Camera Club: The Also-Rans

Pretty Pink Clusters, by Norma Walsh

Ken Duquaine

This month’s featured photo by member Norma Walsh won a well-deserved first place in our December competition’s Class A Digital Open category. Were there other photos entered in that category that were also of excellent quality? Absolutely!

Have you ever entered a photo in a competition that you were certain was a “can’t miss” winner, only to have it score among the also-rans? Or perhaps you’ve submitted a well-loved photo to a website or magazine as a potential featured photo and had it rejected, much to your frustration. Did you find yourself thinking that the judges or editor must be incompetent? How could they not have selected my photo? Rest assured that such has been the experience of any photographer who regularly enters competitions.

Here’s some food for thought along with an example that I believe supports the following assertion: Photographic excellence is a highly subjective concept. Arizona Highways magazine has been an icon of photographic excellence in our state, much as National Geographic has been nationally for a very long time. If you are fortunate enough to be a subscriber or have access to the Special Subscriber Issue included with the regular January issue of Arizona Highways, you will find an entire magazine entitled “The Year in Pictures 2023” devoted to its own also-rans. These images were considered for various issues of 2023 and ultimately passed over in favor of other photos. Editor Robert Stieve points out that the quality of these photos is extraordinary, and the reasons for their rejection range from having too many great photos of a particular subject to choosing a photo on a coin flip.

Once again, the point here is the subjectivity involved in photo evaluation and selection. The fact that Arizona Highways devoted an entire publication to also-rans speaks volumes about that subjectivity. Many photographers who persevere in presenting a photo that they believe is of superior quality to multiple competitions are sure to experience a common occurrence. A photo that does poorly in one competition can ultimately be a first-place winner in another.

In reality, however, it’s not about winning, is it? Rather, it’s about shooting subjects that speak to you. How a photo may fare in a given competition is of little import. Some of my also-rans hang proudly on the walls of my home. I hope that some of yours do as well.

Our next general meeting will be on March 14 with Lisa Langell as presenter. Her topic will be High-Key Photography.

The Sun Lakes Camera Club (SLCC) meets on the second and fourth Thursdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Lecture Hall of the Cottonwood Country Club, from October through April. For more information about the SLCC and its activities, contact SLCC President Samantha (Sam) Palmatier at 907-727-0334 or [email protected], or past President Lynn Thompson at 480-734-0040 or [email protected] and visit our website,