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The very best image makers learn to use light in a way that is masterful and compelling, often making the light a seamless part of the overall story. Light, while judged on its own for the purposes of the evaluation does, in fact, influence the other categories.

Reflected light, for example, can impact accurate color balance while different lighting conditions affect the exposure triangle. Do your subjects have catchlights in their eyes? Do you showcase a variety of lighting and only occasionally use flat light? If so, you will receive a score of 4 in this category.

To achieve a 5 requires a combination of both technical and creative skills. Your images have contrast and depth and your subjects are consistently well lit (technical). Light should also contribute to story or mood often (creative).

An exceptional score (6) goes to the photographer who uses light in a remarkably beautiful way. There is depth and dimension in every image and light is used effectively to contribute to the mood or narrative of each photograph. In other words, light becomes as much as part of the story as the subjects.

Use of Light

As you examine your set with color and white balance in mind, be sure to consider how other elements may be affecting your score. Often color and white balance are impacted, both negatively and positively, by processing decisions. If you are noticing issues, take a look at those processing choices
to see if that is where the problem lies then re-edit to ensure your color and white balance is accurate.

A consistent and global white balance and/or skin tone issue (such as images that are slightly warm or cool) coupled with occasional issues like reflected color or shadow undertones will result in a score of 4 of 6 points in this category.

To achieve a score of 5, skin tones should be accurate most of the time, but if there are inconsistencies they shouldn’t detract from the integrity of the image. Color and white balance is accurate the majority of the time and any mixed light or reflected color is managed well.

**You are not required to have any colored images within your set. In the absence of color images, your Use of Light score will be doubled.

Color + White Balance

While some categories require that you pay attention to your camera settings, this category requires that you pay attention to everything in the frame. Every detail in a well composed image is intentional, from where you place the light source to where you place your subject, to what else is in the frame. Nothing is accidentally cut out, or included. How you pose your subjects is also important. Not only must the pose be flattering, your subject should look comfortable and relaxed.

The highest score in this category is awarded when the maker demonstrates the powerful use of design elements and compositional devices, as well as outstanding balance within the frame. The composition clearly enhances the mood or story and when compositional rules are broken, they are done so deliberately and effectively. Posing is deliberate and designed to both flatter the subject as well as advance the story.

This category often proves challenging for many photographers. Taking the time to learn more about what advanced composition is and how to effectively pose your subjects will not only help you view your image set more accurately, it will also help you create significantly more compelling imagery

Composition

Whether your image is almost perfect in-camera or you are using processing to help remedy an error or two, how you choose to finish your image is a very important final step in the image making process. And while sometimes presets can truly be one-click-wonders, it is rare to have a preset work for every image in every lighting scenario without any need for adjustments.

One of the defining markers of a Click Pro is the ability to use editing software, including presets, as a way to strengthen an image-- the artist defines the outcome of the image, not a preset, action, or trick.

When your set is filled with flawless, remarkably beautiful processing that contributes to your overall style and vision, you will receive an exceptional score. In these sets, the processing is so well done it is almost not noticeable to the viewer, it fades away and supports the overall story and mood.

Processing + Cohesion

Obviously, focus and depth of field are important elements in every image. Focus directs the viewer’s eye and helps share the photographer’s vision. Depth of field (your aperture) is an equally important skill to master as it also contributes to the story and mood and controls the depth or intimacy of an image.

You will receive a score of 4 out of 6 points if focus is frequently accurate in your set of images. In addition, depth of field may occasionally be insufficient to keep details in focus, or it may not effectively isolate your subject. In other words, your depth of field selection is occasionally discordant with the story you are telling. 

Perhaps your focus is consistently accurate and there is some use of creative (de)focus in your images. If so, you have met the criteria for a score of 5.

Does each image demonstrate perfect focus, sharpness and clarity? Is there an appropriate and varying depth of field from image to image? Are focus and depth of field used as an element of storytelling? If you answered yes to each of these, your image set is in the exceptional category.

Technical Basics

A technically well executed image is nice to look at, but an image that is technically and creatively excellent is something infinitely more incredible. When the photographer’s vision shines through, it elevates an image from ordinary to extraordinary. This category evaluates the intangibles that go into making a portfolio stand out.

Have a friend help you evaluate your images in this category. You know what story you want to tell but your viewer does not. Having someone else let you know what they think you are saying will help you learn if you are effectively communicating your vision.

The highest score is reserved for those whose style is distinctly identifiable as belonging to that photographer. The work cannot be mistaken for that of another image maker. Images elicit an emotional response, inspire and captivate the viewer.

Creativity + Intention

Standards

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