The following rating system is used in photobook reviews. Needless to say, it’s completely subjective. The main idea is to give the reader insight into how I view the various aspects of a photobook, regardless of whether or not they are actually being talked about in a review.
There are four main categories. Photography – Work, Concept of Book, Photography – Edit/Sequence, and Production Quality. The scores run from 1 to 5, with 3 being the average (in other words, most books would get a 3):
Photography – Work (35%)
1 – Flawed body of work
2 – Below-average body of work that could have been better
3 – Solid body of work with little, if any surprises
4 – Above-average body of work, with a few pleasant surprises
5 – Excellent body of work, filled with surprises and depth
Please note that books that fully rely on archival material will not be rated, because applying the above would be too problematic.
Concept of Book (25%)
1 – Failed/weak concept
2 – Below-average concept that leaves the viewer wanting more
3 – Solid concept with little, if any surprises
4 – Above average concept that enhances the photographs
5 – Excellent concept that greatly enhances the photographs
Photography – Edit/Sequence (15%; in light of Concept)
1 – Completely flawed edit/sequence
2 – Slightly flawed edit/sequence that produces a few bumps
3 – Adequate edit/sequence with few, if any surprises
4 – Inventive edit/sequence that produces a few pleasant/unexpected surprises
5 – Perfect edit/sequence
Production Quality (printing, binding, materials, etc.) (25%; in light of Concept)
1 – Lousy/poor production with glaring problems
2 – Below-average production that mars the book somewhat
3 – Solid production
4 – Above-average production that enhances the book
5 – Excellent production that greatly enhances the book
The overall score is the average of these four. There is one little detail: The “Photography – Edit/Sequence” rating counts only as 15%, while “Photography – Work” is weighted at 35%. A good body of work can be marred by a bad edit, but it would seem extreme to give both aspects – the quality of the photography and the edit/sequence – equal weight.
What is more, an individual rating can be the average of various aspects. For example, Production Quality includes the quality of the printing, the paper choices, the binding, the size of the book etc. The rating reflects my overall view of Production Quality (introducing sub-ratings would make things way too unwieldy).
It’s likely that different people might use different weights. I know many collectors value a high production quality much more than the quality of the work. The weight attributed to the different categories reflect my own preferences.
After calculating the average, the overall score would then be:
1 – Weak, forgettable book
2 – Below-average book that could have been better
3 – Solid, average book
4 – Above-average book that stands out from the crowd
5 – Excellent book that deserves to be seen widely
Again, 3 would be the average score. Also, the reviews would not only contain the overall score, but also the individual components. This would allow readers to see all the relevant details, and you would see, for (a fictional) example, how a book could have a solid body of work (3), a below-average concept (2), a lousy edit (1), and an excellent production (5), ending with an overall score of 2.95 (rounded up to 3): A solid, average book.