Thoughts From A Photo Contest


09/01/2021 – Updated, and still relevant today …





02/12/-2008 – Last summer, I was privileged to be a Judge and Speaker at one of the most prestigious photographic contests on the West Coast – the San Diego County Fair International Exhibition of Photography. While the fair was running, we held a “Digital Dialog Discussion” for the public – there were seven experts from the digital realm, including myself, talking about the present and future of digital imaging.


A client of mine recently reminded me of how much he was able to glean from that discussion. There were a couple of salient points that were covered that I believe it is important to share with you, particularly as it relates to Photoshop and Digital Imaging/Digital Photography:


1) Archiving your Images – This could be the weakest link in digital imaging. Your images are too important – make your archiving system redundant and back up at least twice on different media. And remember, the vast majority of CD’s and DVD’s are not archival, although you can purchase Archival CD’s and DVD’s at just a bit more cost.  This point has been updated here:


2) Shoot in RAW format – Memory is cheap; shoot in RAW for those important images. When you shoot in JPG, you are robbing yourself of much needed information that can only be captured in RAW.  More here:


3) Proper Color Management – If you only do one thing to achieve a properly color managed workflow, calibrate and profile your monitor. Even if you cannot afford to purchase a calibration device, such as the Eye One (my favorite, and easy to use), use the Adobe Gamma calibrator – – not as accurate, but better than nothing. And keep in mind that the calibration hardware and software is cheaper in price than you think – typically around $200.  More here:


•  San Diego County Fair Photo FAQ’s:


•  Here’s my San Diego County Fair Photo “Print Special”:




•  New to Photoshop?  Need a “Lesson Plan”?  Read this Post!  Click Here


•  Want to see Photoshop in action?  Check out my “Photoshop 101” series of FREE online & live Photoshop Meetups – available nationwide:


•  Was this information helpful?

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•  By the way, this is all based on my Photoshop book designed for photographers, “Not just another Photoshop Book”, available exclusively on Amazon:


Questions? Please contact me – also, feel free to comment and tell your photography friends!


Thx again, and cheers,


John Watts 🙂


6 thoughts on “Thoughts From A Photo Contest

  1. We see eye to eye on numbers 1 & 3, but I can’t agree with number 2, but to each his own. I’m a maverick, what can I say. 🙂

    I do, however, need to invest in Eye One. I have SpyderExpres2, but it doesn’t do luminosity calibration or settings, so my prints, although properly color balanced, come out too dark.

  2. Interesting take, Paul – – and you have some very valid arguments, particularly as the subject relates to memory…

    Most of my clients are nature/landscape/scenic photographers. The one area that film (particularly slide & transparency film) outshines digital is in the reproduction of continuous gradients, such as skys, sunsets, etc….It is not uncommon to see heavy posterization and pixelization in sunset shots using a digital camera, even a high-end one…

    When you shoot JPG in a situation like this, you are at a disadvantage – You are not allowing your camera to reproduce a tougher subject to the best of its abilities, as you would be shooting in RAW…

    Keep in mind too that although RAW is indeed a proprietary format, the ability to do more to your image through Adobe’s RAW Converter in Photoshop (especially in CS3) gives you just that much more of an edge…

    And yes, the Eye One is a joy to work with – ask 10 professionals what they use, and chances are that 8 use the Eye One..


    John 🙂

  3. John, I’m looking forward to getting my printer profiled … finally. I’ll certainly keep you informed as to my progress, will read your documents, and probably elicit your help, if needed.

    Regarding RAW, I’m certainly not against it. If I run into a case where I get burned and find that it would have worked better in RAW, then I’m all over it. Or, if I run into a very tough white balance situation, again, all over it. I’ve just not found that it offers me any advantage, so I don’t mess with it. I try to keep things very simple.

  4. Hi Paul…

    You’ll be amazed at the difference in time, paper waste, and, of course, the look of your prints once you have your whole Color Management “house” in order….

    On RAW: Again, like the post says, the consensus was to shoot RAW for the important images – – I believe you have the right mindset, and it definitely works for you – the great results on your images speak for themselves….


    John 🙂

  5. Thanks for a great post and discussion. Sorry I missed you here in San Diego, since I actually visited the Fair. It seems like everyone is recommending Color Management tools around $200. I was thinking about getting the Pantone Huey Pro. I don’t do any printing at home (yet). Would any of you guys still advice against the Huey? Amazon gives a range of products

    With regards to RAW I’m with Paul for many of the same reasons.

    Thanks for your input.

  6. Hi Mikael…

    Thanks for commenting!

    I’ll be at the fair again this summer, both as a judge and speaker – – I hope to see you there…

    I would avoid the Huey – – It is not going to give you the control you need to customize your monitor calibration – This is the same challenge that Paul Lester was having with his Spyder2Express – – I strongly recommend the Gretag Macbeth Eye One Display 2 (Actually, the name was recently changed to the X Rie Eye One display 2) – Then you can pick your Kelvin settings, luminance and gamma…

    BTW, check with Chromix – – They’ve got great pricing on this item…

    So, when you finally do buy a printer, let me know, and I can make you a Custom Printer Profile ..
    As far as RAW is concerned, I’ll be re-visiting this issue in a post a bit later today…


    John 🙂

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