Zen and the art of competition

By Ellen Bedrosian

My feelings about competitions have most definitely evolved over the 10 years I’ve been a member of the club. When I was a beginner, I religiously scribbled down judges’ comments about every image that I entered. Every newbie mistake they criticized (over saturating used to be a big one for me) was dutifully noted, never to be repeated again.



“Bahama Jaws” scored a 9 and I forgot I had entered it.

More importantly, I learned what worked on the images that scored high. I stayed for the entire competition, not just the class I was competing in. Using this strategy, I’d like to believe that I learned what makes an image technically sound.

After moving out of Beginner and into Advanced, my opinion about the process of judging became more aligned with the opinions of members who had been competing longer than I had been. It seemed to me that the art of judging was capricious at best. My blog post about it, The After-competition Whine and Cheese Party, was the most popular post ever. It is kind of painful when you’ve worked for hours on perfecting an image and the judge says, “Oh, this is very nice. I really like this,” and scores it a 7. If I get a 6 from one judge, I’ll enter the image again if the photo didn’t get any points knocked off for technical reasons, and the judge’s low score was purely subjective. Almost every member has a story about an image that one judge scored a 6 and another scored a 9.

During the last Nature competition, something kind of weird happened. Because the competition was postponed due to inclement weather (coupled with eschewing my normal procrastinating habits and entering images early) by the time the competition finally got underway, I’d forgotten what images I had entered. After scoring 8’s on three images, I thought my run was over. I assumed that the image count was the same as it is for Pictorial: three images per maker. I was relaxing and enjoying the rest of competition (just a little disappointed that none of my images scored a 9) when Bahama Jaws appeared on the screen. Imagine my delight when it scored a 9! It was a totally unexpected surprise. A moment of zen.

It seems that in competition, like in life, the Buddha said it best: “The secret to happiness is letting go.”

Spread the word


  1. rachel

    I think you spoke of the feelings most of us have. Been there, done that, we can relate to your story.
    Great writing as always. Love it. Congrats on your 9!!!!!! LOL

Comments are closed.