Photo Competitions & Cheating.

This commentary comes about because of two threads at Dpreview and because I have issues with the way some results are shown in the challenges or competitions we photographers like to be a part of. We do this for various reasons, some for pride, others because they just like to share their work with others and others for all sorts of reasons. As always click the links to the articles in question.

Do You Want A Good Laugh?  This thread asks the question, are the entrants too serious in the challenges? My reply is the second in this thread.

The poster of this thread has also alluded to a much larger conversation regarding suspected cheats in the challenges. What should be done with cheats ? part 3

This thread has the links at top for the first 2 parts, but essentially is a continuation of an accusation made at the very beginning of the thread that the poster originated. If you read through enough of this, it is apparent that there are indeed issues regarding how the photo challenges run in regards to entries, and voting. However directly accusing an individual of cheating really requires a great deal more evidence than a ring around a couple of photo entries. A lot of the entries that I saw in these threads didn’t win or score in the 10 ten. There are some questionable entries in some of the challenges though, that look to have bent or misinterpreted the meaning of the challenge. Being a multi cultural website, things really do get lost in translation.

Heres an example of what I’m referring to. Recently I entered the D-Photo Nikon Amateur Photographer of the Year Competition 2012. One of the categories I entered was the Motion category.

For the sake of clarity heres what the definition means if you refer to a dictionary.


[moh-shuhn]  Show IPA


  • 1. the action or process of moving or of changing place opposition; movement.
  • 2. power of movement, as of a living body.
  • 3. the manner of moving the body in walking; gait.
  • 4. a bodily movement or change of posture; gesture.
  • 5. a proposal formally made to a deliberative assembly: to make a motion to adjourn.

Therefore it seems reasonable to assume that what we need do is go out and take photos of things that are in motion and show that to be the case. I would suggest that this should include some form of motion blur, be it the subject or background or perhaps a combination of both or some other means that shows the object/subject isn’t static. It seems that most of the entrants understood the idea, clearly a few didn’t. There are some truly excellent and innovative shots here. My own entry isn’t all that great but at least it shows motion. So what then do we make of the winner of this section and  overall honours?

You be the judge. But first my interpretation/impression. When the copy of the magazine ( yes I am a subscriber ) arrived in the mailbox I was looking forward to seeing  what the winning shots looked like. From the image below it was, what the? 

At first glance I thought it an image of someone falling down the side of a building. The red pipe? at right and the receptacle it entered would seem to suggest some form of plumbing. Remember this was my initial thought. Somewhat puzzled I looked again at the image and read the article about the image and what it was about. The idea is that we a viewing a person in mid leap with head thrown back. Now I have to say right here that I do like this image, more from the technical aspect as it made me wonder just how many times it took to get it just right. The photographer is to be commended at least for the work involved.

Does it convey motion? Not really. The image is static and really doesn’t give the viewer any real reference to where the motion may be, for all we know the individual is actually suspended above the floor/wall, as as we all know it takes very little work with Photoshop to make the harness or supports disappear.

Now take a look at the entries that were submitted by others who had entered this section. Motion entries viewed here.

Two of the Judges, Bruce Burgess & Jocelen Janon commented how they liked the combination of lighting, view angles, converging lines, that lead the eye to the person back flipping against a wall at street level. I’m sorry but I just don’t believe that the image is that good. To me at least it really doesn’t convey the notion of motion (no pun intended). In fact these fine photographers, in my opinion both have images on their respective websites that convey motion in a arguably better way that the competition winner. Jocelen’s images of the triathlon have some nice shots that convey motion very nicely.

So is the winning image cheating the odds in some way? Has it been overly manipulated in some fashion? Does it truly convey the message of motion. Its certainly artistic, but that’s not what was called for in the premise that motion equals movement. As with all competitions the judge’s decision is final, no matter how much we disagree or feel aggrieved by it. The same holds true for accusations of cheating in challenges such as those at Dpreview. The person selecting the challenge also sets the rules for each challenge and has the power to remove any image they feel doesn’t meet the standard or comply with the rules. After that its over to the voting public to decide. Arguing about who gets how many votes isn’t particularly helpful either.

A small disclaimer:

The commentary above is not directed at D-Photo magazine, Nikon, the Judges, or any of the participants but simply serves as way to show how interpretation can differ markedly between photographers and their audience. All those involved in this years competition are to be applaud for their  contributions to an excellent competition, one that hopefully will continue for a long time to come.

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