From the Judges –
In past Showcase competitions, we have asked the judges for some insights and tips on image selection and preparation to help future participants produce winning photos. Here are some of those comments –
- Study the photos that made it into previous Showcases. Try not to duplicate the images, but go a step beyond them. Never think that because something has won before, it will win again if copied. “There is a lot of talent out there,” said one judge. “It ain’t easy judging this!”
- If you know an animal or landscape intimately, you can create an intimate picture. Shoot what you know.
- Bring to mind the pictures that have moved you and try to work out what it is about them that makes you respond. Then use it.
- If you are not shooting digital, but are submitting digital pictures, check the scans against the originals before sending. The judges may love the composition and content of an image, but be unable to get past the pixelation in the sky or water or the softness of a bad scan. (That’s true for photo buyers as well.)
- The submission of an image that isn’t sized properly is unacceptable. Follow the competition rules exactly.
- A rule of thumb: Keep your subject sharp. It’s not always easy, but submitting photos that are in focus and tack-sharp shows a command of your equipment.
- The best composition is crucial. If needed, use in-camera or out-of-camera cropping.
- Be sure your file does not include an embedded photo credit or border that would require an immediate disqualification.
- Advances in image management software have enabled photographers to do nearly anything with their images. It is important, however, to know when to stop. Too much or unskilled sharpening, dodging and burning can easily ruin an image. Oversaturation of images using image management software can become garish. “The art of the natural is far more difficult to achieve,” said one judge.
- Photo contest judges look at thousands of photos and it takes a lot to stop them in their tracks. They are stirred by a fresh and surprising composition, creative use of color or a new way of seeing an old subject, if not a new one.
- Catch a moment of interesting behavior to breathe life into tired subjects. It takes persistence and talent to catch that moment in just the right way. For example, flying birds make a nice image, but an image of birds interacting in flight is exciting.
- If everyone else is shooting canyons and sand dunes, choose the landscape close to home and make a study of it until something new emerges. Think about new ways of interpreting a river scenic rather than just blurring the running water. In other words, think about what people aren’t shooting and consider those subjects. Use your technical skills and your creativity to set yourself apart. Originality is the real art of competing.
Questions About Your Entries –
We are assembling a list of questions and answers to help clarify how to submit your entries. Please see the Showcase Q&A page
Image Preparation Tips –
We tend to get a whole batch of very similar questions about preparing images for submission. While we can’t cover all the details for all software and platforms, we have found it helpful to use simple instructions for a “generic” version of Adobe Photoshop. If you need help preparing your images, these tips can probably be applied to most image editing software with minor differences.
Steps to prepare your images:
- Open your source image and do all cropping, color corrections and other changes first.
- Select the “Image>Image Size” menu and set the resolution to 104 pixels/inch.
- Make sure “Constrain Proportions” is checked and set the dimension of your longest side to 1024 pixels. FYI – ignore the size number next to “Pixel Dimensions”. That’s the amount of memory the image occupies while you work on it. File size is determined in step 11 below.
- Click OK to resize the image.
- Do your final sharpening.
- Select the “File>Save As” menu.
- Images are stored with anonymous, system-generated file names. So, your original file name can be whatever you like.
- Set the image format to “JPEG”, uncheck “ICC Profile”, and check “Use Lower Case Extension”.
- Browse to the folder where you want to save the image and click OK.
- Select “Baseline Optimized” for the format option.
- Adjust the “Quality” slider while watching the file size change below. Set it as close to 800KB as possible without going over. (FYI – ignore the pulldown menu for line speed. It is for reference only.)
- Click OK and store the image on your disk.
- The image is now ready to upload via the Showcase submission form.