The KPC Photo Essay Competition 2012-2013

This competition is designed to get teams of two or three members to work together to produce a photo-journalistic slideshow, with the benefit of being able to work together to come up with ideas and techniques. It is meant, first and foremost, to be a good way to learn more about telling a story with photography. There will be a prize awarded annually for the best Essay, possibly with 'runner-up' prizes..... and would make good viewing at our Awards Night. It is intended that the whole membership can be shown the essays and asked to vote on their favourites - so no 'judges'. The winning entry each season will also be submitted to CAPA for a club entry in their annual Photo Essay Competition, so we're going to follow their rules.

For several years, the KPC ran the area Audio-Visual Show, a prestigious event which became popular with members of many clubs in Eastern Ontario - and a good fund-raiser. Our main experts, however, both left the club at the same time and we haven't had the expertise to run the show since - perhaps we can revive the event.

A 'Photo Essay' is an image story - a digital slideshow - which describes a subject, accompanied by words and/or music and presented in a pleasing and understandable manner. There are many photo essays available on the web for viewing. CAPA have two types of show - 'Photo Essay' and 'Travel Essay'.

(We need some clarification as to whether the club's entry to CAPA should be one or the other, or both.)

RULES for Team Essays:

  • 1. The Essay should have either descriptive text or a spoken commentary, and should contain appropriate music (credited). (This is where the help of a third or fourth member of the team may be useful)

  • 2. The maximum length of the essay is five minutes Four minutes is recommended. With each slide showing for around ten seconds, including transitions, that means a lot of images! Even with Intro images (titles, credits, etc) in the show as well, it's still going to be around 25 images.

  • 3. Any image not previously entered in a photo essay may be used.

  • 4. Essays should be ready by the end of March annually and will be judged by the Competition Chair and two assistants.

  • 5. As we would be showing the Essay to CAPA, we must note their recommended software: "Proshow Gold", but Lightroom or Elements could be used to put the show on a WMV (Windows Media Video) file. Alternatively, "Sony Vegas", "Pictures to exe" or "Mac to exe".

  • 6. The theme or subject of the Essay is entirely Open.
  • 7. Team Essay:

    • Two (2) member team: not more than 60% of the images may be made by one team member.

    • Three (3) member team: not more than 40% of images may be made by one team member.

    • Four (4) member team: not more than 30% of the images may be made by one team member.

    • It may be beneficial to recruit an extra member of your team (up to a maximum of four) who is more comfortable with slideshow software or Lightroom, Photoshop etc. If this member is employed solely to design the slideshow, then the team must act as a three-member team, with appropriate percentages as above. So the maximum number of members is FOUR.

    • Club members can be in more than one team - production of the necessary images may not take all that long and you may enjoy it so much you want to do another one, with the same team or others.
    • While the Exec may occasionally ask members about the progress of the Essays, it's just to make sure we'll have a reasonable number of entries to vote on (probably in March of each year) and not be voting on just one or two entries or have a totally 'blank' evening. There's no 'registration' or need to inform the Exec about teams, or their subjects until just prior to the voting night (perhaps February). Feel free to surprise your colleagues!
    • The team needs to submit details of the show, its subject and the names of the members of the production team (perhaps February, as above, or when formal entries are called for) to the designated Competition Organiser. A downloadable Submission Form is available, which, when completed, should show the names of the team members, the essay title, file format, number of pictures per member etc. Be prepared to bring your Essay on a USB drive or DVD to the voting night.

  • 8. Scoring: Members in attendance on the night of the competition (Monday April 16th) will be given a pre-prepared Photo Essay Voting Form containing a list of the Essays to be seen and they will be invited to, individually, give marks out of 100 points as follows:

  • Photography

    40 points

    Continuity and Editing

    30 points

    General Appeal

    20 points


    10 points

  • 9. Results will be known at the end of the meeting and prizes (to be arranged) will be awarded for 1st 2nd and 3rd places at the Awards Night.

Most of the following, particularly the planning, are best done in a team - so here is the agenda for your planning meeting...

1 Tell a story
Use photography to tell a story. First you’ll need to choose a subject, which can be the hardest part of the process. Before you head off to far-reaching countries, try experimenting with story ideas closer to home. Whether it’s the drudgery of life in an office or the joy of working your own allotment, you’ll find there are plenty of interesting stories near by.

2 Do some research
Even if the story is close to your heart or home, you should still do some research. Plan what you want to say. Ask yourself if you want to tell the story in just one shot or whether the subject might benefit from a series of multiple pictures. A photo essay, for example, could help you to reveal more about your subject.

3 Choose your style
Think about the way you intend to shoot and how you want the final image to look and feel. Do you want the finished pictures to be in black and white or colour? Do you only want to use natural light to enhance the mood, or will hard flash light add to your story? A bit of planning will make your photos more coherent.

4 Be prepared
Once you’ve decided on an approach and style you’ll need to ensure you have the right gear to capture your shot. You probably won’t need to take your entire kit bag with you, so just select the tools you need. Be sure you’ve got the right focal lengths covered, and ask yourself if you might need a tripod. Are your camera batteries fully charged? Have you got spare batteries for your flashgun and plenty of memory cards? Don’t let a lack of preparation ruin a shoot.

5 Get permission
Though usually not strictly necessary from a legal point of view, it’s a good idea to seek permission, especially if you’re photographing people going about their business. Explain what you’re doing and you’ll often get a hearty collaboration from your subject, but sneak around suspiciously and you’ll be given a wide berth or asked to leave. If you’re working on a long-term project you’ll need to build a healthy rapport to get results. You could take your pictures from a distance, but you're not going to get that immediacy that is required.

6 Don't rush
The best documentary pictures are often the result of a long-term project, so try not to rush in and attempt to capture all the shots in one go. If you do end up with limited time in one location, try to maximise the time you have. Plan with your team members just what shots are required.

7 Get back-up
One of the most important tasks for a digital photographer is to ensure all your images are safe. As soon as you get back from your day’s shooting, download your images and make back-up copies on an external hard-drive or DVD. It’s a good idea to keep your back-ups in a different location to your main computer.

8 Process your images
Once your images are safe you can start to process them. If you shoot in RAW you can make most of your tweaks to colour, tone and contrast at the processing stage using smart software such as Adobe Camera Raw. For a documentary project it’s unlikely that you’ll want to manipulate your images heavily. Just make a few adjustments or try converting to black and white - it can often, but not always, give added impact.

9 Think about presentation
Once you’ve finished your project, think about how you want to show it off. This is where the computer know-how comes in - but if it's a major problem ask somebody else to put it together for you. This extra person will be included in your team (up to a limit of four). Once you’ve made a series of images, as well as the slideshow you could have them printed and framed to be hung in an exhibition (possibly using some of the extra shots that were made), or perhaps they would be better suited to being viewed in a book format. There are plenty of online printing services that can make great books of your pictures for a reasonable price.

10 Learn from the best photographers
Magnum Photos is a photo agency that was founded by Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger and David “Chim” Seymour just after the Second World War. It’s since become one of the world’s most important photographic institutions.

CAPA's Rules for Photo Essay


A computer, some images and inexpensive software and you can produce a digital AV show

Closing Date: May 1st each year
a. Photo Essay - any subject except travel, with commentary and/or music.
b. Travel Essay - a time-travel sequence or an in-depth study of a travel subject or geographical area, with commentary and/or music.
Scores: 40% photography; 30% general interest (originality, conveys story or idea); 30% production (continuity, music usage, techniques).
AWARDS Gold, Silver and Bronze medals will be awarded to individuals for the top 3 photo essays and the top 3 travel essays; A certificate will be awarded for Best of Show. Medal certificates will be awarded for group and club entries. Honour Award Certificates may be awarded at the discretion of the Judges. If prizes have been secured for this competition, they will be awarded in lieu of medals or certificates. Prizes must be accepted as offered. No exchanges. No monetary offers or award substitutions.
  • 1. By submitting an entry to this competition, entrants agree that their entry will be retained, duplicated and distributed by CAPA for promotional/educational purposes.
  • 2. Each member (individual member, club, family/team or group) may submit only 1 entry.
  • 3. Enter as : an individual member - the work of one person OR a family member – i.e. a spousal team, or as a family - only one person needs to be a CAPA member) OR a group (a joint effort of two or more CAPA members) OR a club (joint effort of two or more members of a CAPA club) selected for entry by the Club.
  • For Group, Club and Family Entries (must be two or more entrants) please include names of all participants/photographers in the “Photographers” section at the bottom of the entry form.
  • 4. Maximum length of essay: 5 minutes.
  • 5. The show must be produced from the photographers' original still photographs – no movie clips.
  • 6. CAPA recommends the use of non copyrighted music or obtaining a release for copyrighted music. The photographer, not CAPA, will be responsible for legal issues arising from use of music.
  • 7. Each show must begin with a black 3 second slide. In order that the photographers' identity not be revealed to the judges: Credits for the producer/photographer(s) and music must appear at the END of the show: a three second blank slide showing the word "Credits", (so that we can stop the show before the credits are seen by the judges), then credit slides, ending with a 3 second blank slide.
  • 8. Naming the Show: Place the title first, hyphen, Photographer or Club Name E.g. Thunder in the Rockies-KingstonPhotoClub.exe
  • 9. The show will be copied onto a PC and run from the hard drive using Windows Media Player. [The Show should be saved as a WMV file]. Suggested software: PhotoStory; Pro Show Gold/Producer; and others capable of saving as WMV (like Photoshop Elements). Do not limit the number of times or days the show may be viewed/played, a feature provided by some programs.

© 2006-2011 Kingston Photographic Club
All rights reserved. Images copyright of named KPC member/KPC
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