"Plain", Abstract" or "Decorated" - are there definitions and criteria??

posted March 20th, 2017
1. So, what is a "plain" photo, what is an "abstract" photo and what is a "decorated " photo?

Would these be valid definitions:

Plain - basically "out of the camera" with small editing changes such as cropping, exposure and saturation adjustments and sharpening.

Abstract - abstraction can happen on many levels. In its simplest form, the photographer simply removes any superfluous objects from the scene. In a more complex abstract photograph, the subject may be hard to recognize, rendered as a series of design elements which only hint at the general structure of the whole. Abstracting your subject doesn't necessarily mean rendering it unrecognizable. A straight photo can be purely abstract. Pure abstract photography is not limited to being accomplished in post processing. (OK – confession – I had no idea – this is from online research)

Decorated – decoration can include the addition of objects or items which may or may not highlight the main subject.

Until these definitions can be agreed upon surely it is impossible to validly judge a photo as an excellent, good or poor plain, abstract or decorated photo? What would be your definitions for these three terms.

2. So, how to judge a challenge?

Would these be valid criteria (based on the suggested definitions above):

• Relevance to topic
• Absence of obvious editing
• Creativity eg POV, DOF, Originality, Selection of subject matter
• Technical excellence
• Composition
• Overall Impact

• Relevance to topic with lack of superfluous items
• Suitability of any editing
• Creativity eg POV, DOF, Originality, Selection of subject matter
• Technical excellence to include editing
• Composition showing removal of superfluous items
• Overall Impact
• If distortion or blurring or uncomfortable composition is present it is serving a purpose

• Relevance to topic
• Suitability of obvious editing
• Suitability of addition items
• Creativity eg POV, DOF, Originality, Selection of subject matter
• Technical excellence
• Composition
• Overall Impact

Until these criteria can be agreed upon surely it is impossible to validly judge a photo as an excellent, good or poor plain, abstract or decorated photo? What would be your criteria for judging these three types of photos?

3. So, should any or all of these ideas be outlined in the intro to a challenge which is going to require someone to judge the entries received?

Defining the requirements and outlining the judging criteria would give the people entering a basis to work on. It would also allow the people choosing and judging the finalists to feel comfortable in their choices.

Please note that this has been written from the perspective of someone new to the hobby of photography but wanting to learn. Please be kind. Cheers Rob Z
posted March 20th, 2017
Ooooh, this could be a can of worms!
I've just been to a photography club meeting where the judge is a respected animal photographer. He didn't select a single flower photo- despite praising the depth of field (the 'focus ' of the exercise) and points of clarity in each one.
So it comes down to personal preferences with an understanding of the processes.
However I 'won' my first competition early on in my 365 project without a clue of the technicalities and if I'd had to learn the above probably wouldn't have entered as the fun would have been replaced with stress!
posted March 20th, 2017
Are you talking about photo club etc judging or choosing finalists here on 365?
posted March 20th, 2017
Random thoughts: I guess, like many here, I assumed that the challenges were pretty informal. The guest host gets to choose as finalists whatever he/she likes...and then the group votes. There have been times when I thought that the "winning" photo didn't always match the "stated criteria", but it was always a great photo...so--no problem. And it's all in fun.

My take on "abstract" is that the photographer seeks to highlight some quality of the object or scene or layout by leaving out all extraneous features, even (or especially) those that normally would identify the thing.

I've not heard the term "decorated" here...just ETSOOI.

Speaking of "plain"...there used to be a challenge to edit a given photo with just Camera Raw or other RAW editor. I learned SO much from those days. There is a lot that can be done just with subtle adjustments.
posted March 21st, 2017
@robz It is up to the winner of the last challenge to chose their 5 favorite photos to present to the group of 365ers to vote on. Judging by what most winners do, is that they present a variety of styles in their top 5. That is what I do. But ultimately, it is entirely up to the winner's idea of abstract or plain.
posted March 21st, 2017
here on 365 the 'judging' is just a means to get a new host for the challenges to keep them fresh, i wouldnt get too hung up on definitions, the criteria are generally explained in the challenge outlines and for the most part they are broad and not really measures of excellence . and then it is up to the host and the entrants to do as they see fit, its all about fun here. often i disagree with the selections for finalists but i keep it to myself! haha
posted March 21st, 2017
I have no idea what this is in reference to, so my comments are just in general.

Where I submit to juried shows, they have "digital" and "film" photography.

Digital ranges from just compressing to .jpg to fully manipulated and film allows for dark room adjustments, burning, dodging etc.

I find that some photographers want to clearly define the categories, especially if they are not adept at digital manipulation.

In the end, judging is biased on the basis of the judge. If they don't like flowers but do like jelly beans, they are going to pick the jelly beans every time.

And by the way, if I am every judging, I like Sean Connery. Just saying, you can never lose in photography or word games, if you give me the "Sean Connery."

posted March 21st, 2017
@30pics4jackiesdiamond Actually Jackie - you have identified why I posted this. I am a retired science/maths teacher who knows next to nothing about photography. I was chosen as the winner with a photo that I had lots of fun taking. I had no idea of whether or not it was "abstract" Therefore the stress came when I realized I was supposed to choose 5 finalists!! My background means I have always had objectives and criteria to use!! This was the only way I could think of to become a bit more educated about 365. Thank you for your response - I didn't mean to open a can of worms! Cheers Rob Z
posted March 21st, 2017
@annied Hi Annie - thank you for your reply. I am not in any photo club so have no idea about judging. I was just worried about choosing the finalists from the Abstract - thermometer challenge. I wanted to have some base knowledge about what to expect and what to look for. Unfortunately there don't seem to be that many entries yet so it might not be a problem!!
Cheers Rob Z
posted March 21st, 2017
@houser934 Thanks Kathryn for your ideas. I agree with you that the challenges are fun. And your explanation of an abstract photo agrees with the online ideas that I have read. But I didn't get any information like that from the intro of the challenge. The wording was very similar for both sections and a bit confusing as it said that the same image could not be entered in both sections - plain and abstract! - as if it was possible to be both? That was what was confusing to me as a new person with no background and scary as the person having to choose. Thanks for your input - most useful - especially the idea about the edit a plain challenge. Many thanks Rob Z
posted March 21st, 2017
@kathyboyles Hi Kathy - thanks for your suggestion about choosing a variety of styles. That adds an extra idea to the process and I guess means a greater variety of people are included in the finalist list, as different people no doubt have different skills and strengths. Many thanks Rob Z
posted March 21st, 2017
@kali66 Haha Kali - I hope you put an entry in the Abstract thermometer list - i love your attitude and now I know you won't judge me harshly if I accidentally choose something strange! The challenges are fun - it was fun right up til I accidentally won one!! Feeling better now though - thanks for all of your feedback. Many thanks Rob Z
posted March 21st, 2017
@swguevin Hi Shiela - Sean Connery hey - tuck that little gem away for future use! I think what I was trying to do was to combat exactly what you commented on - I wanted to be able to make an informed selection that wasn't just based on my subjective viewpoint. (Retired science/maths teachers are not good at subjective decisions anyway - Haha - who knows what would happen?) You have all been most kind giving your ideas and I do appreciate it. Many thanks Rob Z
posted March 21st, 2017
@30pics4jackiesdiamond @houser934 @houser934 @kathyboyles @kali66 @swguevin
I would like to thank all of you for bothering to respond to this post. You have provided so many ideas.

It has prompted a few more questions:

Once a challenge is set up is it possible to modify it or would that seem poor form?
For instance, would it be presumptuous for me to do the following:

Ask the organizer of the Mundane -Plain section if we could change the wording to allow a photo to be entered in the plain section and then modified and edited for inclusion in the Abstract section. This seems like an idea that may encourage new people to have a go at editing - as mentioned by Kathryn - and may also increase the number of entries in the Abstract section.

As the new topic is chosen by the Plain Mundane organizer do you think it would be OK to delete the long list of past topics which appears in the Abstract section? It would remove clutter.

After discussion with the last Abstract organizer we have already added a short idea about what an abstract form of their photo may be. This was just as shown above - from online research - luckily none of you said that was totally wrong!!
Would it then be stifling and scary and anti-fun to show a very short idea of how the short list would be picked:-
• Is the image related to the topic in some way
• Does any editing help the viewer to focus on the topic by removing distractions
• Does the image show originality and creativity
• Does the image have an overall impact related to the topic

These are pretty open ended and seem to allow for ideas such as Kathy's - choosing a variety of styles. It also would give some hints to the new organizer, if they happen to be totally new to this hobby.

Or, again, is this poor form to write this into the challenge when the next organizer may not agree with it?

Thank you all again for your responses and it would be very appreciated if you could give me a quick answer to any of this.

I would like to see these few changes but I don't want to upset any apple carts! New people should be seen and not heard - well at least until they know something? Maybe then??
Cheers Rob Z
posted March 21st, 2017
ah ok i see what you are getting at now :)
, the mundane object challenge is pretty well explained . it does not mean the photo is plain but that the object chosen to be photographed is,
you can use any photographic technique you like but too much editing would take it away from the mundane nature of the subject, and the object 'being the star of the show' as it says.
that is acrually how the abstract-mundane challenge arose, people were editing and making the object 'disappear' with extreme closeup or crazy editing so it was decided to run two challenges concurrently to cater for both tastes.
hope that clarifies things, I agree that it can be confusing as people interpret the challenge slightly differently, sometimes its hard to draw a line between the mundane and the abstract-mundane criteria and entries could cross over .
posted March 21st, 2017
and i also agree that the list of past objects is pretty irrelevant when it gets 4 years long! most people wouldnt have seen those ones, but tagging for a new challenge would have to be checked to make sure old entries didnt mix with new ones.

posted March 21st, 2017
if you edit to reword your abstract thermometer post with some of your brief pointers about what makes it abstract it will get cut and pasted by the next person, you can do that without raising any eyebrows! i actually think that may be why the abstract part is always struggling to find entries, and have thought in the past it should die as a challenge, but if it was clearer more people might give it a try, thanks for your thoughts!
posted March 21st, 2017
@robz ahhh I see - as a few others have said - we are a very easygoing lot here for the most part and the challenges are way to get people involved and/or give them some motivation - as Kali said we may not always agree with the choices but that's ok - the important thing is to take part and have fun!
posted March 21st, 2017
Just jumping in here about the list of mundane items in the challenge... as someone who has chosen the mundane object a few times, it is useful to see the list (and forces me to think more creatively) but perhaps it could be cut back to 20 entries or so.

I don't think it needs to go on the abstract challenge though, as the person hosting that has no choice in the selection of the object.

Just my opinion!
posted March 21st, 2017
@dibzgreasley Hi Debs - Thanks for your comment. It was only the list on the Abstract section that was mentioned - as it is just a duplicate of the other page. Am I correct in thinking that the organizer of the Mundane plain version always chooses the topic? Also, following up on Kathryn's comment, would you be happy for the abstract strand to be open to an original photo from the plain strand if it has been modified in such a way as to create a new abstract form. It seems this may encourage more people to have a go at editing their original in a creative way. Would appreciate any input. Thanking You
Rob Z
posted March 21st, 2017
@robz In your list of 4 bullets above, I believe that bullet 2 is limiting (removing distractions). One possibility for an abstract not removing distractions would be to show the entire item in a warped or transformed way. I believe the other 3 should be included. Good idea! I also agree with removing the list of past items from abstract since the item is chosen by the mundane challenge leader.
posted March 21st, 2017
I have always been under the impression that the exact same picture cannot be tagged for both the challenges ie it's either a mundane shot or it's an abstract. I see no reason why you cannot take a picture for the mundane challenge and then edit it so that it's no longer exactly the same and then tag it for the abstract mundane challenge. That's just my opinion.
posted March 21st, 2017
Now I get the actual topic here. What is amusing, is that I was here when this started several years ago. It was to push the creativity button and have you create something out of nothing.

Take a mundane object, like a kitchen sponge and make it a piece of photographic art. And then the second category popped up to take it further in an abstract way, so that the two could be judged in separate categories.

That way, photographers with great editing skills weren't the only photo that stood out.

Even from the beginning, there were always tons more entries in the mundane category then there are in the abstract, because we have more traditional photographers on this site than we do graphic artist style photographers.

The problem, for me, with setting up a handful of definitions, is that art is subjective by nature. So it is either mundane or abstract. And how you view that or decide on your category is really up to the individual artist.

And the same with judging these. I get you want to define it, but art isn't judged by which photo is just technically the best. It is judged by an intrinsic sense of which photos speak to you. Which ones catch your eye for their composition, color, balance, technicality, clarity, tonality etc.

The most difficult part of winning a challenge and then stepping in to judge the next batch, (for me), was thinking I needed to justify my decisions and feeling bad that I could only pick five and someone might have hurt feelings. Once I accepted that is the nature of competitions and that no matter what the criteria, I will always have a personal lens or bias, it became easier for me to select the five I thought were "best" or most interesting to me.

Again, should I be judging.. Sean Connery... my personal bias.
posted March 21st, 2017
One more note:

I can create abstract art in camera. It is a style of shooting, not just a post production issues.

And I can manipulate a mundane item and still have it clearly fit the "plain" category.

I think it best to leave this open to interpretation by the photographer. It has been working now for five or six years.

Though dropping the list from abstract since they don't pick seems like a good idea. And after all this time, repeating "sponge" or "clothes pin" doesn't seem like a bad idea.

Agree just leaving the last 20 or so, would not have them repeating all that often.

Even this is my personal bias. It is impossible to take that element out of our thinking.

posted March 21st, 2017
@kathyboyles I see what you mean by the second one being limiting. How would it be if the words "by removing distractions" were removed? That would then include any form of editing and just consider if, in your opinion, it was effective? I can now recognize that there will always be a large degree of personal preference in the choice of finalists - but as many people have commented - that's OK. Different people get to have a go and it more inclusive if it's not too constrictive.
posted March 21st, 2017
@salza Thanks Sally. What you have said does seem the sensible option. It may just be the wording that I have misinterpreted, but when I first read this I got the impression that it had to totally different. A little rewording would easily clarify that- if it is indeed acceptable. Many thanks Cheers Rob Z
posted March 21st, 2017
@swguevin Hi Sheila - thanks again for your input. It's interesting to hear that you were there when this started. I really like the whole concept - especially the second strand. But the way the two challenges are worded seems to make the jump from the first to the second difficult. Being new I had no real idea what the difference was - the words were the same for both. I thought you had to have a totally new starting point - that the same image couldn't be modified and then put in the Abstract section. And I had no idea how to choose 5 finalists when I accidentally was chosen as winner!!! Hence lots of stress! That was why I started this - I thought if there was a little more structure in the intro it may encourage more people to have a go and help new people if they needed to select 5 winners - not that all new people are as clueless as me!! The whole concept of technical details is well beyond me!
Also - I appreciate your comment about an abstract photo not necessarily being post-production ( good term hey! - I did some reading of photographic forums - man can some people carry on!!). I think that idea could easily be included in the short intro.
i didn't want to make the whole thing prescriptive - just a little less daunting.
Thanks again for all your input - much appreciated.
Note to self - remember Sean Connery!
posted March 21st, 2017
@30pics4jackiesdiamond @houser934 @kathyboyles @kali66 @annied @dibzgreasley @salza @swguevin
Could you please all accept my many thanks for all of your input. Having read all of your suggestions it appears to me that it is OK to alter the intro to the challenge as long as the actual concept is left intact, the requirements do not become restrictive, the "definitions" and "criteria" so beloved by teachers are heavily disguised and left very open to interpretation by both entrants and organizers.
I have tried to merge all of these thoughts with my desire to make the challenge more accessible to people wanting to have a go at editing and less stressful for any organizers who are unfortunate, useless newbies such as myself!

With this is mind, if you have time, could you please read the following and see if it would be an acceptable replacement for the existing intro to the abstract section:-----------

Thanks so much to Nicole (@nicolecampbell) for hosting the last Abstract Mundane challenge and for giving me a run down on how to do this!!

The subject for the both the new "Mundane Challenge" and the new "Abstract Mundane Challenge" is "Thermometer"

The difference between the two Mundane Challenges is quite simple:----

An entry in the Mundane Challenge will be quite a plain image with the thermometer the “Star of the Show” It will normally involve little obvious editing.

In contrast, an entry in the Mundane Abstract Challenge may use visual effects of shape, form, colour and line to create an image with a degree of independence from an actual thermometer. Producing your abstract image doesn't necessarily mean it becomes unrecognizable. Instead it may be presented in a reduced, simplified form - (editing fun!)- only showing its most important aspects.
A straight photo can also be purely abstract by only showing the viewer the most important parts of the topic with no distractions.
In a more complex abstract photograph, the subject may be hard to recognize, appearing as a series of design elements, or patterns, which only hint at the general structure.

All, or any, of these possibilities will be cheerfully accepted – as will any other options that you feel should be OK!!.

The Abstract Mundane Challenge starts March 16th and ends midnight GMT on Friday 31st March.

You may enter as many photos as you like, provided they are taken within the time frame of the challenge.
You must enter different images for the regular mundane and abstract mundane challenges. However, if you would like to develop your editing skills by forming an abstract image from your plain image that should be fine.

You are encouraged to post your entries on this thread to inspire others and keep this thread alive.

Please tag your entries: abstract-thermometer

5 Finalists will be chosen by considering ideas such as:--

• Is the image related to the topic in some discernible way
• Does editing help the viewer to relate to the topic
• Does the image show originality and creativity
• Does the image have an overall impact related to the topic

Voting will take place on the 1st to 3rd April.

Have fun and good luck. Looking forward to seeing your abstract photos of this mundane object.! No longer so mundane!!

Cheers Rob Z
P.S. If you like to view the previous topics from this challenge please check on the Mundane Challenge page.
posted March 21st, 2017
i think thats much clearer and more helpful, thanks for the time and effort you put into this, it will be interestinng how people find the challenge now :)
posted March 21st, 2017
@kali66 Thanks Kali - it has all been very interesting. Late thought too - it would probably be a good idea to include the little section from the etsooi - about how to get an editing program to play with?
posted March 21st, 2017
no i think people can use the tools they have for this one, etsooi is a special case and no doubt people will come across both
posted March 21st, 2017
No - I'm sorry - I didn't word that very well. If somebody wants to have a go at editing their plain thermometer but have no suitable program of their own - would it be worth just putting another P.S. at the bottom with some info on how they could get a free one to try? I just meant that the etsooi intro has some info on it - didn't realise it was specific to that challenge. I know I had nothing until me daughter gave me a program - very addictive it is too!
posted March 22nd, 2017
I like the edit. The only thing that popped out at me was the phrase "may use visual effects" which I at first took to me "special effects."

Might I suggest leaving that out so it reads simply...

"an entry in the Mundane Abstract Challenge may use shape, form, colour and line to create an image with a degree of independence from the actual object."

posted March 22nd, 2017
@houser934 Hi Kathryn - thanks for taking the time to read it - other people often see things which look alright to the person who wrote it!! Will definitely remove those words. Would it be worth includes a P.S. at the bottom with some info on how they could get a free editing program if they wanted to have a go and didn't have a program?
posted March 22nd, 2017
Well put. I don't think it is necessary to add anything re editing programs as you don't have to do any editing to achieve an abstract shot.
posted March 22nd, 2017
@salza Thanks Sally - that seems to be the general consensus so we'll just leave it out. If I don't hear any other feedback I think I might put the new version up. Thanks again for your input - I appreciate it - and I've learnt a lot too. Cheers Rob Z
posted March 22nd, 2017
@30pics4jackiesdiamond @annied @houser934 @kathyboyles @kali66 @swguevin @dibzgreasley @salza

One last thank you for all of your information and patience.
After making the final changes recommended by Kathryn, Sally and Kali I have posted the new version on the Abstract Mundane Challenge strand.
Also did a little "advertising":

Yikes, what's this? It's an Ad!
Well, an announcement really! After much consultation with experienced 365ers a few exciting changes have been made to the Abstract Mundane challenge.
One interesting change is that entrants in the plain Mundane Challenge are now encouraged to use their original photo as a starting point, have some editing fun, and enter their modified (no longer so mundane!!) image in the Abstract Mundane Challenge.
The Abstract Mundane Challenge also finishes on 31st March.
For more ideas and info please check out the Abstract Mundane Challenge strand.

I don't know if this will encourage more people to have a play or not - but it was fun trying!
Many thanks again, for your feedback and your knowledge.
Cheers Rob Z
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