NANPA Showcase Tips

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.

Captive and Photo Illustration Explained –

NANPA believes in photographers’ creative freedom to make images as they wish. Yet, it also recognizes that images presented in educational and other documentary contexts are assumed by the public to be straightforward records of what the photographer captured on film. Communicating clearly, efficiently and fully about the making of nature images is thus linked to public trust and acceptance.
Creators of images entered into the Showcase competition should be truthful in representing their work. NANPA’s Truth in Captioning statement proves guidelines used by the Showcase competition. Label your images with the following tags when applicable:
Abbreviated CAPT, this term applies to any living creature in a zoo, cage, net trap or in restrictive conditions. (Photographs taken at game farms are not accepted into the Showcase competition.) Garden flora should be designated as CAPT.
Entries that do not accurately reflect the subject matter and scene as it appeared when captured with the camera must be designated as Photo Illustration, abbreviated “PHIL” or the actual situation, such as Dbl. Exp. (Double Exposure), Digital Retouch Composite, etc. This definition does not include removing scratches or dust, repairing damage to images or making slight alterations that have traditionally been made by filters or in the printing process. All images that fit this definition should be designated as such even if entered in Altered Reality. Any image that adds, removes or changes the contents must be designated PHIL regardless of the category. NOTE: Photo illustration is not allowed in the conservation category.

What Constitutes Altered Reality? –

This unconventional category may be confusing to some. NANPA’s definition is: Images that display a change in natural color, form, shape or any combination of these. The image would be enhanced or transformed beyond the way the subject appears in nature.

Since we know you are visually oriented, we did a Google search on altered reality, clicked on the “Images” tab, and up came a gallery of images that covered a wide spectrum. So if you are confused, give that a try.

Meanwhile, in words, a sample of possible Altered Reality nature photos might be:
  • An elephant walking down the traffic-congested streets of New York City
  • An insect made to appear larger than any mammals
  • A kaleidoscope effect of a forest
  • A photo of an animal or plant that is made up of hundreds of photos pieced together
  • A reflection in mirrored sunglasses of a nature scene that is much different from the reality behind the person wearing the sunglasses
  • Combining a photo of natural patters to water and/or sky to give more texture to your scapes image
All images that fit the definition of Photo Illustrated (abbreviated PHIL) should be designated as such even if entered in Altered Reality. Any image that adds, removes or changes the contents must be designated with PHIL, regardless of category.

7 Most Frequent Mistakes Made in Entering Showcase –

  1. Watermark, credit, border or other extra treatment on the image or identifying information in the caption. These require immediate disqualification.
  2. Images come in after the deadline, which is September 16th at 11:00pm EDT. The “shut off” is automatic. Give yourself enough time to complete the process before the deadline. FINALIZE must be clicked before the deadline.
  3. Images are not sized properly (and other software errors). Learn your software. Know how to reach target specs for image dimensions and file size limit. Image preparation tips can be found below for Lightroom and Photoshop.
  4. Scans are pixelated, soft, overcropped or otherwise poorly made. The judges may love the composition and content of an image, but be unable to get past quality that is compromised.
  5. Overprocessed images. A breathtaking shot that is diminished by heavy-handed Photoshop work does not elicit high scores. When it comes to processing, just because you “can,” doesn’t mean you “should.”
  6. Entrant forgets to renew membership or renews too late. It’s best to renew well before the deadline in case of any technical difficulties. Renewal help is only available during normal office hours. Renewal delays may prevent you from entering the contest if you wait until the last minute.
  7. Images are muddy. All images are viewed via web browser, which is always sRGB. Convert your images to sRGB and then adjust saturation and contrast with that in mind. Every image is viewed under the same conditions, so no advantage is given to any color space.

Image Preparation Tips –

We tend to get a lot of very similar questions about preparing images for submission. While we can’t cover all the details for all possible software and platforms, there are lots of resources on the Web that will guide you through the steps to prepare your images.

Many photographers will be using either Adobe’s Lightroom or Photoshop. Here are two excellent tutorials on using those programs to prepare your images for submission:

How to Resize Your Images Using:

If you are using some other software, search for “resizing photo using XXX” with XXX being your program and you will probably find lots of resources to help you.

Most Popular Subjects –

A unique subject will stand out to the judges. Here’s a list of the most popular subjects during six previous Showcase competitions:

2018 – Bears, gorillas, birds in flight
2017 – Alaskan bears, waterfalls, star trails
2016 – Bears, auroras, birds in flight
2015 – Predation, mating behavior, bears, abstracts, trees
2014 – Bears (black, brown and polar), gorillas
2013 – Bears (always a popular subject), terns and other shorebirds
2012 – Water-related, e.g., underwater, above water, seascapes and shorebirds

Additional Showcase Resources:

Conservation Category Entry Tips
Showcase FAQs

Showcase Rules
Showcase Judging Process and Tips

Questions About Your Entries –

We have assembled a list of questions and answers to help clarify how to submit your entries. Please see the Showcase Q&A page