With over 10,000 image files from 2014 alone (doesn’t count hundreds that were discarded! More need to GO!), I couldn’t possibly go through them all in the next 2 weeks. The decision process begins back when I upload files to my computer. As I edit and cull the bad ones I also mark the ones I like. I concentrate on these first; I edit them and I give them a rating. One of the best features of Adobe Lightroom, is the ease of assigning a rating. You can set it up any way you like; 1-5 stars, one of five colors, or simply flag it. A good rating doesn’t necessarily make it a competition worthy image. It just means I like the shot and think it might have potential. So over the year or so, I have quite a number of “good” images (roughly 2%). I’ve set up a Smart Collection in Lightroom that automatically compiles all the “good” images into a virtual folder. When competition time comes around I go to that folder to look for some to submit. I run through them looking for impact: clear subjects on uncluttered backgrounds, eye-catching color, unique subjects, eye-catching compositions or points of view. Now I look more closely. How’s the focus? How’s the histogram look? What might the judges pick on? Does it make a statement; is there an emotion conveyed; will it draw the viewer’s attention? Because they were taken maybe several months ago, I’m more emotionally distant from them now and can view them with fresh, critical eyes. I decide on a few. I come back another day to look again. With trepidation I make final decisions. Sometimes the judges agree and sometimes they don’t.
Another factor to consider is whether an image will be better as a print or projected. Will a print be good for club exhibits, fitting one of the categories? I try to imagine it blown up on the screen. Will that enhance the impact or emphasize minor flaws? Does it have general interest as fine art? I use these criteria to decide what to print and what to submit for digital projection.