Thought Leadership

In judgment

By Colin Walls

When I am not writing about, talking about or generally being concerned about embedded software, I have a life. I have various interests: reading/writing, food/drink, socializing, theater/cinema/art and trying to make my 120 year old house more like a home. But if you asked me what my hobby was, I would have to say photography. I have been doing photography all of my adult life and it gives me a lot of pleasure. I am not an equipment junkie. I am for too lazy to carry one of those enormous gadget bags full of stuff; I have a modest camera that weighs very little. It is really the taking of pictures that I enjoy most. I do use Photoshop, but do not like spending hours messing with images on the computer. Photography can be a solitary activity, as non-photographer partners can become frustrated with requests like “can we just wait here for an hour or so until the Sun is right”, but it can also be social in the form of camera clubs …

I have been a member of a number of clubs over the last twenty years, changing as I have moved around a bit. It is good to rub shoulders with like minded people. It would be easy to imagine a camera club as a group of people who spend the meetings discussing F-stops, depth of field and what is new from Nikon, Canon etc. and for such a group to be impenetrable for an outsider. Whilst such topics do get discussed, most camera clubs are a lot more relaxed than that and welcome inexperienced photographers as well as experts. Club members are very diverse. Some are equipment freaks and always have the latest kit; I wonder if they ever take any pictures other than “test shots”. But these people are thankfully a small minority and most people just like taking and enjoying pictures.

A significant part of all camera clubs’ programs are competitions. Members are invited to submit pictures and these are assessed by a “judge”, who is normally from outside of the club. Usually the judge goes through the images one by one, passing comment [hopefully constructive criticism] and assigns a score or a place. Some people like the thrill of winning. For others, like myself, who are not really competitive, competitions are a good opportunity to get feedback – although I would not be truthful if I said I am not pleased when my work does well.

A few years ago, I took the necessary class and became listed as a judge myself. I enjoy visiting other clubs, meeting more photographers and seeing lots of fine pictures [and a few not so fine!]. I do not really like the term “judging”, as that makes it sound like I am in some way superior to the people entering the competitions; I prefer to think in terms of doing an “assessment”. Whenever possible, I get the pictures in advance of the competition for review. I write notes for each image, with a rule that the first thing I say must be positive [which can sometimes be a challenge!]. I am entitled to charge a fee and expenses, but I chose not to. Instead I ask for a donation to a favorite charity. I have chosen SightSavers, which I feel is somewhat appropriate to photographers.

And, this evening, I am off to visit a club in this capacity. I am looking forward to it, as this is a return visit and it is always great to be invited back. Obviously I did not upset enough people last time, so they are giving me another chance. 🙂

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at