Categories and Processing/Editing Guidelines

CCT Categories and Processing/Editing Guidelines

March 2019

Club Camera Tucson recognizes that computer and digital device software processing of images has become an integral part of the photographic process. In that light, we have established categories and judging criteria taking this trend into account. The objective here is not to create a rigid set of rules, but to offer guidelines encouraging club members to participate to the greatest extent possible. To that end, adjustments will be made as necessary on an image by image basis to ensure all members can participate.

Signatures & logos, while not prohibited, are generally discouraged on competition images as we wish images to be judged anonymously.

Categories for competitions are as follows:

  • Nature: realistic landscapes, waterscapes, flowers, wildlife, and similar subjects.
  • Hand of Man: realistic people, structures, cityscapes, and other man-made influences.
  • Creative: Manipulated or created images that could never be directly captured by a camera.
  • Prints: includes images in either Nature or Hand of Man (Once a year, the club will sponsor a Creative prints competition.)

Realism: Nature and Hand of Man

Realistic imagery in the following discussion refers to images of scenes or objects one could encounter and photograph using a camera. 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. The title of the image may be used to determine the photographer’s intent where the image is ambiguous.

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.

We understand there will be instances in which it is not crystal clear in which category an image should fall. Contact the competition chair for an opinion about which category your image might best fit.


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 of such a case 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 realistic image in which are shown humans or human created items. These would include, but are not limited to, portraits, buildings, bridges, pottery, artificial flowers, statues, works of art, machinery, automobiles, etc.

Guidelines for Nature and Hand of Man

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 encounter, and photograph in the world we all inhabit.

Please read the following carefully for image modifications, enhancements and exceptions that are perfectly acceptable for Nature and Hand of Man entries:

  • Primary adjustments: sharpening, cropping, added contrast, brightening, moderate color saturation, removing dust spots, reducing digital noise, are all acceptable.
  • HDR (high dynamic range) processing: acceptable if intent and result is still a natural rendering and each image used is the exact same image but with different camera settings.
  • Focus stacking, the use of multiple images with different focal points, is acceptable.
  • 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. However this rule is not absolute. 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 – if the 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 conversions: Monochrome and multi-tone conversions are acceptable.
  • Soft-focus images: The degree and intent of the soft-focus drives acceptability for Nature and Hand of Man. Camera movement and some filters modify the image without disguising the reality of the scene. More extreme focus adjustments may be better suited to the Creative category. The photographer should consider where his image will receive the most advantageous viewing by the judge.
  • 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: are allowed.
  • Filters: No restriction is applied to image processing filters applied to Nature and Hand of Man images if the basic scene content is not altered, and the filters do not dominate the image. For example, a filter with visible brush strokes would move the image into Creative whereas simplification and outlining filters applied in a subtle manner would not.

This is not an all comprehensive list; issues and questions are likely to arise. In that case, discuss it with the competition chairperson prior to competition. It is not the judge’s job to disqualify images.

Guidelines for Creative

Our Creative category involves the creation, production or modification of one or more images to produce digital art. Digital art in this sense is an image that a reasonable person would not associate with photographic capture, in other words a significant departure from reality using different techniques, whether in camera, computer, mobile device software, or in printing processes and materials. Creative images demonstrate the use of novel effects and imaginative 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 photographer’s own original photograph(s) and all work done to create the final image must be the photographer’s own. (The exception can be the final printing of the document). 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 appear 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. (Note the exception for skies and backgrounds mentioned above.)

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 (with noted exceptions).
  • Stepping out of the frame (part of image outside a frame/border).
  • Painterly/artistic effects using filters as in Photoshop, Nik, Topaz, etc. where the effect(s) dominate the image.
  • Collage like effects.
  • Multiple exposures, sandwiches (with noted exceptions).
  • Surreal colors or patterns.
  • Solarization, liquifying, heavy blurring.

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, when shown as prints, must be two-dimensional. The overall thickness of the image presented may not exceed 3/8th of an inch.

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 originality and the overall impact on the viewer.