Last Night – SPF Portfolio night

The SPF Portfolio – what’s it all about? Clubs from around Scotland can enter images, which go before three judges, each of whom marks out of 5; images scoring 13 or more (ie at least one judge gives it top marks) are included in the annual ‘portfolio’, which is then circulated to the clubs as a slideshow – and that’s what we saw last night. Our very own David Hay talked us through the 13s, 14s and 15s, in the principal categories of colour print, mono print, and digital. Some themes emerge.

Over the course of a thousand or so images, the judges have but a few seconds per image to cast their scores, so the ones that do well are those with immediate impact. In his commentary, David points out to us such impactful elements are strong leading lines, triangles in composition, use of negative space, harmonious colours, and more. And his keen eye spots things we (and the judges) might miss – the banding in a processed sky; strange sky replacement; the ragged edge to the crop; the hole in the dog where the cloning was careless.

With dry wit, he doesn’t labour these points, but he makes them clearly, and there’s lots to learn. What makes an image impactful, and what are some pitfalls to avoid.

This is more than we get from the SPF. In the competition itself, the images are marked but not critiqued (there’s just too many of them). So if we’re to raise our game, the critique needs to happen before we put our entries in. If our images have already been entered in an internal competition, we might take the advice of the judge at that time. Or we might ask around in the club for advice, to help each other make our entries as impactful, and error-free, as possible.

Some of the high-placed images use a lot of imagination and skill. Is PPS likely to clean up this year? Perhaps not. But it would be good to think we can do better than last year. Over an entry of say 50 images, having them score mainly 12s and 13s will do better for the club than if they score mainly 11s and 12s.

So let’s, while there’s time, look to find some strong images we’d like to enter, and check in with each other about their strengths and weaknesses, so there’s time to polish them up and curate a good club entry before we put them in.