Penn- Jersey District of the American Rose Society

Proposed Guidelines for Judging Photographs

Tom Mayhew-TM3

Purpose of this Document:

It is the purpose of this document to provide Guidelines for Judging the photographic Excellence of Photographs of the Roses and Rose Related Subjects using a Point Scoring Method. 

Rules of the Photograph Competition: 

The photographs being judged must meet the rules of the Photograph Competition. The rules usually include who and what may enter the competition, whether the entry is to be a print, a digital file, a slide or some other format and what the maximum and/or minimum size of a photograph entry may be. The rules typically will also specify whether a print photograph is to be mounted on a mat, and  if so what size mat and whether or not frames are allowed. Also specified will be how the photographs are to be identified or labeled. The rules may also require that the identification of rose names be those that are listed in the current ARS Official list of approved Exhibition names for Exhibitors and Judges or in the current Combined Rose List. The rules also will typically specify various Entry Classes, what the subject of each class is to be and how many photos may be entered for each Class. The rules will typically specify for each Class, what percentage of the photograph will be judged on the quality of the subject in the photo and what percentage will be judged only on the photographic excellence of the photograph. Typically the rules will specify that for those Classes that feature individual rose blooms or inflorescence (sprays) that the photograph will be judged 50 percent on rose exhibition quality following the American Rose Society (ARS) Guidelines for Judging Roses and 50 percent on photographic excellence. For those Classes featuring rose arrangements, typically the rules will specify that the photograph will be judged 50 percent on the arrangement design and flower quality following the ARS Guidelines for Judging Rose Arrangements and 50 percent on photographic excellence. For other Classes, such as those for Rose Gardens, Rose Society Activities, Rose Art, Abstractions and others, the rules may specify that the photograph be judged on photographic excellence only. Often it is recommended that only ARS Accredited Judges (Horticulture and/or Arrangements) with preference given to those with photography experience should judge photographs of roses and rose related subjects. The Guidelines for Judging the Photographic Excellence of photos of roses and rose related subjects is contained in this document. 

​If no rules exist for the photography competition, then the judge should use his or her best judgment in evaluating the photographs using the guidelines in this document.


Some photographs may be disqualified from the competition. The photograph will be disqualified if it is determined by consultation among the photography judges that the entry has failed to meet the Rules of the Photograph Competition. If the rules require the use of ARS approved naming of roses, then Improperly Named Roses or Unlabeled or Mislabeled entries may also be reasons for disqualification at the judges' discretion. Entries that are misplaced may be disqualified or preferably they may be replaced in the proper location provided that the judging of the competition has not been completed and the photography judges and the person in charge of the Photo Competition agree that this should be done. 

Guidelines for Judging the Photographic Excellence of Photographs of Roses and Rose Related Subjects using a Point Scoring Method: 

Point Scoring:

The point scoring system is used as a frame of reference when evaluating and judging a photograph and as a general guideline in communication between judges when evaluating the photographic excellence of photographs that have roses or rose related subjects as the main feature of a photograph. The judge does not actually numerically point score every photograph. Instead, the point score values, which are considered to be percentages of the total 100 % value, are used as guidelines and a point of reference when evaluating and judging any group of photographs which feature roses and rose related subjects. One important aspect of point scoring is consistency. The actual number of points awarded to each element may vary widely from judge to judge, but if done consistently with the same weightings given to each element, the judges will generally agree on the winning photograph.


Overall Impression ............................................. 35 Points 

Sharpness.................................................................. 20 Points

Color Quality .......................................................... 20 Points

Brightness and Contrast ................................ 15 Points 

Other Aspects ....................................................... 10 Points

TOTAL ................................................................................ 100 Points

Overall Impression (35 Points):

A good Overall Impression indicates that everything about the photograph is well done, but in addition, there is something about this photograph that sets it apart from others in its class. Something that at first may be intangible - something we may call the "wow" factor. This includes the presentation of the subject and the composition of the photograph. Is your overall impression a good one? Is the photograph eye catching and does it attract and hold your attention? Does it draw your eye into the picture and is your eye led through the photograph to particular points of interest? Is the subject well represented in the photograph? Is the subject appropriate for the Entry Class? Do you want to keep looking at the photograph? Is it a "pretty picture"? Would you want this photograph hanging on your wall and do you feel that you would never get tired of looking at it? If the answer to all or most of these questions is yes, then this photo should score high with regard to Overall Impression. Note, that with regard to composition, for entry classes calling for one bloom or one spray, the general composition "rule of thirds" for off center placement should not be deemed desirable here, but rather the one bloom or spray should be close to the center and should fill much of the frame. But it should not have rose petals cut off at the edge of the photograph unless it is deemed desirable for artistic reasons or for other extreme close up photographs of portions of a rose.

Sharpness (20 Points):

Sharpness is often used by the photographer to provide a realistic effect that makes the viewer feel that he or she can reach out and touch this "real thing" in the photograph. Selected sharpness is also often used to help focus the viewer's attention on certain areas of the photograph. Sharpness is one of the essential technical elements of composition and quality in most photographs. The range of apparent sharpness, the "Depth Of Field" (DOF) which is the portion of the photograph (from near to far) that appears to be in focus and the proper positioning of DOF in the image so as to enhance the appeal of the photograph, is a significant indication of good quality in a photograph. However, it must also be taken into account that the photographer may actually be trying to purposely blur portions of the photograph intentionally in order to enhance certain artistic or other photographic effects in the picture. For example, the photographer may be intentionally blurring the background or other portions in order to get the viewer to pay more attention to the areas that are in focus or he or she might blur the whole photograph for photo art or abstraction or impressionism purposes. The judge has to ascertain if the photograph has good sharpness in the areas where he or she deems sharpness is called for.

Color Quality (20 Points):

This includes both the quality and the accuracy of the color. Does the color catch your eye and pull you with interest into the photograph? Is the color of the rose’s representative of what one might see in the rose garden or at a rose show or some other display that includes the actual physical rose? It must be remembered here that a variety of rose may have different colors when grown in different environments including shady locations versus sunny locations and spring,  summer and fall seasonal variations. For example, 'Dublin' loses its dark edges when grown in the shade and  'Double Delight' has more red and less white in the summer. All of these rose variety color variations that are seen in nature are acceptable. Note, that if it is a black and white photograph, then the quality and range of the black, white and shades of gray should be evaluated in how well the various tones of gray are used along with textures and patterns to portray an impressionistic image of reality.

Brightness and Contrast (15 Points):

The overall photograph should be clear and bright and have sufficient contrast between the dark and light areas so that items in the photo are well defined, but it should not have so much contrast as to look unnatural. There should be no significant overly bright "blown out" areas,which show no detail, as a result of over-exposure. There should be some details visible in the shadow areas.

Other Aspects (10 Points):

Other aspects to be considered when evaluating a photograph include such things as the creativity of the photographer as shown in

the photograph and the uniqueness in the presentation. Possibly the rarity of the subject in the photograph might be considered
here, however a photo of a newly introduced rose should not necessarily have an advantage over an older established rose. There well may be other things, not mentioned here, that could apply as other aspects of photographic excellen