Although judging is subjective, judges are asked to put their personal biases aside and score each photograph on its own merit. Although the audience and/or participants may disagree, all judging will be final.
Major considerations for evaluation of an image are:
Impact and Viewer Interest
"Wow" factor is the nebulous quality where an image "pops". This subjective aspect of judging should not preempt the technical or composition aspects of an image.
Good composition is a pleasing arrangement of the elements in an image. There are many guidelines for good composition that judges may consider.
This includes sharpness, focus, color, tonal scale, contrast, appropriate depth of field and other qualities. Consideration is also given for the effect the photographer was trying to achieve such as high key, multiple exposure, selective focus, etc.
The subject matter should be related in some manner to the topic. While there are no formal "deductions" or penalties , judges may reduce their overall score if they feel the image does not align with monthly topic. WIth that said, creative interpretation is encouraged.