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Print Competition, Strategy of Winning - John Murray

Notes from DPPA meeting 2-7-2012 “Print Competition, Strategy of Winning"


  • Why compete?
  • What is a National Award Merit print?
  • Who am I?

Where We are Headed

  • What the PEC evaluates in your print- The Twelve Elements
  • The request of the work on the viewer- Emotionally drawn into the work, “Take a Longer Look”
  • Case studies with tidbits

The Twelve Elements

  • Impact is the “wow” sense of surprise one gets upon viewing an image for the first time.
  • Technical excellence is the print quality and application of skill as it is presented for viewing.
  • Creativity is the original, fresh, and external expression of the imagination of the maker.
  • Style is the repeated, exhibited inclination of the photographer.
  • Lighting is consideration for light quality, quantity, and direction. Does it contain one of five true light forms?
  • Subject Matter should be interesting, not a normal treatment, and in keeping with the story.
  • Technique is how to pose, how to light, how to print, how to prepare the concept, and how to post process.
  • Story Telling is the ability of the image to speak for itself and present a story.
  • Composition is subject placement and design flow within the image. 4 Compositional placement theories: Quadrant theory, thirds/fifths/sevenths/ninths/elevenths, Golden Mean, Bakker Saddle,
  • Presentation is the preparation environment of the photograph’s (or book’s) viewing.
  • Color Balance is the related issue of color that affect the viewers attention. Is it one of five color schemes? Is it congruent with its interpretation?
  • Center of Interest – The main thing is that the main thing remains the main thing.

Art is the ability to draw the viewer into the image and want to be a part. The emotional connection allows time for the viewer to maintain involvement in the piece. This connection is through the element of depth.

Take A Longer Look – 4 Philosophies
  • Light
  • Color
  • Line
  • Circular observation


  • Mood is represented by the quality of light and the quantity of light used.
  • A direct main-light statement is the most powerful use of frontal light.
  • Light separates the subject from the background. There is a strength of lighting placements: back-light (into the light source), side-light, then portrait frontal light.
  • The eye is drawn to the shadows to enjoy depth and emotion.
  • The eye is attracted to the area of greatest contrast.
  • Light defines roundness, shape and translucency.
  • A direct main light statement is the most powerful accent for impact in lighting.
• Color polarity (vibration) adds depth.
• The use of color relates to everyone, thereby creating interest.
• Color saturation placed against de-saturation will intensify the color in the saturated area.
• The color of subject need to be ”in scheme” with its color environment.
• A planned color palette is preferred to an unplanned mixing of various indiscriminate colors.

LINE studies
• There is a “Hierarchy of Compositional Shapes” Triangle, oval/circle with a diagonal through it, diagonals, vertical-horizontal intersections, curvilinear compositions (oval, circle, heart shapes, S, C, Lazy S, backward c), alphanumeric representations, vertical line, & horizontal line is last.
• When a subject has a recognizable shape, it is lingers in memory retention.
• Balance dictates the composition.
• When the subject is placed in 1 of 4 placement theories it will draw the viewer into the image.
• Diagonal inclinations determine flow (power or grace) motion.

• Eye entrance into the image is usually bottom left third.
• The eye flow pattern should spiral toward the impact point.
• Balance theories-
   – Equidistance, when to use the center
   – Balance of the Steelyard
   – Primary - Secondary relationships
• Eye flow is directed by vertical horizontal intersections.

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