Amanda McClure Photography | IPC- International Print Competition

IPC- International Print Competition

July 11, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

IPC-International Print Competition.  It's right around the corner.  In fact, judging starts July 31, 2017 and goes through August 2, 2017.  I've got my case submitted and I'll be on pins and needles until I see my scores.  If you're interested in viewing the judging process, you can create a free account at and watch live July 31- Aug 2.


But what is it?  

Why is it important?  

How does it work?  

When choosing a photographer why does IPC matter?  

All good questions that I will address.


Let's start with what is IPC.  

To answer that I need to answer "what is PPA?".  PPA-- Professional Photographers of America is one of the largest professional organizations for photographers in the world.  I know the word "America" is in the title, but PPA is an international organization.  It's an amazing organization that offers professional photographers a variety of business resources, education options as well as networking opportunities.  PPA operates under a code of ethics that it expects its members to honor.  In short-- if you are hiring a photographer who is a member of PPA, rest assured that they have access to amazing resources to help make your experience the best possible portrait experience.

Now, what is IPC?  IPC or International Print Competition is an annual competition for PPA members.  Every image is judged based on the exact same criteria; the 12 Elements of a Merit Image(see below for definitions).  The images are scored 0-100 points.  80 points constitutes a Merit Image.  Anything below a Merit is basically unacceptable (at least to me).  You must score at least 80 to get a merit that counts toward your degree program.  I am currently working toward my Master Photographer degree with PPA.

Each member can submit one Photographic Open Case and/or one Artist Case.  Each case consists of 4 images.  PO (photographic open) cases are traditional photographs.  These are images taken by the photographer, and while they may be manipulated in photoshop-- they aren't CREATED in photoshop.  An Artist Case consists of images CREATED in photoshop.  They may be several images composited together to make one whole artistic image.  Or they may be an image manipulated to the point that it creates something completely different.

You get one Merit for an image that scores 80 or above and if your image is chosen to go into the Loan book, you get an additional merit.  So for each case you have the potential to receive a total of 8 merits.  This is NOT EASY to accomplish!  Its referred to as a Double Diamond Case and as the name implies-- it's the top notch, hardest to achieve level in IPC.

Why is IPC Important?

Well it's important because it challenges the photographer improve their craft.  Sure you can be an average photographer and have a successful business.  There are a lot of bad photographers who still run a successful business because they are excellent business managers.  However, I believe in pushing myself outside of mediocrity.  I want to be better!  I want to achieve more!  I believe that one of the best ways to improve your photography is to get honest and fair feedback on your images.  The judging process for IPC is BRUTAL!  This is a no-holds, we don't care about your feelings, we only care about making you succeed type of judging.  They are honest!  This isn't your mom or grandma or best friend telling you how wonderful you are.  These judges went through training to be able to score these images correctly.  These are professionals in the industry that understand the technicalities of what you do.  These judges are experts!  

I know the score of 80 doesn't seem high but the scoring isn't the same as it was in grade school or college.  A score of 80 is the notch above the Above Average rating.  The scoring is as follows:

Exceptional 100-95  

Superior 94-90

Excellent 89-85

Deserving of a Merit 84-80

Above Average 79-75

Average 74-70

Below Exhibition Standards 69-65


Why does any of this matter?

It matters because no one ever got worse from participating in IPC.  It matters because participation will make you a better photographer.  This year is my second year competing.  I have made MAJOR strides in my photography.  The photographer I was one year ago isn't the same photographer that I am today.  

Master of Photography-- that is the degree that I am working towards.  You need 13 Exhibition Merits, the ones that you get from competing, and 12 Service Merits which you get from attending and/or teaching PPAedu classes.  Photographic Rock Stars can achieve that goal in 2 years... most photographers that I know achieved the degree in 3-4 years.  I'm hoping that I will have all of my merits by 2019 so that I can declare and be awarded my degree in January of 2020 at ImagingUSA (the annual convention).

When you hire a photographer, you want to be sure that the person behind the camera can produce images that you are excited about.  And you want that person to be able to do that consistently-- you don't want one lucky shot out of 100 other bad ones.  Photographers who compete and earn merits are constantly learning and improving their craft.  Once they reach the level of Master, they are experts in their field.  These are photographers who had the patience and the drive to pursue a degree.  They are dedicated to their work.  And they will be dedicated to you as a client, in producing images that are top notch.


I hope this gave you some insight to IPC and why I participate.  I honestly LOVE competing.  It's part of who I am, a competitive spirit.  But it's also helping to shape who I will become; and I'm looking forward to meeting the photographer that I am destined to be!


If you are interested in how an image is judged, below are the criteria that each image is judged against.  

The 12 Elements of a Merit Image Directly from

The Photographic Exhibitions Committee (PEC) of PPA uses the 12 elements below as the “gold standard” to define a merit image. PEC trains judges to be mindful of these elements when judging images to the PPA merit level and to be placed in the International Print Exhibit at Imaging USA, the annual convention. The use of these 12 elements connects the modern practice of photography and its photographers to the historical practice of photography begun nearly two centuries ago.

Twelve elements have been defined as necessary for the success of an art piece or image. Any image, art piece, or photograph will reveal some measure of all twelve elements, while a visually superior example will reveal obvious consideration of each one.

1.) Impact is the sense one gets upon viewing an image for the first time. Compelling images evoke laughter, sadness, anger, pride, wonder or another intense emotion. There can be impact in any of these twelve elements.

2.) Technical excellence is the print quality of the image itself as it is presented for viewing. Retouching, manipulation, sharpness, exposure, printing, mounting, and correct color are some items that speak to the qualities of the physical print.

3.) Creativity is the original, fresh, and external expression of the imagination of the maker by using the medium to convey an idea, message or thought.

4.) Style is defined in a number of ways as it applies to a creative image. It might be defined by a specific genre or simply be recognizable as the characteristics of how a specific artist applies light to a subject. It can impact an image in a positive manner when the subject matter and the style are appropriate for each other, or it can have a negative effect when they are at odds.

5.) Composition is important to the design of an image, bringing all of the visual elements together in concert to express the purpose of the image. Proper composition holds the viewer in the image and prompts the viewer to look where the creator intends. Effective composition can be pleasing or disturbing, depending on the intent of the image maker.

6.) Presentation affects an image by giving it a finished look. The mats and borders used, either physical or digital, should support and enhance the image, not distract from it.

7.) Color Balance supplies harmony to an image. An image in which the tones work together, effectively supporting the image, can enhance its emotional appeal. Color balance is not always harmonious and can be used to evoke diverse feelings for effect.

8.) Center of Interest is the point or points on the image where the maker wants the viewer to stop as they view the image. There can be primary and secondary centers of interest. Occasionally there will be no specific center of interest, when the entire scene collectively serves as the center of interest.

9.) Lighting —the use and control of light—refers to how dimension, shape and roundness are defined in an image. Whether the light applied to an image is manmade or natural, proper use of it should enhance an image.

10.) Subject Matter should always be appropriate to the story being told in an image.

11.) Technique is the approach used to create the image. Printing, lighting, posing, capture, presentation media, and more are part of the technique applied to an image.

12.) Story Telling refers to the image’s ability to evoke imagination. One beautiful thing about art is that each viewer might collect his own message or read her own story in an image.


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