22 June 2013
Aiming for an 'A' - Part 5. Assessment Day (But Not Mine).
Although I had deferred my assessment, and in fact was now not even sure which category to apply within (haven't I been here before...) I planned to attend the day as an observer. I had already taken the time off so it seemed a good idea to go along and see the other panels, and hear the comments. Another training exercise for me, in effect!
I settled at the back of the room, where I could stand up to view the panels without being in anyone's way and keep out of the view of the large camera with which the RPS were filming this assessment day. My tiny 'handbag' camera (Panasonic Lumix TZ6) was a fraction of the size, but came in handy to take a few record shots from time to time.
There were 20 panels put forward during the day and the standards were high and strictly kept to. Only 4 were recommended for the A. A couple of others went on to the referral process. One was moved to another category since it clearly fitted 'Travel' better than 'Professional and Applied'.
Things started off well with the first two panels presented both passing. Then things got tricky, with quite a run of 'not recommended' panels and a bit of an air of rising tension.
I made notes of as many comments on each panel as I could, both the positive and negative, and afterwards (because I'm sad) transferred them to a spreadsheet and assessed which were the most common problems so that I could try to avoid replicating them in my own panel.
In the lead by considerably more than just a short head was what the judging panel called insufficient photographer input. Around half of the presented panels received variations on this comment. It's clear that this area needs careful consideration during the shooting and selecting process of producing an A panel. I've asked about 'photographer input' before, and my understanding of it is that it means presenting something more than a series of 'good' images. It's demonstrating use of different focus points, shutter speeds, camera angle, perspective, position, depth of field, inclusion or exclusion of the environment and so on. To me, it means showing that I am using my camera as a tool to make an interesting picture from what is in front of me, and not simply snapping what is literally in front of my eyes.
A lack of photographer style also affected some panels, which is important since the RPS considers that ARPS candidates should be at a stage where they are developing their own recognisable style. The comment that there was not enough variety was also made a number of times, and this seems to me to tie in quite well with the photographer input issue mentioned above.
Some panels had colour problems. Some of the colours looked a bit aggressive, and some of the monochrome tones were either flat or too dense! Because of this, some of the panels didn't look as cohesive as they might have because the variations were usually not across the whole panel. It interrupted the 'flow' (IMHO!). Those old favourites from 'L' days - 'over sharpening' and 'blown highlights' made an appearance again, reminding me that I can't afford to forget or disregard what I learnt putting together my 'L' as I work towards my 'A'.
Some post-processing was referred to as being 'a bit ordinary' and some as 'over processed'. That's a tough one in some cases as it's a bit of an 'eye of the beholder' issue, with some people liking plainer approaches and others preferring more 'worked' results. For me, I think I learnt that if I were to use a particular processed look, I would need to be cautious.
A quarter of the panels were affected by print quality problems. I was quite shocked by this actually and it does worry me. So I will ensure that I check and then order my prints all together, and well ahead of my assessment date in case I have to do it all again. (I have no large printer at home, so have to have them professionally printed). I will also ensure my monitor is kept correctly calibrated!
So there were a wide range of things to think about. Problems flagged through the day came from right across the entire process: the planning, shooting, processing, printing and final panel selection stages.
Which just shows that the level of the challenge of producing well conceived, well shot, well processed, well produced and well selected images cannot be underestimated for the 'A' candidate.