Course Content:  

The Requirements of a Judge.

Looking at Images, an approach to judging.

Introduction to Judging, practical sessions to give individual experience of the judging process.

Assessment of those wishing to join the WCPF list as a Newly Qualified Judge.

The seminars are open to all and there is absolutely no obligation to become a judge. Judges require a unique skill set and part of the day is discovering if you have what is required. Attending a Seminar is the first step in the process and the judging panel provide mentoring
for those who want to proceed further.



The WCPF are very keen to supply good quality judges and offer support for any on our lists. Following are some guidelines you may find useful for both judges and competition secretaries.




Finding a Judge

Click on your area to find a list of WCPF approved Judges. (Updated July 2019)
Remember to check other close areas.

Please refer to the printed WCPF directory for contact details of Judges & Lecturers

Bristol Area Cornwall
Devon Dorset
Gloucestershire Somerset


Booking forms for Speakers & Judges

These PAGB/WCPF Request and Reply forms are highly recommended. The booking should be confirmed by using these forms within three weeks of request and the reply form should be used to confirm expenses and agreed arrangements. A reminder should be sent not less than two weeks prior to the visit and should include clear directions to the venue.

A thoughtful club will reserve a parking space and someone to meet the lecturer on arrival. Please remember that the Judge/ Lecturer is your guest and should be treated accordingly. Please check that all the necessary equipment as requested is provided for the event. A letter of thanks from the club following the visit is always appreciated. Greater detail on how to look after your Judge/Lecturer is printed in the PAGB handbook.

It is further requested that a mobile phone number is added to the form for both judges/speakers and club secretaries in order to obtain contact during travel to a venue.

Would Clubs please use the Official WCPF Lectures and Judging Booking Form when booking a Judge   Would Judges please use the Official WCPF Reply Form when replying.

These guidelines should be read in conjunction with those for “competition organisation guidelines for clubs”. We should stress again that a successful competition is a partnership between the club and the judge. One sets the rules the other delivers a considered and unbiased decision.

Most judges on our lists will have attended a judging seminar and received detailed training on the judging process. Ken Holland ARPS has written an excellent booklet on the subject entitled "Looking at Photographs: a personal view of appraising and judging photographs" This is still available from him. It should not be necessary to repeat details from the seminar or the booklet other than to stress that a judge should look at photographs in the following way.

A Judge should not initially look at how the picture was made but why the image was made in the first place and what the photographer was trying to show. He should be looking at and into the image and responding to its emotional content. This is not to say that the technical aspects of the photograph should be ignored. These play an important part when comparing one picture with another prior to making a final decision and the technical attributes/problems of the images can offer the opportunity for comment.

These guidelines concentrate on the judge’s responsibilities to ensure a successful outcome to a competition.

The Club is expecting the following attributes from you as a judge. You should be fair, informed, helpful, interesting unbiased and a good time manager. They want you to give your subjective opinion on the photographs entered in the competition. You may wish to give a brief outline of your photographic background but you have not been asked to use the event as a platform to further your views on photography.

In the Club guidelines we have discussed in great detail the information which needs to be shared prior to the competition. The most important decision you as the judge have to take after all this discussion is, do I want to do it? If you don’t like the system, don’t accept the invitation.

Strategies for Judging

Until experienced do not judge cold. This gives you time to sort the entries and work your timings. Arrange the pictures in bands. Select the winners from the top band. At this stage you may decide to write brief notes on each image. This is a ploy to concentrate your mind and act as an aide-memoire and you should not read directly from these notes on the night. Think of 3 positive things to say about each picture and you should start your comments with these. Use constructive criticism only and use terms like “have you thought of” rather than “you should”. Keep criticism to a minimum and analysis to a maximum. Keep your approach friendly, light-hearted and respectful, in short be “A Critical Friend”. Having announced your decisions don’t go back. Many photographers use competitions to hear informed, unbiased comment on their images and less experienced photographers will appreciate hearing helpful analysis and technical comments on the entered images. This input can be most instructive but remember not all images require cropping and so-called rules of composition are made to be broken. There are some clubs now using a system of projecting digital versions of the prints onto a screen to aid the audience viewing and the projected image may vary substantially from the actual print. You must judge the print and not the projected image

On the night, arrive in good time at the venue. Be confident, honest, avoid  repetition, waffle and admit if you don’t know. Be sure to avoid all forms of physical and verbal mannerisms and those much hated clichés. When delivering the results keep the work in order but hold back the top band. Gradually eliminate from this band explaining your reasons to end with the winner. Above all be efficient and organised. Don’t mumble, obstruct or describe the images and remember don’t use the evening as a soapbox for your views.

Judging projected digital images creates its own special problems. Particularly if you have been sent the work in advance and viewed it on a laptop. In this case be prepared to change your decisions when the images are projected on the screen. You must judge the projected digital image as viewed on the night by the audience not the image seen by you in private.

Check with the Club which software they are using to project the images there may be problems if you can’t hold images back or view the top band in some form of light box. If you do use a light box to make your decisions ensure that when announcing the results the images are projected full size.

There have been complaints of judges who have altered images entered for competitions to illustrate how they think the picture should be shown. The PAGB recommend that under no circumstances should this be done without the express permission of the Club. The WCPF endorse this recommendation.


Self Evaluation

We strongly advise all our judges to undertake a process of self-evaluation, this could be in two parts.

On completion of the judging ask yourself the following questions.

It may help to discuss these with a neutral observer.

What went well and why?

What didn’t go quite so well and why?

How effective was my organisation before the event?

How effective was my organisation during the event?

What will I change next time?


Competition Guidelines for Clubs

In setting out these guidelines the WCPF recognise that clubs have complete autonomy in how they should organise their competitions. Competitions are a major constituent of most clubs programmes and there is a desire to obtain the services of competent and informed judges. The Federation provides training and mentoring for both new and existing judges on their lists (see the companion Guidelines for Judges). A successful competition is a partnership between the Club and the Judge. The Club set the rules and competition structure and the judge comments on the images and arrives at an informed and unbiased decision.


The purpose of these guidelines is to suggest some principles of good practice so the club can fulfil their responsibility without impeding the judge’s task. We would ask that each club reads these guidelines and examines their competition rules with them in mind. We would also strongly advise that the Club uses judges listed either in the WCPF Directory or the PAGB Handbook All of those listed will have received some form of approved training.

It is important to select judges appropriate for the competition, to help with this, judge profiles of all our listed judges are provided on the WCPF web site. The judges who have recently attended a judging seminar need as much experience as they can get, to improve and gain confidence. They need to be asked to judge, they may make some mistakes but with suitable mentoring and evaluation (which we provide) they should soon make the grade. At this level, judges should think carefully about judging cold on the night and we advise them not to undertake it. We would encourage all clubs to choose judges from the “Recently Appointed List” for appropriate competitions. On successful completion of a judging seminar, attendees will be issued with the contact details of their local clubs to encourage contact.

If a competition is to be successful the initial dialogue between the Club’s competition secretary and the judge needs to be as comprehensive and informative as possible. Both parties should understand what they have each signed up for and this should be confirmed in writing (post or email). The current edition of the WCPF Directory contains a summary of the PAGB conditions governing lecturers and judges. This deals comprehensively  with the written confirmation. It does not however deal with any of the essential information that the judge needs to know prior to agreeing to accept the invitation to judge. These are laid out and discussed in detail below.


Clubs must give as much support to the judge as possible. Clear directions to the club are essential and emergency phone numbers need to be exchanged. Details of car parking should be explained and as judges are advised to arrive at the venue in good time. The club must ensure somebody is there to greet them. Judges need to be aware of the room layout and how the pictures are to be displayed (see below)

Date and Time.

Detailed timings for the evening should be given, start, break and finish. It is particularly important that if buildings must be vacated by a set time the judge is aware of this. This information is required so that the judge knows exactly how much time is available for the competition. one and a half to two hours is probably the ideal time.

Open or titled competition.

If the competition has a title the club should provide an agreed definition of the title which should be given both to the judge and the club members. Leaving the interpretation of the title, to the judge is unfair and can lead to dissatisfaction amongst your membership. It is the club competition secretary’s responsibility to decide if an image conforms to the definition. Judges will comment on all images presented to them.

Expected Entry

This needs to be considered alongside the time available clubs must appreciate that the larger the entry less time is available for each comment. We advise judges that they should spend between one and two minutes commenting on each image. If there are around 2 hours available for the competition, a piece of simple maths shows that the total entry for an evening should be around 80. We have had reports of entries in excess of 120. To be fair to the judge and members, Clubs need to adopt entry strategies which limit entries to an acceptable level. Please remember that the prospect of hearing the considered comments of the judge are often what attracts entrants to submit work and the audience to attend the competition evening. It is to nobody’s advantage if the judge has to hurry through the critiques. With regard to time management a prompt start is essential and notices should be kept to a minimum. Modern projected digital imaging software allow notices to be projected.

The judge should be informed of the ability range of the entrants.

Judging, on the night or in advance.

This is a contentious area. Traditionally areas within the Federation opt for one or the other and strongly advocate their choice. Judging cold requires a high level of skill and experience. The WCPF advises inexperienced judges to have the work in advance this enables them to consider their comments and work out their timings.

Marking, Marks or no marks, places or no places or anywhere in between!

Another difficult area there are almost as many systems in use as there are clubs. Remember that judging is purely subjective, there are no agreed clear criteria to use and no two judges will totally agree. It is for this reason that some object to the term judge and words like assessment analysis and appraisal are used. The marks given are just one judge’s opinion of a specific set of images. There is a strong argument for not awarding marks at all. It often appears the only reason for having marks is so an overall winner of the season’s aggregate competition should be found. The only thing we will definitely agree on is to disagree.

We advise judges to place the work in bands choosing their 1st 2nd and 3rd places (if required) from the top band. It is for the judge to decide how to allocate the marks (if required) down from this top band. Clubs often request that judges use the full range of marks from 1 -10. In our opinion it is very demotivating to receive 1 mark. It is the judge’s comments which are the most important part of the evening and these should justify the inclusion of an image within a high or low band. Inevitably some images will be in the bottom band but the range order is established without the reinforcement of a low mark.

Clubs have complete autonomy to choose their own marking system. but it should be simple and the club must consider if it is helping or hindering the judge in their job. Is it reasonable for example to ask a judge, judging cold to grade the top images from 1 to 15?

Medium - prints, slides, projected digital images and AV

Most judges are prepared to judge all mediums any exceptions are listed in the Directory and in the Judges Profiles on the website. Judges need to be aware of the room layout and how the pictures are displayed.

Prints Ideally all prints should be displayed at all times, with a separate  print stand and light for the image being judged, multi-print stands allow comparison of images.

Projected Digital Images We strongly recommend the use of a competition software programme, the WCPF use Dicentra. This versatile programme will allow images to be held back and viewed together in a light box mode, it can be used with or without marks. It also has a series of test screens to allow the correct setting up of the projector. It is the club’s responsibility to ensure that the images are projected correctly

Slides The judge should be introduced to the projectionist and a system for holding back the top images agreed.


We are encouraging judges to undertake a process of self evaluation with a view to improving their performance. As part of this the club and its members may be asked to complete a feedback sheet which will be supplied by the judge. We would ask that you co-operate.

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