merit-based scoring system and make awards on this basis.

For most members, and most clubs, receiving satisfactory feedback is the most important outcome.


  1. A calendar of image evaluation/competition topics should be decided on some months in advance to enable members to consider the topics and prepare works for entry. Many clubs have this ready prior to the start of each year.
  2. The club rules should be clear, as to the image evaluation/competition categories and grades, and should specify the dimensions of print, mattes and digital image dimensions and file sizes for the various categories.
  3. Members need to be reminded at least a month in advance of the theme and if necessary a topic definition provided for the next competition.
  4. There should be a firm date and time for the works to be in the possession of the Image Steward in order that they may qualify as an entry.
  5. It is usual that members’ works are entered anonymously so that judging may be unbiased and that embarrassment can be minimised in the case of a lower rating. One method of ensuring anonymity is the use of club-nominated ID’s to members, which are then used to identify the owners of individual works.


  1. Compile a list of all entries in the order that they will be presented to the judge and in a form that will suit your score sheet.
  2. All works entered should be checked by the Image Steward whether they conform to the “repeat submissions” rules and the size restrictions for each category, as well as making some preliminary judgment as to relevance to any set subject.
  3. Where a particular work seems to be significantly “off-topic” the Image Steward should contact the maker to verify their intention. One can then confidently leave it to the judge.
  4. Each print should be checked as to whether they are securely assembled so that there are no sticky surfaces, raised edges or unsecured mounts that could damage other works in the stack.
  5. Digital images need to be checked for correct dimensions, orientation and file size.
  6. In most cases, the visiting judge will require the works for consideration prior to the scheduled meeting and the works need to be packaged for sending. In cases where the works can be delivered by hand, clubs will usually employ a purpose-made box. Where posting is required, an A2 art folio folder is preferred because it will be lighter and reduce postage costs.
  7. Digital images can be presented on CD, DVD or flash drive/memory stick or made available online.
  8. Care needs to be taken in packaging the prints for delivery to judges. They should be arranged in such a way that the smaller works do not have the opportunity to rub on the surface of the lager prints.
  9. It is recommended that photographs mounted to a matte board with no backing should have a backing sheet applied by the Image Steward and the owner notified of this ‘once-off’ help in print preparation. Further infringements should result in a rejection of the entry or at least, be returned to the maker for proper preparation.


  1. The Victorian Association of Photographic Societies (VAPS) maintains an online directory of judges who are available to visit clubs for conducting club judging sessions.
  2. Victorian clubs are able to assess this directory and can use it as a basis to select appropriate judges for their judging sessions.
  3. This directory aims to give you some basic details about their location, photographic skills/honours/accreditations and interests. The aim should be to match the judge to the needs of your club members.
  4. In addition to the Judge's directory, there are a number of other judges, or people with photographic knowledge, who will judge for clubs. This includes members of local art galleries, other prominent amateur and professional photographers, writers and local artists. Clubs usually have knowledge of these people and engage them as required.
  5. Judges are usually well versed in club photography skills and can temper their judging to account for Novice and Advanced levels in a competition.
  6. Judges will, however, vary from the very experienced to those just emerging into the judging field and the first time judging experience. Clubs are encouraged to use a variety of judges and where possible support the emerging and first time judge in their development.
  7. The Australian Photographic Judges Association (APJA) provides six levels of training and accreditation for judges and potential judges.
  8. At the time of booking a judge, the steward should be able to provide an estimate of the likely number of works to be judged. Judges have estimated that they would prefer up to a minute to usefully present their critique of each work and this should be confirmed at the time of booking. This enables the Image Steward to estimate how much time will be required by the judge for the presentation of all the works and critiques.
  9. In engaging a judge it is essential that the club provides clear guidelines to the judge on the subject matter definition, the grades to be judged, the required scoring per grade and the levels of the score, or if it is a requirement to select only a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place or merit awards, or as the club may require. At this time you should discuss with the judge whether manipulation/processing of members’ images is acceptable.
  10. In accepting the club’s invitation, the judge is committing to spend 6 – 8 hours on behalf of the club members, so it is important that the actions reflect the appreciation of this effort. A first step is to request from the judge some biographical details whereby they can be introduced to the members with some authority.
  11. As soon as a judge for a particular competition has been engaged they should be contacted confirming the date, the topic, whether manipulation/process of members’ images is acceptable, the club’s grading criteria, the likely number of works, whether or not they are invited to show samples of their own work and when they can expect to receive the works. At this time, the judge should be provided with the Image Steward’s mobile phone contact and exact location details of the club’s meeting venue. (An address plus a Google or Melways map reference)
  12. Most importantly, a score sheet listing of all the image titles, in order of display, as the club may require, and space included for a score and critique, must be included with the images delivered to the judge.
  13. Specifications should also be given as to how the images should be ranked for presentation.
  14. The score sheet should also be prepared as an Excel or Word document and included on the disk of digital images and in the format required on the presentation night.
  15. If the club wants the scores sent back to the club in advance of judging night this should be relayed to the judge in the documentation and also verbally at the time of handing over the images for assessment.
  16. It is the responsibility of the club to set the judging criteria and what the judge can present, this includes allowing or not allowing the reprocessing/ manipulation of members’ digital images by the judge. Where members do not want their images altered in this manner this should be noted on the score sheet or the judge must be specifically instructed not to alter specific images or any of the images presented. Where a judge does not accept the club’s conditions, they have the option of declining the invitation.
  17. Clubs are expected to provide compensation to the judge for their out of pocket expenses (i.e. transportation). Judges who have to travel a long distance, and require overnight accommodation, should be offered billeting at a member’s home at the minimum. Remote judges should also be paid an honorarium for the extra time involved in providing written notes or an audiotape.


  1. Confirm during the day that all is set for the presentation and orally confirm the general arrangements for the presentation and, in particular, how to find the venue and where to park their vehicle.
  2. When the judge arrives, the Image Steward or delegate should introduce them to club officials and the member who will make the introduction. Confirm with the judge the order of business for the night and preferred finishing time.
  3. The meeting chairperson should take over the hosting of the judge at this stage whilst the Image Steward concentrates efforts on assembling the works for presentation.
  4. At the end of proceedings, the chairperson will thank the judge for their efforts and make a presentation of the honorarium.


All judges, at some point, have had to judge for the first time and not all have had the good fortune of someone to mentor them through the process.

Whether or not a judge has had a mentor, there are aspects of the presentation of which the judge will need to be aware. The responsibility for the presentation ultimately rests with them. The aim should be to ensure that the session goes smoothly and that both assistance and hope are provided to those who have entered their work for grading and critique.

It should always be an honour to be entrusted with the opportunity of making public comment on the work of others, but as a judge embarks on several hours on behalf of the club, one is quite justified in asking the club for reasonable cooperation. Often it is a matter of helping the clubs attend to the fine detail sooner rather than later.

Initial approach of the club

  1. This is usually by phone or email contact. It is important to determine a suitable date, the topic, the likely number of works to be judged and the time allowed to present the assessments. Ensure that the club confirms as soon as possible the engagement details by email or other means including:
    1. Date and time of the meeting.
    2. The time that the judge is expected to arrive at the meeting
    3. Location with Google and/or Melway Reference
    4. Mobile contact number in case one gets lost en-route
    5. The set subject topic and definition
    6. Grading system guidelines
    7. Likely number of works to be judged
    8. When the works will be delivered
    9. Establish if the works are to be returned to the club prior to the event
    10. Order in which works are to be presented
  2. If a club is asking for something for which the judge does not have the time or skill, it is responsible, and acceptable, to decline the offer.
  3. Many clubs like to see a short presentation of the judge’s own work. It is important to keep this concise and show the judge’s very best work in order to establish some credibility for the adjudications. This display may be most effective if it is shown at the beginning of the session when audience attention and anticipation are at their optimum. This should be arranged with the club prior to the presentation.
  4. On receiving the works, it is important to have a list of the entries. Clubs usually supply a score sheet but it is very useful to have it available in spreadsheet form so that a comment sheet can be constructed (unless already supplied).
  5. Some clubs require a numerical score so an initial grading of the works from the first take of high to low will be necessary. Laying out all of the works on a flat surface and then sorting them into groups of superior, good, average and less than average is a reasonable place to start.
  6. All images presented must be judged and scored unless the club agrees that an image does not fit the subject and is removed at their direction. It is recommended that the club sort this out with the maker and the Image Steward.
  7. In the event that a particular work does not appear to fit the criteria for entry, this should be referred to the Image Steward. One should err on the side of grading and commenting on all works and letting the makers’ peers sort out the eligibility. Disputed eligibility can often be an issue of politics within a club and there are no rewards for judges becoming involved. At most, it is advisable to simply make a short comment during the judging presentation.
  8. The judge’s critique should be about the aesthetic and technical quality of the images as they are presented. It is, however, important to comment, where necessary, on how the image could have been improved at the point of capture.
  9. The makers have presented their image to be judged at face value so the judge should confine their initial and detailed critique to the image as shown, and the judge can make comments about cropping, composition or photographic technique in the taking of the image.
  10. Less emphasis should be placed on how the image “could be” in post-processing for beginners/novices.
  11. Remember when critiquing an image it may be interpreted as also critiquing the maker. A balanced commentary is preferred to a confronting one. Be constructive in the critique giving suggestions to improving the maker’s technique but not overtly condemning the image.
  12. When the merit groups are determined, each piece of work should be closely examined and notes made according to the comment categories on the comment sheet. It is best that this close inspection of each piece of work is undertaken under cool, even illumination. At the completion of the note-making, it may well usually be necessary to re-rank some of the works. Assign scores and honours according to the determined rankings.
  13. Digitally Projected Images in club evaluations/competitions provides the opportunity, where agreed with the club, for the judge to demonstrate by way of post-processing editing how this can improve an image.
  14. However, judges must abide by the clubs’ requirements as advised at the time of engagement. If no alteration to members’ images is allowed the judge must refrain from doing so. Where a judge does not agree with this they have the option of declining the judging invitation, provided this is communicated at the point of initial engagement.
  15. The judges should re-sort the prints into the club’s preferred order of presentation.
  16. Most clubs require judging scores to be emailed to the Image Steward prior to the meeting, often by a specified date.
  17. Prior to the meeting, the judge should send the club some relevant biographical details so that the judge may be introduced to club members.
  18. The judge should rehearse their oral critique to practice, fluency and timing and also advise the club of the likely duration of their presentation of their works presented, if applicable.
  19. The judge should arrive at the meeting venue ahead of time to meet club officials and set up to display their own work, if applicable.
  20. Clubs seldom permit more than one minute per work for grade and critique to be delivered so notes are recommended to allow the judge to be reasonably concise. For each work, the oral presentation should commence with a brief description of the subject matter, followed by how effectively this has been portrayed, the compositional strategies that have been used and note any distracting technical shortcomings.


    1. Of great importance is to describe where appropriate how the image may be improved or the subject revisited to better effect.
    2. It is not acceptable to simply describe the subject or point out the technical flaws.
    3. It is very important to draw attention as to why the leading works have been assessed as successful.
    4. The tone of the critique should be consistent with the score awarded.
    5. A judging engagement should not be a forum for personal causes, nor should it be an opportunity for the denigration of a particular technology, subject selection or style of work.

  1. Judging the image is the core task but it is quite reasonable to make general comments regarding the presentation of the works, the media chosen, and the state of the mattes and mounts.
  2. The judge should check with the Image Steward before commencing the session whether they are expected to take questions from the audience after the presentation.
  3. All clubs should make a token recompense for a judge’s efforts and this provides an opportunity for the judge to thank the club for inviting them to assess their work.

A copy of subject definitions is available from the Australian Photographic Society on their website:



Dimensions below are expressed in inches. Essentially Photographic prints are displayed mounted to a back mountboard and covered with a front matte board to form a print displayed within the aperture cut into the front matte board.

The Mountboard and matte board can be hinged and the photographic print displayed by adhering it to the back mount board and the front matte board with aperture hinged down to form a completed print ready for exhibition.

The Window or Aperture cut into the front matte board serves to frame the image within the Matte board surface space.

Prints can also be flush mounted to the mount board and not require a front matte board.

The external dimensions of the Mount or Matte board constitute the criteria by which finished print sizes are gauged.

Where prints are hinged to the front matte board only they require a backing board to protect the image and provide strength to the image when presented for judging or display.

Typically, Mount/Matte sizes are Small = 8x10 and Large = 16x20.

Print sizes vary and are required to fit within/on the above two Mount/Matte sizes thus creating a small or large Mounted and Matted print.

VAPS Interclub print requirements specify that the maximum thickness of a mounted and matted print must not exceed 5mm.

Extraneous materials placed on the matte board front in or on a printed surface should be avoided at all times as they can damage other prints.

Unless specifically stated in the competition rules, prints can be presented on the photographic emulsion, canvas, or any surface that holds a photographic reproduction of an image.

Small Prints

Generally, the minimum print size is 6x4 inch with the maximum print size being 8x10 inch.
A small print is usually hinged or adhered to the mount board and covered with the matte board containing an aperture window. An 8x10 print would be adhered to the surface of the 8x10 mount board.

Large Prints

Large prints are those prints that are larger than 8x10 inch up to a printed image 16x20 inch in size.

Typically, prints are hinged to the mount board and covered with the matte board containing an aperture window. Whereas a print that is 16x20 would need to be adhered to the surface of the 16x20, mount board.

Panorama images can be displayed within the 16x20 matte board and should be a maximum of 20cm high and 50cm along the longest side.

Note: where a small print is entered in a competition and the mount/matte board exceeds the Small Print specification it may be rejected.

Likewise, where a large mounted/matted print is entered into a competition and exceeds the Large Print specification it may be rejected.

This is particularly relevant to National and International Competitions where accepted prints are often displayed in glass frames; if they do not fit, they will not be accepted.

Special Note: For the VAPS Interclub refer to the VAPS Interclub competition information on the VAPS website.

When entering National or International competitions check the entry conditions carefully as image size requirements will vary across different competitions)


The VAPS standard for digitally projected images is currently 1920 x 1080 pixels, with a maximum file size of five megabytes, i.e. 5000kb.

1920 refers to the maximum horizontal width of a digital image
1080 refers to the maximum vertical height of an image.

When displaying digital images the digital projector should be calibrated correctly using the computer or laptop that will be used for display, if the computer is changed then you need to re-calibrate. The calibration profile sits within the computer, not in the projector.

Images at 1024 x 768 pixels are acceptable for the VAPS Interclub and will be displayed as received.

Digital sizes of 1024 x 768 are compatible with a 1920 x 1080 computer/projector and will be displayed to that size through the larger resolution projectors; these images will look smaller on-screen than the 1920 x 1080 images.

The computer used, and the projector should have matched screen resolution capabilities to achieve a properly projected image.

In general when preparing digital images for the competition they should be sized at a maximum of 1920 x 1080 with a file size of no greater than 5000kb.

For a detailed description of digital projection, specifications please refer to David Burren's EBook at this location:

Makers submitting digital images for club or external competitions must read the rules specific to that competition/exhibition as the image size requirements will vary depending on the club projection equipment being used.


Clubs have different grading and classification systems for their members. These may include, A, B, C, Novice, Open, Advanced, Regular, or similar descriptions within a club structure. Some clubs do not have a grading system at all.

The word “Novice” is possibly demeaning to a new club member and may inhibit their desire to progress the learning of photography.

The classification of regular and advanced is a more generalized classification.

Definition of Novice/Regular

The word “Novice” is commonly used to describe a person who has just joined a club or has not advanced to a higher level,

and is typically:

  • A person in their first year as a club member
  • A person who has not achieved more than 6 acceptances in a National or International photographic competitions
  • A person who has not advanced to the “Advanced” section of a club via in-house achievements in competitions
  • A non-competing member who is a social member of a club or is not in a position/or want to regularly produce images

Most members have the intention when joining a club, to learn how to better take images and how to process those images, hopefully with goals of progressing to a competent state of photography and eventually into the advanced section of a club.

Alternatively, a club may set a hurdle rate after which a new member moves up to the Advanced section, this may be the number of high scores achieved within a club competition, the number of external acceptance achieved, or a time period after which they automatically move up to Advanced.