Becoming a Judge with SCPF

Would you like to become a judge?

Competition is still a mainstay of the camera club programme, and SCPF is always looking for enthusiastic new people to join our community of appraisers. Judging is a rewarding way to give something back to the camera club community, to help club photographers to develop and grow.

This FAQ will help you to decide if judging / appraisal is something you would like to do.

What does judging entail?

Judging, in essence, is about speaking confidently and intelligently to an audience about photography, whilst giving constructive feedback to photographers about their work. A very small percentage of what we do is judging, in the sense of the word that means awarding marks and deciding winners.

Mostly, it is about coaching – giving good positive feedback, recognising good photography, explaining for the benefit of everyone why a photograph works or does not, and providing constructive and thoughtful suggestions as to how images might be improved.

Most judges say that the reward is the good feeling  that comes with helping and encouraging other photographers, with passing on knowledge and expertise, and with meeting good people and seeing lots of good work.

The Process – Starting Out …

The process for becoming an SCPF Accredited judge is fairly simple:

Each year (roughly, depending on demand), we run a two-day training course. After the course, if you show aptitude and willingness, you can be listed at our Level 1. Level 1 judges are recognised as those who have been trained and are gaining experience in smaller club competitions.

During your first year, it is beneficial to have some mentoring and support. There are a number of ways that you can arrange this:

  1. By arranging for someone local and experienced to come with you on a club visit to assist and to guide and to provide feedback.
  2. By arranging a “mock” club evening, where up to six new judges can practise in realistic conditions – we can help you to do this if you wish following the training course.

Both can be beneficial at any time, of course, no matter how experienced we are. In photography and in appraisal, we never stop learning.


Our three levels are:

  • Level 1 – Open to all, recognised as judges who have been trained and are gaining experience in smaller club competitions
  • Level 2 – Accredited, recognised as judges who have gained at least a year’s experience with support and are competent to judge most club and inter club competitions
  • Level 3 – Senior, recognised as judges who have gained at least three years’ experience, supported by good references and an assessment, competent to judge all levels of club and inter-club competition

Progression to Level 2 is attained by one or both of:

  1. Live assessment by a recognised L3 judge at a club event, with detailed feedback.
  2. Approval after at least three satisfactory references from clubs over at least one year.

Progression to Level 3 is attained by one or both of:

  1. Approval after at least five satisfactory references from clubs over at least three years but usually five, with evidence of regular practice.
  2. A live assessment by two recognised L3 judges at a significant club event, comprising both prints and projected images where possible, with detailed feedback.

The onus is on you to compile your evidence and to request upgrade. All upgrades are recommended by the Judging Advisory Team and ratified by the SCPF Council. Progression may, in exceptional cases, be fast-tracked at any level.


We also run an established feedback process, whereby clubs provide feedback, to us to support your progression and, most importantly, to you to help you to identify areas where you would like to improve.

As a new judge at Level 1, we expect that feedback will be provided for you each time you go out. Clubs know that this is required, but the onus is on you to request it, to provide the form and to follow up. Without it, we cannot consider your accreditation.

Continuing Development

Again, roughly every year to eighteen months, we hold a Forum event, at which we share experience and best practice, and discuss issues. The sorts of topics we cover have included:

  • Critique of classic images – why our usual method doesn’t hold up
  • Comparison of critique styles with the art world
  • Coaching skills
  • Marking and individual differences
  • Subjectivity and objectivity
  • Specialist and challenging genres: nature, street, contemporary, abstract
  • Creative and conceptual work
  • Photography online
  • Fault diagnosis
  • Experiences of new judges

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to have Distinctions e.g. RPS or PAGB?

You do not need to be a highly-distinguished photographer to be a good appraiser; photography and appraisal are two entirely separate skills.

It is expected, of course, that you will be established and confident in your own work as a photographer, but more important is your ability and confidence in speaking to an audience, and your desire to help, to motivate and to bring the best out of the photographers you speak to.

Besides my own photography, what skills do I need to develop?

Appraising photography requires a confident understanding of photography itself and a broad appreciation of a wide range of genres and styles. Then an ability to give feedback in a positive and constructive way, to motivate and to enthuse your audience with good presentation skills and use of language.

Above all, our core qualities are to respect the photographer always, to be empathic and to own your own opinions. There’s more about this in our Training Course document.

Do I need to be a member of a club?

Essentially, yes. Photography expertise exists, of course, in a much broader field than just camera clubs, but it is important to know the club scene and to have a good feel for and understanding of club competitions. SCPF expects new judges to be (or commit to become) club members with an affiliated club.

How often am I expected to go out?

You can commit to as much or as little as you wish. Many judges will take around eight to twelve bookings per season, some more, some fewer. You can also limit your travel distance to a manageable level to suit your work and home commitments.

The only proviso is that the more you do, the more you will improve. This is a skill that definitely needs practice and fluency. One or two bookings per year will not give you that practice.

Will my expenses be covered?

Yes. Judging is covered by the PAGB expenses scheme, which amounts to £0.45 per mile travelled in your own vehicle, plus accommodation and a meal if required and if agreed in advance with the club. Judges listed by SCPF may not charge fees or higher expenses.

What type of judging might I be asked to do?

Initially, at our Level 1, you will cover club competitions only. As you progress and develop your experience and ability, you may be asked to appraise at club End of Season finals, exhibitions, inter-club matches and SCPF league rounds. At Level 3, or Senior level, larger County, Regional and National inter-club events open up to you.

What kinds of competition are there?

Clubs have autonomy in organising competitions how they wish. So judges and appraisers have to be flexible in meeting clubs’ expectations. But experienced judges have seen most ways in which competitions are organised, so can offer valuable advice and guidance to clubs on what works best.

  • Marking Schemes: Many clubs ask for marks, but an increasing number are placing emphasis on critique, requiring just a 1,2,3 placing with Merits.
  • Ability Groups: Some clubs have one open class; some have several ability classes. Subjects may be open or specific or specialist even, so you could choose to be available as a subject expert, if you have that expertise.
  • On the evening: Some clubs (and other Federations) ask for consideration of images to be made in advance at home, but for the majority in our region, you will appraise them on the evening.
  • Judging Remotely: There may also be opportunities to record or write a commentary for a club in another part of the country.

I am a judge with another Federation. Can I transfer in?

If you live in the region and / or are a member of an SCPF affiliated club, we can arrange for a transfer to our list. Normally, we will seek a reference from your previous Federation. The level at which you transfer in depends upon the levels in your previous Federation and your reference. But we will try to make the process as seamless as possible.

It is not our policy to double up so that judges appear on lists for more than one Federation. Purely for the benefit of local clubs, it makes sense that your listing should be with the Federation to which your primary club is affiliated, which should be in the region where you live.

More Information

If you would like to know more, please write or call for a chat. I can also put you in touch with a member of our judging advisory team, who might be more local and able to meet you (or a small group) to explain more.

… Ken Scott
SCPF Judging Advisor