As the deadline for IGPOTY 10 approaches, one of the most frequent of FAQs that we are asked is: "what are the judges looking for?" The answer to this difficult question is a difficult answer: "they don't know until they see it." But I think we can be more helpful than this. Among the words that come to mind when looking at a successful image are: "fresh", "original", "surprising", "expert", "challenging", "emotional", "atmospheric". So that's easy then, just tick all these boxes and £7,500 pounds will be yours.
Well not so fast. I left a word out of my list - it's something like "inspired" or "magical" or "uplifting" - and those are all qualities which don't come with a tick box attached; they are qualities that come from the heart of the photographer and which reach out to communicate directly to the viewer - in this case the competition judges.
So how will you feel if you don't win? Disappointed of course. Frustrated probably. Angry? Maybe. You thought your photograph contained elements of all of the qualities I've listed above. You love at least some of the images you submitted - I mean really loved, they look perfect to you and you have already derived huge pleasure from working with them from sharing with friends, family and that most friendly and forgiving of judges, the Internet. So are these IGPOTY judges telling me I'm wrong?
No, they are not saying you are wrong. They could be saying a number of things. What they could be saying is that the most elusive element, that 'X factor' did not communicate to the judges on that day, when they were comparing hundreds of perhaps similar images of similar subjects.
They could be saying that there is something about your photograph that could have been improved with closer attention to, for example, composition, or image processing, or lighting or any other technical or artistic element of the image.
Or they could may be saying that you need to attend to some basics of the art of photography, how to manipulate light to improve your images, how to work with large and small apertures, and how to get the best out of your camera.
And this is where you can win IGPOTY, even if you win nothing. By asking for feedback I can send you an assessment of your entry which can help you to understand those areas you may want to improve or develop. I can make suggestions of technical aspects you could usefully brush up on, or artistic ideas that can help you communicate your vision of the world of plants more strongly.
And that usually means having more fun with your photography as you develop knowledge and expertise.
So if you win this year - congratulations and well done! And if you win nothing - congratulations and well done! You were inspired to have a go, you've learnt something just in the process of editing your entry, and you have the opportunity to get feedback as a way of developing your work and your vision.
I call that a 'win-win'.
Requests for feedback for Competition 10 main can be made at anytime before November 30 2016 by sending a request to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to workload, requests made after that date cannot be answered.
Feedback for Competition 10 main competition will be delivered between February and May 2017.