Guidelines for Competition Categories
Please note that the following information is intended as supplemental information to help members better understand the more formal rules of competitions. The information should not be interpreted as the official rules. The rules for Digital Competitions are available here.
The RHCC usually has three categories for the regular Digital Competitions. The information below is to help members understand how the categories are defined and also to give guidance on picking the best categories for their images.
Most photography competitions use categories to group images with similar content together so that awards can be distributed fairly. Most club competitions limit the entries to three or four categories. This is done to ensure that there are enough images in a category to get a reasonable distribution of placements. A frequent comment that is heard is “Why can’t we have a category for topic xyz” … well, this is because the topic may be too narrow and of interest only to a limited number of members, thus not justifying its use as a regular category. The club tries to address this by having “themed” categories; also referred to as Assigned Category. By changing the themes, the club can encourage members to contribute to themes that they don’t often consider. This increases the number of images for a particular topic and thus, allows for a good distribution of placements.
When you are trying to decide the best category to fit your image, you should start with considering the Assigned Category. Questions to ask yourself would be … “does the image match with the defined requirements for the theme? … “is the match to the theme clear, or is it vague?” When a judge has difficulty seeing the “fit to the category,” then it will be scored a little lower than expected. It is often useful to get feedback from others regarding “fit” since it is easy to get emotionally attached to an image and not see that it is “weak in category.” For the RHCC, images in the Assigned Category must be captured over the last year. This rule is there to encourage members to take recent photos to meet the challenge of a theme, rather than digging back in their archives for images.
If an image meets the requirements for an Assigned Category, then members are still left with the option of submitting the image to another category. For example, if the theme was “Barns” then an image of a barn could go into either Assigned or into Pictorial … but not Natural Things (more on that below). The competition vetting team will not move an image from Pictorial or Natural Things into an Assigned Category just because it fits the Assigned Category. It is necessary for the maker to decide which category they prefer when there is an option between categories.
An image that does not fit in the Assigned Category must then be assessed to see which of the two remaining categories are appropriate for the image. It is very important to note that you should not submit an image into the Pictorial category because you consider it is a default category for everything. Images that represent natural things should not be submitted into the Pictorial category (unless they look unnatural due to post-processing (see below)).
So … what constitutes a Natural Things image? These are images that include the natural world around us … things like animals and plants, but also landscapes, geology (rocks) … basically anything related to nature. Now, there is a catch here, so please read the next part carefully. Images in the Natural Things category should not be dominated by human elements; things like buildings and fences, etc. The rule of thumb here is that only a 15% of an image in the Natural Things category can include human elements. This rule is flexible since sometimes the background of an image may contain human elements that represent more than 15% of the image. The important thing is that these elements are not the main focal point of the image. These guidelines for the Natural Things category are not there to make things complicated, but rather to encourage submission of photos that are mostly about nature and not about humans.
Another thing to consider when selecting the Natural Things category is whether things truly “look” natural. It is easy to take an image that is about nature, but then process it with artistic filters to create a new image that is not natural-looking anymore. The same thing applies if the image has unnaturally saturated colours or if the image is over-sharpened. Such images should be entered in the Pictorial category.
The Pictorial category includes images that do not fit in the Natural Things category or those that maker chooses not to put in the Assigned Category (assuming they were actually a fit for the Assigned Category to begin with). Typical images for the Pictorial category would be human portraits, buildings (architecture), photojournalism …. and other things that include human elements as a major focal point. Again, this category is not intended as a “I don’t know where it should go” category. If you are not sure, then please ask the Competition Committee for help. They are more than happy to help out since it saves them a lot of extra work later in moving images between categories, plus they are just nice people 😉
Titles for images can be quite imaginative, especially for the Pictorial category. The title guides the judges and can help to add a little more impact to the image. For Natural Things images, it is often helpful to include some information about the content in the title. You don’t have to get carried away with Latin names for species, but “Monarch Butterfly” is better than just “Butterfly.” Try to think of your title like the title of a book. Typically, major words are capitalized. Spelling is easy to check … so just do it 😉 There are tools on the internet to help with capitalization, if you struggle with that sort of stuff.
One final note … the Natural Things category has much more flexible rules than the annual “Nature Trophy Competition.” So, try not to confuse “Natural Things” with “Nature Trophy.”