Photo Book Essay Contest


Judging Criteria for the PPD Photo Book Essay Contest

by Larry Cowles, FPSA, GMPSA

As in any competition, judging is subjective with each judge bringing in their personal biases, experience and likes.  Since this contest is not based solely on photographic content, this article is meant to be instructions to the judges as well as a tutorial to the participants of what the judges will be considering.

Since this will be the first judging of this type, General awards will be given, First, Second, Third, Judges Choice and Honorable Mentions up to 10% of the number of entrants.  Theme or Category awards will not be given in this first contest as we do not know how many people will enter and of what themes will be sent and in what numbers.  There are over 20 potential themes and no way of knowing which would fit this contest.  Theme awards may be given in future contests.

The contest will be judged by 3 qualified judges.  The name of the maker will be covered during the judging process.  Only printed books will be accepted, no digital or PDF or Viewer type books allowed.  Entrant may enter one book and must be a PSA member.  Books may be any size from 5x7 to 9x12.  Books may be hard or soft bound and limited to 60 pages, 30 pieces of paper with each side considered a page.  There is no rule on type of paper, glossy, matte or luster.  Any book received that does not meet these rules will be disqualified.  While the contest is free the enter, the entrant must pay for return postage to have their book sent back after judging.

Subject matter is open and they may be true photo books, books with pictures and words that tell about a subject or text books that tell how to do something.  They may also be books about family, genealogy or other similar topics.


Judges will consider the following when reviewing the books:

  • Does the cover draw you into the book wanting to see more?
  • Does the cover represent what the book is about?
  • Does text on the cover fit with the image?
  • Judges will look for the normal considerations for images used in the book.  Are they sharp, correctly exposed, color balanced and meet all the criteria of any normal photo competition.
  • Do the images and/or text flow from page to page in a pleasing sequence?
  • Does the book have a theme or story that is carried through the book?
  • Does the text add to the book?
  • Is the font used pleasing and go with the subject matter?
  • Are there any typographical errors?
  • Is the placement of text and images pleasing in the layout?
  • Is the subject or topic well covered in the book?
  • In an art book or picture book, does it cover the theme without words and stand on its own?
  • Is the layout pleasing? Is placement of text and images pleasing?
  • Do captions make sense and add to the book?
  • For story or travel books, does the text tell the story and add to the images?
  • For text books, does the text with images tell how to do something and increase your understanding of the subject?

While these are many of the considerations of the judge there may be others.  Judges will use a checklist while reviewing books and give a score.