Categories and Processing/Editing Guidelines

October 2017

Club Camera Tucson recognizes that computer and digital devices software processing of images has become an integral part of the photographic process. In that light, we have established categories and criteria taking this trend into account.

Categories for competitions are:

  • Nature: realistic landscapes, waterscapes, flowers, wildlife, and similar outdoor subjects
  • Hand of Man: realistic people, structures, cityscapes, and other man made influences.
  • Creative/Imaginative–altered reality: Heavily manipulated or created images whether or not the image is realistic.
  • Prints: includes images in all of the other above subject categories.

Realism: “Nature” and “Hand of Man”

Given the incredible diversity of subjects/treatments in our members images, we have broken the basic category of realistic images into two parts. The fundamental difference is whether something natural or something man-made (including people) is the central focus of the image. Thus, a landscape that includes a barn or a canoe on a lake could go into Nature if the barn or canoe is a very minor part of the image. If the barn or canoe is the central/dominant focus, the image must go into Hand of Man.
Similarly, one might include a person in a large landscape which could be advantageous to show scale. If that person is a very minor aspect of the image, it could still fall into the “Nature” category, but a judge might penalize a few points if he/she thought otherwise.

We understand there will be instances in which it is not crystal clear in which category an image should fall. Please don’t hesitate to contact the program chair for an opinion about which category your image might best fit. Or, since this is a friendly competition, take your best guess and leave it up to the judge.


This category shows natural items like landscapes, animals, flowers, insects, waterscapes, moonscapes, underwater wildlife scenes, etc. It encompasses all aspects of naturalness except for anthropology and archeology. Human or human created elements should not be present except when those are necessary as part of the natural environment. An example would be a photo of a wood stork on the roof of a Dutch house as the roofs are the natural nesting spot for the storks.

Hand of Man

This category encompasses any fully realistic image in which are shown humans or human created items such as: Portraits, buildings, bridges, pottery, artificial flowers, statues, works of art, machinery, automobiles, etc. are examples.

The main criteria for including an image in either of the realistic categories of “Nature” or “Hand of Man”, is whether the final image is one that a person could reasonably expect to see in the world we all inhabit

Please read the following carefully for moderate modifications & enhancements that are perfectly acceptable–if they enhance the presentation of the image without changing the nature story or the basic pictorial content:

  • Primary adjustments: sharpening, cropping, added contrast, brightening, moderate color saturation, removing dust spots, reducing digital noise, are all acceptable.
  • HDR (high dynamic range): acceptable if intent and result is still a naturalistic rendering and each image used is the exact same image but with different camera settings.
  • Removal of image elements: You may remove a minor object from an image if it does not in any way distort the meaning and realism of the image. Thus you can remove a distracting small rock or sign from the foreground if it does not alter the reality of the image. Similarly, if you have two or more exposures of the same image, you may take an object (or person) from one and transfer to its sibling image (perhaps it’s sharper, or the person is smiling in one and not the other)
  • Addition/substitution of image elements: It is not normally acceptable for the realistic category to combine elements from totally different images into one image. An example is the ongoing question of whether one can replace the sky in one image with the sky from another. Our answer is yes—-provided that realism is still maintained and the sky is a relatively minor aspect of the final image. Similarly, removing backgrounds to accomplish the same effect you would get if you shot an image against a plain background or backdrop (i.e. studio shot) is acceptable.
  • Black and White (Monochrome) conversions: Perfectly acceptable, but duotones, tritones and similar do not.
  • Soft-focus images: These images, where everything is soft, often used in fashion photography and portraiture, do not fit into the Realistic categories. It is however, perfectly acceptable to soften/blur backgrounds, but the principal subject should be in sharp focus.
  • Extra studio or outdoor lighting: Acceptable based on images still being realistic.
  • Borders or frames: perfectly acceptable provided the main image is realistic. Using the image itself as an outer frame would likely place the image into the Creative category. Using elaborate, detailed borders might cause a judge to lose sight of your primary image—so be conservative in the Realistic category.
  • Infrared images: Not allowed as these are not realistic—cannot be seen by a normal person in the real world. These fall in the Creative category.

This is not an all comprehensive list and issues, questions are likely to arise. In that case, please bring them to a meeting for discussion. Otherwise, go with your best judgment when submitting an image in a category.

Creative/Imaginative–Altered Reality

Our Creative category involves the creating/producing/modifying of an image that is a significant departure from reality through the use of different techniques, whether in camera, computer, mobile device software, or in printing techniques and materials. Creative images signify photographs that display a novel effect and creative use of line, form, color, textures etc, expressing the author’s artistic ideas and feelings in a non-traditional style.

Creative images must always start with the photographers own original photograph(s) and all work done to create the final image must be the photographers own (exception can be the final printing for a print). Use of commercially available texture images as background is acceptable, but the main subject matter must be the photographers work. It is preferable to have the photographer prepare backgrounds, textures from their own work.

Virtually anything that is not realistic fits into this category. It is understood that some creative images may also be realistic. An example would be where a significant item/subject from one image is transported and pasted into another image. The effect would simulate reality, but the technique used places it in the creative category.

The avenues for post-processing and modifying are many and varied. Here are just some of the potential processing techniques that could change a realistic image into one fitting the creative category:

  • Heavy HDR processing–grunge look
  • Zoom/blur effects
  • Blending/layering of different images/opacities
  • Stepping out of the frame (part of image outside a frame/border)
  • Painterly/artistic effects using filters as in Photoshop, Nik, Topaz, etc.
  • Collage like effects
  • Duo or tri tone photos
  • Multiple exposures, sandwiches
  • Surreal colors or patterns
  • Solarization, liquifying, heavy blurring
  • Infrared, color reversal

For prints, creativity can also be shown in the printing process. This could include the use of unusual paper as well as cloth, metal or some unique substrate.

Creative images will be judged via a different set of criteria as compared to “Nature” and “Hand of Man” categories. Emphasis will be more on the creativity/imagination demonstrated, and the overall impact on the viewer.