John Warton at Photo Laureates Discusses Judging Amateur Photography

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As part of John Warton’s evaluation of photographs at photography laureates, he has a basic rule. The photograph must speak for itself; regardless of the photographer, the equipment, or the history of the shoot.

John Warton actively works at reviewing and evaluating photography submissions for a photography association called photography laureates ( He sometimes reads skeptical comments in Internet forums, some from professional photographers, which sometimes doubt his ability to judge photographs. Does photography only belong to professionals? Can professionals decide what is publishable or not on behalf of amateurs?

John says, “The answer is a resounding 'no!' Inflexible and rigid professional photographers have laid down certain 'rules' and then, being a certain sort that they are, call them 'guidelines' and see themselves as rule-makers of some sort. I say to them: Diversity is a source of creation. I embrace the diversity of the creations of my fellow amateur photographers, their passion and interpretation of the thousands of daily instances that make our lives memorable. They deserve the promotion and exposure that I work on getting for the most talented of them.”

Perhaps a more interesting and relevant question for John Warton then, would be the following: can photography be judged?

According to John, photography is subjective, art is subjective -- but it can be judged. And it can be judged, differently. If one prefers a particular style, that does not make one wrong. For example, the F/64 school insisted upon sharp photographs, which notion still dominates much thinking, today. So they therefore judged certain work - bad - because it was fuzzy, the so called pictorialism – while others seek to add that dimension to their work.

As part of John Warton’s evaluation of photographs at photography laureates, he has a basic rule. The photograph must speak for itself; regardless of the photographer, the equipment, or the history of the shoot. This is the “painting-must-stand-by-itself”, rule, without some elaborate exposition in artsy double-speak as to the 'real meaning' of the thing. One may speak of the meaning of the photo, but whatever that meaning is, it must be reasonably presented to the viewer. What you see is what you get! John always keeps this in mind when selecting entries for photo laureates.

Hence, another rule might perhaps be – have a reason for why everything in that photo is there. Why is the subject there? What is the object, or the point, or the 'effect', or the emotions, even? Does anything detract? Is it a clean shot? Can something be removed by the angle at which the amateur photographer shot? Is the photo just of what you wish it to be? Amateur photographers: Think about what the shot is all about. Less is more.

Finally, John looks at the line, or composition, taken from art - sculpture, painting, etc. to determine which photographs he recommends for publication in the anthologies at photo laureates ( This line must stand out. John looks for referential points within the photograph. He looks for amateur photographers that successfully manage to find shapes that emphasize lines, curves -- even repetition of same.

John Warton is a senior photography editor. He has decades of experience in photography first as a freelancer, reporter and then as publisher. He is a member of various international photography associations (Association of International Art dealers, Photographic resource center…)

Photography Laureates offers the following:

  •      A unique platform of self expression to the amateur and professional photographer
  •     An opportunity to be published as part of a leading photography manuscript
  •     24/7 customer care assistance to help associate photographers gain exposure
  •     Review and pieces of advise from the editors on submitted entries
  •     A leading membership community where members can exchange and learn with other peers and experts

About Photography Laureates

The mission of Photo laureates is to provide a platform of artistic expression for amateur and professional photographers to gain exposure and recognition. Photo Laureates promotes photography and photographers through technical workshops as well as improvisation sessions.

An independent panel of experts at photo laureates reviews photographs based on the following criteria: technical quality, composition, flow, texture and light.

Photography laureates’ manuscripts are distributed internationally. Photographers retain all rights to their photographs. Photo laureates has more than 30,000 members and a 98% satisfaction rate.

For more information on Photography Laureates, please visit:


Sol – Customer Care Manager

Photo laureates

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Igor Stunt
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