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Upper Merion Camera Club Competition Rules


Two types of competitions are offered to members of UMCC – regular monthly competitions and assigned subject competitions. These competitions are described in more detail later in this document.

Regular competitions are held monthly from September to April. Members can compete in four categories – Photojournalism, Nature, Pictorial and Kreative. The top scoring images each month in each of the four categories are eligible to compete at the end of year competition in May for best image for the year and best image by category. Awards are also given to the members with the highest accumulated scores for the competition year.

Assigned subject competitions are designed to challenge members to explore new subject matters and new technical skills. The topics and competition dates are announced when the Schedule of Events is published (usually in the early summer).

Images are submitted as digital files. They are loaded onto a laptop, the order in which they will be presented is randomized and then images are projected onto a flat screen. Images are scored and the scores are announced as each image is judged. Neither the title of the image or the identity of the photographer is revealed until after judging is completed.

Images are judged on a scale of 3 to 9. When there are three judges, the image’s score is the sum of the scores. When there is only one judge, the scores are tripled. Thus the highest score an image can receive is a 27 and the lowest score is a 9. Tie breakers are resolved by the judges. The winners are announced after the judges finish scoring the images.

After the competition, all submitted images are uploaded with the name of the photographer to the UMCC web site competition galleries where they can be viewed by the public. The images remain the property of the photographer and will be removed from the galleries if requested by the photographer.

1.0 Regular Competitions

There are four categories, Photojournalism, Nature, Pictorial, and Kreative.

1.1 Photojournalism

Photojournalists tell stories or document a moment in time without influencing what is happening in the image. The challenge is to skillfully capture an image that is worth a thousand words while also respecting the ethics of journalism.

Photojournalism images generally have humans in the image or depict events that impact human life (for example flooding and storm damage.) Good photojournalism subjects are newsworthy events, people in interactive, emotional or unusual situations, sports, documentary and spot news with informational content and emotional impact. Look at newspapers and news magazines for examples of images of people or events that directly impact people’s lives such as

  • News: including breaking news and scheduled non-sports events
  • Sports: activity including any kind of race or athletic endeavor
  • Tragedy and drama: such as fires, floods and accidents
  • Feature: including human interest and "found" humor on any subject

The story of the image does not have to be “newsworthy”. Candid moments abound in the rituals of life from birth to burials and in the rhythm of daily life. Look for people in at home, in the classroom, at work, on the street and at play. Also consider people attending festivals, parades and sporting events and people participating at religious services and political or patriotic events.

1.1.1 Photojournalism and Ethics

The code of ethics for journalists includes upholding standards of accuracy, objectivity, truthfulness and privacy for victims. These standards generally require a photojournalist to capture an image as clearly and honestly as they see it and they prohibit a photojournalist from

1. Artificially produced situations or photographic manipulations that alter the truth
2. Staging, arranging or posing participants in the activity that is to be photographed.

Note: This UMCC restriction applies to the actions of the photographer to control or influence the activity being depicted. The UMCC Photojournalism Category allows images of staged events such as military enactments, parades, graduation ceremonies and theater productions are allowed in the Photojournalism Category.

3. Privacy considerations may dictate that the photographer use discretion when submitting photographs or that the photographer request that a potentially sensitive submitted image not be uploaded to the UMCC web site competition galleries.

1.1.2 Photojournalism image editing

UMCC allows editing for subtle adjustments to exposure, color, tone, contrast, sharpness. All adjustments must appear natural and editing is only allowed to the extent that it does not change the photojournalistic content of the image. Refer to the section on Image Editing and Imaged Manipulation (Section 7) for what editing is allowed.

1.2 Nature Category

Nature photography is the photography of elements of the natural world in their natural state, unaltered by human intervention. Nature photography requires an honest presentation of what the photographer saw. The photographer is not permitted to restage or alter the setting or use any form of photographic manipulation that alters the truth of the subject.

The natural sciences of Zoology, botany, physics, chemistry, meteorology, and astronomy suggest potential nature subjects such as

  • Mountain ranges, volcanos, and canyons
  • Desert sand dunes, salt flats and dry valleys
  • Petrified stone, raw gemstones and minerals
  • Sun, moon, stars and comets
  • Sunsets, clouds and rainbows
  • Rain and snow, frost, ice and fog
  • Oceans, waves, coral reefs and marine life
  • Wetlands, free flowing steams and waterfalls
  • Rain forests, prairies and meadows
  • Wild animals and plant life in a natural habitat
  • Bird nests, beaver dams, ant hills

Human intervention that alters the essence of nature is a disqualifier. Images of the above are excluded from the Nature Category if they include any object that would not appear in nature. Also excluded are harvested plants, domesticated animals such as farm animals or pets, mounted specimens or obviously set arrangements.

Upper Merion Camera Club has chosen to include images of the following as allowed “Nature” images:

1. All plants and flowers, including those growing in greenhouses and landscaped gardens, as long as no containers, supports, fences, walls mulches or other manufactured objects are visible.
2. Confined wild animals as long as no cages, bars, ropes, walls or any fabricated habitat is visible in the image.
3. Macro images of flower and plant details.
4. Macro images of bugs and insects as long no nonconforming objects are visible.
5. Unobtrusive scientific tracking band or marking on a wild bird or wild animal as long as does not alter the nature, behavior or interaction of the bird or animal within its environment

1.2.1 Nature - Unaltered and Authentic

Two key concepts in nature photography are that the images are “unaltered” and “authentic”. These concepts apply to the essence of the subject, the place where the photograph is taken, accessory photography equipment and digital or darkroom image processing.

1. The photographer may not alter the natural setting by adding, arranging and removing artifacts before taking the picture.
2. The photographer may remove trash or other non-conforming artifacts provided doing so does not disturb or alter the natural setting
3. The photographer may improve subject visibility by using temporary tiebacks on branches as long as such are out of view and can be removed without harm to the plant.
4. Selective depth of field is allowed to isolate the main subject from a busy background.
5. Selective depth of field is allowed to blur non-conforming artifacts beyond recognition as long as the result is a natural looking background.
6. Lighting equipment can be used as needed to get a good exposure as long as no artificial coloring is introduced.
7. Wide angle lenses are acceptable to get wide views but are not acceptable if they distort the relative sizes of between objects in the image.
8. Neutral / split / graduated neutral density filters and warming / cooling filters are allowed as needed to get a correct exposure.
9. Polarizing filters are acceptable to reduce glare and reflections but cannot be used to exaggerate color depths such as darken blue skies beyond the color of the sky as it appears to the human eye.
10. Special effect filters that distort the image are not allowed.

Refer to the section on Image Editing and Imaged Manipulation (Section 7) for what editing is allowed.

1.3 Pictorial Category

This category is open to all genres of photography, including nature and photojournalism. Refer to the section on Image Editing and Image Manipulation (Section 7) for what editing is allowed.

1.4 Kreative Category

This category is for images created by using experimental and innovative techniques with camera equipment and/or computer software. It includes images that are presented exactly as captured by the camera as well as images that have been significantly modified with image editing software. Its purpose is to stimulate creative thoughts and encourage experimentation with new ideas that go beyond a simple photograph.

Images cannot be constructed entirely on a computer. The images must have an identifiable photographic base. The final result must be all the photographer’s own work including the original image.

Image editing software tools can transform photographs into images that turn reality upside down. Any and all are allowed. The only limits are one’s imagination and skill in applying techniques to create images derived from photography. Images can be created from multiple photographs, by distorting, cloning, adding surreal colors, applying filters and special effects to all or parts of the photograph and blending cutouts of photographs with text and shapes or combining into multiple image mosaics (diptych, triptych, etc.)

2.0 Assigned Subject Competitions

Five subjects are chosen each year. The competition dates are listed and the assigned subjects are listed in the program schedule. There are no image editing restrictions in this category.

3.0 Summer Shootout CompetItions

The summer schedule lists locations and dates. These are member only outings. A summer subject is chosen and is included on the schedule.
At the end of the summer, members gather for a friendly competition. There are two competitions – the summer subject and the best of the summer shootout images. Everybody present participates in the judging.  Only images taken at the location and on the evening of the summer shootouts are eligible.  Each member can submit three images to each of these competitions.
There are no image editing restrictions in this category.

4.0 Competition Rules

4.1 General Competition Rules

1. Entry in competitions is restricted to club members who are paid members on the date of the competition.
2. Members may submit images that were taken prior to joining the club, depending on the date constraints of the competition.
3. The photographer does not have to be present to compete.
4. Entries must be entered under the name of the member who photographed the image. 
5. Images entered for competition MAY NOT contain the photographers name, logo, or other identifying information visible to the judging.
6. Images containing inappropriate or offensive subject matter may be removed at the discretion of the Competition Chairperson. 
7. It is responsibility of the photographer to place the image in the appropriate competition.
8. The final decision on whether an image is “out of category” will be made by the competition chairperson. Images determined to be out of category will be removed before any images are shown to the judges.
9. Tie breakers are resolved by the judges.
10. The winners are announced after the judges finish scoring the images.

4.2 Regular Monthly Competitions

1. Regular competitions are held monthly from September to April
2. Members can compete in four categories – Photojournalism, Nature, Pictorial and “Kreative”.
3. A member may submit up to a total of six images to each regular monthly completion with a limit of two images per category per month.
4. There are no date constraints on when the pictures were taken.
5. Each category is scored separately.
6. An image earns “honors” by scoring in the top thirty-percent of the evening’s entries in its category.
7. If the number of entries in a category is not a multiple of 10, the thirty percent is rounded up to the next highest number.
8. If a person was absent on competition night and was unable to submit entries to a regular competition, that person may double his or her image entries at the next Regular Competition.
9. The same image (or nearly identical image) cannot be submitted more than twice per competition year to a regular monthly competition.
10. An image (or nearly identical image) that was previously awarded honors in any regular monthly completion in the current or prior years cannot be submitted to any regular monthly competition again.
11. UMCC relies on the integrity of the photographer to respect the restrictions on resubmitting the same (or nearly identical) photographs.

4.3 Assigned Subjects Competitions

1. Members may submit up to six images to each assigned subject competitions.
2. The same image may be submitted to multiple assigned subject competitions.
3. Photographs submitted to the assigned subject competitions must have been taken on or after June 1 the current club year.
4. Awards are given to the 1st.2nd and 3rd place photographs in each assigned subject competition.
5. Regular competitions and assigned subject competitions are completely separate and there are no restrictions regarding submitting the same image to both competitions.

4.4 End of Year Competition

Awards are given to the members with best images in each of the four regular competitions and to the member with the best image across all four competitions. Awards are also given to the members with the highest accumulated scores in each of the regular monthly competitions and to the photographer with the highest accumulated score across all four competitions.

5.0 General Rules

1. The Board of Directors will decide the type of awards to be given.
2. There are no restrictions on how many awards a photographer may win; one photographer could conceivably win them all.
3. Awards are based on the images entered into regular monthly competitions.
4. All winners of awards are announced at the final meeting in May.

5.1 Rules for Image of the Year

1. The final competition is held at the last meeting in May.
2. The categories are the same four categories as the regular monthly competitions
3. An image must have earned honors in the same category in a regular competition during the current club calendar year.
4. Each member may enter up to six honor photographs, with no limit on the number of images by category.
5. The judges will score each submitted image and select the top three scoring pictures in each category.
6. The first place image in each category will receive an award.
7. From among the award winning first place photographs in each category, the judges will select one photograph as Image of the Year.

5.2 Rules for Selecting Photographer of the Year

1. In compiling each person’s total points for each category, all images entered in the regular monthly competitions will be counted, whether or not they received honors.
2. Awards will be given for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in total points accumulated in each category during the September to April regular monthly competitions.
3. The Photographer of the Year Award is presented to the member who earns the highest number of total points from honor images in any categories of Regular Competitions during the camera club year.

6.0 Image Submission

1. Entries must be submitted by email.  Thumbdrives or other portable media will not be accepted.

2. Digital images that are scanned, transferred or reproduced from negatives, slides or prints are allowed. Members who need assistance transferring film work to a digital form are encouraged to contact a member of the UMCC board.

6.1 Email Submissions: Send images to the address provided in your membership package.. Please contact another member if you don't have that address.  Your email will be forwarded to the competition chairperson. You will receive an acknowledgment that your submissions have been received. Email submissions can be made any day preceding the competition.  Submission deadline is 10 p.m. prior to the day of the competition.

6.2 Eligibility: If you have not yet paid the club membership dues and are planning to do so on the night of the competition, please include a note to that effect when submitting by email. Entries may be submitted prior to paying membership dues but the entries will be struck from the competition if the membership dues are not paid when the competition starts. 

6.2 Hand Delivered ( No Longer Accepted )

Digital images submitted at the meeting have to be presented at least fifteen minutes before the start of the competition. Flash drives are ideal for submitting hand delivered images. CD’s and DVD’s are also acceptable.

6.3 Digital File Size / Type

Images must be submitted as jpg files that are sized to fit within the projector’s pixel limits. All images must be submitted ready for projection. That is they must be in the jpg format with pixel dimensions no larger than 1920 in width by 1080 in height (1920x1080 or “1080p”).

The laptop software requires the digital images to be jpg files, and the file extension must be “.jpg”.
The projector can display images with a maximum width of 1920 pixels and a maximum height of 1080 pixels.

6.4 Image names

The jpg file whether submitted by email or on digital media require files names in a specified format. The format is category and title, separated by an underscore. Note that your name should NOT be in the file name.

Image Names by Category

Category Format Examples
Nature Nat nat_grasshopper.jpg
Photojournalism  Pj  Pj_homerun.jpg 
Pictorial Pic Pic_Sunset_5012.jpg
Kreative K K_CrazyLights.jpg
Assigned Subject Varies by Subject Cars_speedracer.jpg would be a valid name for an assigned subject of "cars"

7.0 Image Editing and Image Manipulation

7.1 Nature and Photojournalism Competitions

Image editing is limited to subtle adjustments to exposure, color, tone, contrast, sharpness. Such editing is only allowed to the extent that it improves the accuracy of the image as a realistic presentation of what the photographer observed.

Editing that is allowed
1. Editing is allowed to fix an incorrect color balance.
2. Editing is allowed to fix an incorrect color saturation or an incorrect color intensity
3. Editing is allowed to fine tune exposures and brightness in the image. This includes the use of burning and dodging tools as well as tools using curves and sliders to adjust within high, mid and low ranges of exposure and brightness.
4. Editing is allowed to fine tune contrast in the image. This includes the use of tools with curves and sliders to adjust within high, mid and low contrast ranges.
5. Editing is allowed to sharpen images using any of the common sharping techniques, filters and plug-ins available to improve the general sharpness of digital images.
6. Editing is allowed to reduce noise from high ISOs and long exposures using any of the common techniques, filters and plug-ins available to reduce noise. 
7. Images may be digitally cropped, straightened, rotated and flipped horizontally and vertically.
8. HDR merged multiple exposures of otherwise identical images are allowable to get a correct exposure as long as the technique does not introduce an unnatural look.
9. Color images may be converted to a fully greyscale image (Black and White).
10. Editing is allowed to remove minor irregularities caused by dust or sensor dead spots.

Editing that is not allowed
1. Images may not be altered to a degree that renders an image an inaccurate or unrealistic representation of what the photographer saw.
2. Images may not be altered by selectively sharpening elements within the picture to draw attention to specific elements in the picture.
3. Images may not be altered by selectively blurring distracting elements within the picture.
4. Images may not be altered by deleting, cloning, rearranging or moving elements with the image.
5. Composites, multiple exposures, sandwiches and stitched panoramic images are not allowed.
6. Images may not be altered to change perspective or be skewed or distorted.
7. Images may not be altered using artistic or creative filters
8. Images may not be altered to add fog, highlights or any other special effects.
9. Greyscale images may not be colored.
10. Images may not be altered to remove red eye

7.2 Pictorial Competitions

Digital-processing techniques may be used freely but should not have the appearance of altered reality. Techniques are allowed that modify exposure, contrast, and white balance adjustments, cropping, conversion to monochrome, and cloning out or cleaning up image features.  HDR and other multiple exposure techniques are allowed.

Editing that is allowed
1. Adjustments to exposure, tone and contrast
2. Panoramas from images stitched together
3. Blurring selective parts of an image
4. Adding frames (borders) and vignettes that call attention to the image without altering the basic image
5. Combining images such that it gives the appearances of a realistic image (for example replacing the sky, adding a moon or a rainbow.)
6. Color replacement to individual components. (For example, changing the color of clothing or a building)
7. Cloning (cut and paste) from other images to remove unsightly elements (get rid of trashcans and phone poles
8. Use of artistic filters to give the image the appearance of fine art.
9. Corrections to perspective
10. Selective coloring on a monotone image.
11. Multiple image mosaics (diptych, triptych, or polytych)
12. This list is not intended as a complete list. In general, most photo editing is allowed unless it pushes the image into the boundaries of a Kreative Image or results in the image losing any resemblance to the original image as captured.

7.3 Kreative Competitions

Editing that is allowed
1. Original photographic artwork or computer graphics created by the entrant may be incorporated to the extent that the photographic content predominates.