Canadian Geographic Photo Club - How are the winning photos selected for CG’s photo contests?

How are the winning photos selected for CG’s photo contests?


Canadian Geographic does more than showcase stunning, professional images throughout the magazine. We challenge Canadians to cultivate their talent by participating in our photo competitions. This year photography enthusiasts can submit to both the 24th Annual Photo Contest and the new Wildlife Photography of the Year Contest.

One week before the contest deadline the sorting process begins. Entries include digital, print and slide formats all of which need to be organized according to category.

Within a week of the contest close, pre-judging begins. The photo club coordinator involves the staff of CG, dividing people into groups of three to vote on the thousands of entries. Activity centres around the three-metre-long boardroom table, as prints are spread out for viewing. Members of the new-media team gather around a computer and review the digital submissions.

"Two votes for or against the image determines whether or not the photo will advance to the next round," says new media director Gilles Gagnier. "The goal is to have 100 pre-approved photos for each category."

Within a few days of the pre-judging being finalized, the contest judges are brought in. Two are CG staff members the photo editor, creative director or web designer. The third judge is a professional photographer who has collaborated with the magazine.

Final judging takes one day. It begins with the same voting process as the pre-judging. Once each category has been reduced to 10 to 12 photos, the judges spend more time assessing and discussing each image.

Photos are considered for their technical quality: exposure and focus are essential, as is appropriate film type, when applicable. Judges look for aesthetic elements such as composition, use of colour and light, mood and unique perspective. Finally, context is necessary; the judges have to ensure the photo fits the theme of the category. The process is lengthy and sometimes difficult, especially with the selection of the final photos.

"People react differently, emotionally, at different levels," says photographer and previous photo contest judge David Barbour. "There are tradeoffs. Everyone puts forward their opinion and we listen. We see so many photographs; it comes down to the subtle details."

Great photographs are a balancing act, says Barbour. Photos that capture an equal balance of subject, good light and composition can elevate your photo to the next level.

For everyone looking to submit, Barbour has one piece of advice: "People have to previsualize their image. See it in your head, find it. Then, when you find your subject, balance the time to take the photo with the time of day to get quality of light and composition."

The Annual Photo Contest final selection always includes first place, runner-up and honourable mention for each category, and the grand prize winner. The Wildlife Photography of the Year Contest has six winners in each of the five categories all 30 will be featured in the Canadian Museum of Nature's travelling photography exhibition. The top 15 images from the wildlife contest and all winning images in the annual contest are published in the Canadian Geographic.

By Sheri Gagnon



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