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BCA News: Winter 2019

BioImages Judges: Creating and Exhibiting Award Winning Images

Image-makers often ponder what a judge looks for in assessing an image for an award or exhibition. To discuss this process we have asked BioImages judges, past and present to share their thoughts.

They offer their tips and suggestions and most of all their encouragement for image-makers to keep entering peer-reviewed exhibitions, such as the BioImages Salon.

Charles Hedgcock RBP, FBPA

Few things have been more exciting to me than to get to review a plethora of amazing images submitted to the BioImages Salon. I've been honored, over the years, to marvel at the wonderful work created by so many creative image makers. As a former judge, I've been asked to give some insight about evaluating salon entries.

Canadian Founders Award: Male Western Hercules Beetle, Dynastes granti © Charles Hedgcock, RBP, FBCA

One thing I have found especially important is image quality, which is paramount. Mostly, it's simply the things you should expect from a professionally created photograph, yet sometimes are found lacking. For example: sharp focus, good exposure and careful retouching, with no artifacts in the sky or other areas from a dirty image sensor. Also, submissions should be the proper pixel dimension and resolution required for entry to the salon.

For the Natural Science category, it is important to list the scientific name as completely as possible. Submissions should at least state the family name, if there is no other information; however, genus and species names are preferred. This is not the place for cute titles! Entries should use the properly formatted scientific name.

For example, the title for an entry in this category would be something like "Desert iguana (Dipsosaurus dorsalis)" or "Desert iguana Dipsosaurus dorsalis". Note that the genus and species names are in brackets, or italicized; the genus starts with a capital letter, and the species name is all lower case. Following the correct protocol shows an attention to detail and the photographer's scientific understanding.

If the image is made using a special imaging technique, or has some particular quality of note, this important information should be stated on the entry form to better inform the judges.

Carefully following instructions and presenting one's finest work will ensure a successful entry and contribute to yet another amazing BIOCOMM Salon.

BCA Medical Education Award – Still Media: Retinal Detachment caused by rupture of globe © Angelos Rantis

Marie Craig

Director, Fountain Street Gallery
Boston, MA, USA

I look for the highest quality, most original, most compelling work in each category. The vast majority of work that I have seen in the two times I have juried BioImages has been of high quality. Occasionally it might fit better into a different category, which is something that can be adjusted. As it is a group decision, the personal likes or dislikes of an individual juror generally don't have much of an impact.

So the best advice I can give? Challenge yourself, submit your best work!

Will Willner, RBP, FBPA

Jurying BioImages is a wonderful experience. It provides an opportunity to see the current state of the profession and as importantly an occasion to share with and learn from the other judges. In every sense of the word, jurying is an educational experience.

I approach jurying is an iterative process, spending more time with individual submissions with each cycle. First, a quick assessment of all submissions reviewing their category placement. We often find a dozen or so entries submitted incorrectly. After discussion with the other judges, the BioImages chair(s) will move them to a more appropriate category.

Second, a more detailed review of image specifications and attention to submission requirements. Are images of at least minimum requested resolutions? Are the color space and file type correct? If appropriate, are genus and species provided? Etc, etc. Specifications/criteria are clearly articulated in the call for submissions. I will not further review images that do not meet those basic requirements.

Best of Show: C Section "It’s a baby girl" © David Bishop, BSc

Third, a technical review. I generally divide entries into 3 groups; technically excellent, technically proficient and technically deficient. Those in the deficient group, with very minor exception, will be rated not to be shown. My specific expertise is in still media, so I spend a fair amount of time with an image’s metadata, particularly exif. I look for focus (optical) and sharpness (digital). Image processing should be pristine (color balance, highlight & shadow retention, noise reduction when appropriate, spot removal etc.). Are the obvious flaws in the way Kohler illumination has been set? I look at the use of light, here technically and not aesthetically. Although many technical concerns are common to all categories, each has unique issues and I try to address those as appropriate. A caveat here is that technically perfect work may still be uninteresting and not worthy of exhibition.

Lastly, an aesthetic review. I spend the most time with this review. The exhibition prospectus specifically mentions that submissions will be judged in number of areas. Content, composition and presentation are somewhat easy to evaluate. Is the field clean, are extraneous details omitted, is the text informative and well written? Again each division/category has unique issues and I try to address those as appropriate. Impact, creativity, originality and effective use of the medium are somewhat more difficult to quantify and judge. Most the discussion amongst the judges occurs with these. I search for submissions that make me want to look at it again and again. Technically excellent and aesthetically compelling submissions are those that tend receive awards.

Paul Crompton, FBCA

I have been judging the BioImages salon for a quite few years now and always find it interesting and challenging. As judges we are given specific criteria to score against but that doesn’t quite tell the whole story and over the years I have developed my own criteria, which influence how I score.

To begin with, an entry has to be technically good; not necessarily faultless but BioImages is a showcase for our profession so basic technical failings are not acceptable. In photography terms: sharpness, color, depth of field, attention to detail, all the technical aspects have to be of a high standard. The exception to this might be the degree of difficulty in achieving the image and the rarity of the subject but these are exceptions.

I examine each entry in detail, often looking at the EXIF data to see how the photographer as achieved the image. And I always look at the images on a calibrated monitor at 100%. Bare in mind, if you can see something isn’t quite right in the image, you can bet the judges will see it too.

The same attention to technique is applied to moving media and graphics entries. In video it’s the same technical aspects of the image, with the addition of sound and editing qualities. With graphics entries, basic drawing technique, line, shading and color, composition and use of typography.

Award of Excellence: Electrophotography Discharge image of a Bee Balm Flower © Ted Kinsman

Given that the technical quality is satisfactory, I’m looking for something beyond routine work. This is an exhibition so it needs to be showcasing more than just basic technique, however good that is. The entrant must be demonstrating how they have used their knowledge and skills and applied them creatively to produce a strong interpretation of the brief. Is their originality here?

In mentioning the brief, one of the things that frustrates me as a judge is when an entrant does not provide the information asked for to support and interpret their entry. The different BioImages categories require specific written background information, whether it is the diagnosis, magnification, species or client’s brief. This is essential context against which to review the entry.

My final, personal criteria, is aesthetics. Is this image, this video, this artwork or design something to enjoy looking at. Is it striking and beautiful? Is it something I would hang on my wall or show in my portfolio? Would I have entered it myself?

In bullet point form then:

  • Is the entry technically good?
  • Does it fulfill the brief?
  • How hard was it to produce?
  • Does it go beyond basic technique, showing creativity and originality?
  • Is it aesthetically striking? Would I frame it and hang it on my wall?

As a photography lecturer I was once asked, “How can you judge creativity?” For me, creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Creativity is coming together of vision, research, analysis and synthesis, and technical skill. It’s not mysterious, although there is a hint of magic involved.

How to enter BioImages.

Learn more about the 2018 BioImages judges.

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