Competition Judging Guidelines for Clubs

Competition is still a mainstay of the programme for many clubs, so you will be booking maybe five or six judges every year to visit your club and to give the benefit of their experience and vision to your photographers.

SCPF provides a training and support programme for our judges that is second to none and still developing, and we want to work in partnership with you to make sure that we are able to provide you with what you need.

This document provides an overview with guidance on booking of judges for your competitions.

The SCPF Judges Directory

Our directory of judges is available to member clubs in document format via the website on the Directory page. It is a password protected document, and all clubs are advised of the password by our Handbook Secretary.

We are currently working on some ideas for presenting the directory differently, to give you more information about judges’ specialities and additional services, where applicable.

Guidelines for Choosing Judges

We have three levels of judges in SCPF.

  • Level 1 judges have been trained and are gaining experience in club competitions during, usually, their first year.
    Any opportunities you can provide for Level 1 judges in an appropriate competition are most welcome. Please note that they may request to bring a mentor along.
  • Level 2 judges are accredited by SCPF and have gained experience over at least a year in club level competitions, but many judges at this level are highly experienced.
  • Level 3 judges have the highest accreditation from SCPF and have demonstrated over a period of at least five years that they are confident in dealing with all levels of work in club and inter-club competitions. They are expected to be able to work with the higher standards of regional and national events and to be confident before bigger and more demanding audiences.

Please take these levels into account when choosing a judge so that you have the right level of experience for your competitions.

League Matches

Please note that for SCPF League matches in leagues 1-3, a Level 3 judge is required. You may book a Level 2 judge but only after prior approval from one of the judging advisory team, to ensure that you have someone of the right level of experience.

Guidelines for Booking Judges

When booking judges, please be aware of the following, which are standard practice, as listed in the PAGB Handbook. It is usual to arrange bookings by email or telephone.

Many of the popular judges are in high demand, so booking well in advance is always advisable. Although it would be reasonable to assume that anything more than eighteen months ahead (i.e. the season after next) should be booked provisionally.

  1. Provide full details
    Please provide full details of the competition – e.g. prints or PDI or both, type of competition, open or set subjects, ability classes, and expected number of entries.
  2. Agree expenses
    Judges are entitled to claim travel expenses – currently £0.45 per mile or public transport at cost. Judges may also request the cost of a meal and ask for overnight accommodation if travelling from afar. Listed judges are not entitled to charge an additional fee. Please clarify and agree all expenses when booking.
  3. Send Confirmation and a Reminder
    Please send a hardcopy confirmation of the booking, either by email or post. Then, not less than two weeks prior to the event, please send a reminder providing accurate directions to the venue, parking arrangements, arrival time and confirmation of entries.
    Also, sharing contact mobile telephone numbers will help everyone if there is a problem on the evening – it’s usually to do with traffic!
  4. Agree Delivery Details
    If images are being considered in advance, please also discuss and agree delivery details. This may be physical delivery of prints and / or electronic delivery of PDI. Do ensure that this includes full instructions for marking, placing and awards, and for the return (if applicable) of the images.
  5. After the Evening
    It is courteous to thank the judge at the end of the evening and again in writing a maximum of a few days afterwards. Letters of thanks mean a lot when written sincerely.

Guidelines for Competition Hosting

Providing good hosting on the evening ensures that your judges will be able to give of their very best. Especially for new judges, arriving at a venue to meet people they may not know well can be a nervous time. There is a lot to think about in making sure that they provide you and your club members with an enjoyable and informative evening’s appraisal.

These guidelines provide an overview. Camera clubs are, on the whole and in comparison to others, really excellent at hosting and it is a pleasure for us to visit and to provide appraisals for you.

  1. Arrange a reserved parking space.
    It really does help, although we appreciate that it is not always possible. Travel in early evening can often be fraught, and having to then hunt for a parking space will not help your judge to arrive in a relaxed state of mind.
  2. Welcome your judge as a guest
    Again, making your judge feel welcome as a guest will only help them to feel more relaxed about giving their best to your club. It is a nice touch to assign someone as a host for the evening, and to offer a drink on arrival as well as in the break.
  3. Clarify the Order of Events
    This should include the number of entries, the classes and what the classes mean, your marking expectations (especially in the low ranges), whether any Merits, HCs and 123s are required, which classes will come first etc. Do make sure to be clear on the break time and finish time so that your judge can calculate how long is needed for each picture. Judges are advised to ask you about all these aspects.
  4. Ask how your guest would like to be introduced
    Do your homework and clarify a short bio and distinctions with which you can introduce your guest. Check these before the start of the evening.
  5. Allow sufficient time for Preview
    The judge’s arrival time should be sufficiently in advance to be able to preview prints before the scheduled start time. Please make sure this is enabled and ready – see Judging and Commentary below
  6. Arrange the space
    Arrange your seating in an appropriate way for the judge to be able to see the images and speak to the audience – see Judging and Commentary below. It is also good practice to provide a mic, especially for larger rooms and those using a hearing loop.
  7. Start on time
    Do start in a timely way at the beginning and after the break. If there are a number of notices to give, do tell your judge beforehand and allow time at the end of the first half to give these. Often these eat into the time allowed for appraising the images.
  8. Settlement of expenses
    It is courteous to offer settlement of expenses without being prompted.

The Judging and Commentary

These guidelines apply to the setting up of the competition and to the process during the commentary. They are written from a Judge’s perspective:

  1. Allow suitable time for preview
    Unless images have been considered in advance it is imperative to allow us time to preview all the entries. This allows us to see the overall standard and to begin the process of pinning the contenders and the lowest ranked images.

    • For prints, this should be well before the scheduled start time.
    • For PDI it is usual to run through each class, taking 3-5 seconds per image.
  2. Allow print previews to be uninterrupted
    Do allow the print preview to be uninterrupted and quiet. Where prints are displayed on stands for members to preview, please ensure everyone understands that we need to be able to see the images from a distance and close up; it is very hard to do if we are continually having to say ‘excuse me’ to see the images.
  3. Set the room up appropriately
    We encourage our judges to talk to you, the audience, not to the print or screen. The ideal room setup depends on which medium we’re using, though we appreciate that in small rooms the ideal is often not achievable:

    • For prints, the ideal place to stand is just to the side of the easel and just in front, so that we can both see the image and talk to you. If there is insufficient space before the first row of seats, people on the edge may not be able to see, meaning that we have to compromise, sometimes at a cost of diminished fluency.
    • For PDI, the only way to see clearly is straight on to the screen. Most judges will preview from behind the projector and then talk to the audience from the front or front-side. Leaving sufficient space before the front row of chairs allows a judge an optimal viewing angle, to move freely closer to the screen and to the other side or centre, if necessary.
  4. Use a suitable illuminated stand for display of prints.
    Most clubs now use an illuminated print stand. No judge should make a decision on ranking on room lighting alone. Prints often come to life and reveal their technical quality only under good lighting on the stand. Have a smooth procedure for moving prints to and from the stand.
  5. Display a test slide
    Before projecting, do display a test slide to allow a judge to verify the colour and contrast fidelity of the projector. Experienced judges will usually be able to tell quickly if the projector shows too much brightness and contrast (e.g. frequently blown highlights), but this should be verified where possible. SCPF has a range of test slides available.
  6. Use an agreed procedure
    It is most common for a judge to view each image, to comment and to mark (or hold back) in turn. A small number of judges prefer to comment on all the images and then to give all the marks. Whichever is your club’s normal procedure, do discuss it and work with the judge’s preference wherever possible. Whilst we expect judges to be flexible, it can seriously disrupt a judge’s normal flow if asked to think differently, especially if inexperienced – beware of giving a judge anything else to think about than appraising your images.
  7. Number of Images
    The maximum recommended number of images for a club evening is 80. This gives sufficient time for previews, feedback on each image and consideration of the marks. By way of illustration, an SCPF league round has 64 images and is always very comfortable for commentary.

    • A club evening that runs from 8pm to 10pm has approximately 90 minutes to complete the commentary (allowing half an hour for break, notices and close). Allowing for changing images, new classes and hold backs, that is roughly one minute maximum per image – not long. Any more than 80 images will challenge even the most articulate and experienced judge to give sufficient feedback, and competition then becomes just a ranking exercise.
    • Judges are advised not to accept bookings where they feel the number of images exceeds what they feel comfortable to manage.

Other Considerations

  1. Special Rules
    If your competition has special rules, e.g. PAGB Nature, make sure that the judge knows them in advance AND whether the judge is expected to enforce any non-compliance. In general terms, it is preferable for the competition organiser to weed out non-compliances in advance in discussion with the photographer, so that the judge knows that all entries presented may be judged.
  2. Set Subjects
    Please advise the set subject when making a booking AND whether you have given any kind of brief to the entrants. Set subjects present a different challenge to appraise and commentate because there is always a degree of compliance and expression of the subject that must be considered in addition to the image quality.
    You might like to consider the following:

    1. The narrower and more specific the set subject, the more likely it is that you will have a lot of very similar images to show. There is a limit to the variety of comment that we can make, and it can make for a rather less than interesting commentary.
    2. The wider and more interpretive the set subject, the greater discretion we have for rewarding expression and individuality.
    3. We advise judges to mark low for all non-compliant images, whatever their quality. Do agree the approach with the judge before the commentary starts.


The Judging Advisory Team is always on hand to answer any queries you may have and to provide advice and guidance. Remember that we’ve seen hundreds of competitions in scores of clubs – the chances are that we will have come across most scenarios. Please do ask.

… Ken Scott
Judging Advisor
September 2018