What The Judges Look For In Photographs

Join Mike Jensen for an in-depth discussion on


People say that judging art is so subjective and part of that is true, but you can give yourself an edge by knowing what the judges look for in photography competitions and exhibitions.  Let's take a look at the components of a photograph and how Mike begins to break down an image:

  • Exposure/Light
  • Composition
  • Impact/Moment
  • Technique
  • Presentation

Here's a crititique I did for the Florida Camera Club council.  An example of how the critiques work.

"...you may never figure out exactly what a judge is looking for. But if you nail the basics & think like a judge, you'll give yourself an edge!"
~ Mike Jensen

What the judges look for in your photographs

3rd Party (Non-Manufacturer) Camera Manual

Exposure/Light Basics

Whether you have been a photographer for decades or just picked up your first camera, you will need to know that photography is ALL ABOUT MANAGING LIGHT.  The best place to start with this is to REALLY learn your camera.  Inside and out, front to back, EVERY button and dial, and (yes Sony users) EVERY menu item.  I suggest buying a 3rd party manual for your camera and not relying on the manual your camera's manufacturer provides.  The manufacturer's manuals are usually written by engineering geeks and nerds who never really take the camera out to use it.  You need a manual that's written by a photographer!  Oh, and buy a digital copy and put it on your smart phone so when you're out on a workshop in the field and the instructor says "Let me see your manual so I can help you with your settings..." you'll actually have your manual.

So, how do you really know you have the light managed and have nailed the exposure?      

First, look at the technical side.  Look at the Histogram.  Where does the curve go?  What does it look like?  We'll look at this more in depth in our discussion.


I have a WHOLE presentation prepared about Composition.  Learn the most composition techniques you can and then REALLY learn how to crop.


This is where you really get in to some of that subjective business.  I have MUCH more to present on Impact/Moment in a photograph, but the general rule of thumb is what I call the "WOW Factor".  If you show someone (anyone) your image and they say WOW!  You might have nailed the Moment/Impact!


This is a hard one to learn.  You can have one of the best photos out there but if it's not printed on the right paper, or given the right editing treatment in Lightroom or Photoshop, OR if it's not framed or matted appropriately then you're sunk!  Even when you are presenting your images digitally on social media, you should seek to nail the presentation.


Here's some of my recommendations on how to always be on the top of your photography game:

  • Don’t mortgage your future for camera gear. Get better using the gear you have, BUT, when buying…
  • Buy the best (mirrorless) gear you can afford.
  • Learn, practice & excel at the basics
    • Light/Exposure
    • Composition
    • Impact/Moment
    • Technique/Technical)
  • Find yourself a mentor who you can talk to and shoot with
  • Take at least one class/workshop a quarter
  • Become a more purposeful photographer
  • Always have a project you're working on.

So Where Is The Future of Photography Going?

Photography Will Follow The Technology, But We Still Need To Be Good At The Basics. And the basics are changing.

Mike's Suggestions For Ongoing Improvement

My first suggestion is that you sign up for my e newsletter.  Once you do that I'll shoot you an email with several bulleted suggestions.

Also, if you're in a camera club or a civic group, I do lectures on photography and it's ins and outs.  I'd love to talk to your group!

Every month I send informative e newsletters out to my followers about once a month. My e newsletters are always full of tips and info for improving your photography as well as any upcoming lectures, programs and workshops that he may be doing. PLEASE feel contact me regarding a speaking engagement or any photography question you may have.

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Mike Jensen - Mike Jensen Photography Workshops

What The Judges Look For In Your Photographs

An in depth discussion about judging and juries in competition photography

Presented by Mike Jensen
Presentation Time: 60 minutes
Discussion Time:  Varies, usually 15-30 minutes

Mike Jensen has been a photography Judge or Jury member for numerous photography competitions/exhibitions from coast to coast for a number of years!  He know's what the judges are looking for, and he's willing to share it with you!