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Updated & Board Approved Dec 10, 2015

Once an image has received an Award (1st, 2nd, 3rd, EA) it cannot be re-used in any other LPA competitions. If an image has received an HM, the image may be re-used in other LPA competitions other than the original class it won the HM.

If B&W is not prohibited, then it’s allowed and the same with color. For Reality based classes (Nature, Travel and Photojournalism), please read “Notes: Alterations, Restorations & Borders” at the end of the definitions for further explanations and restrictions

ABSTRACT - Images in which the presentation of shape or form is the objective of the photograph. Abstract is often determined by not knowing what an object is, at least right away. For example, lines and shapes might be what you first saw, but then after studying the image, you notice that those lines and shapes are the outside of a building. If you saw it as a building first, without much thought, it may be better suited for the Structures Class.

ACTION - Motion being portrayed as the dominant theme, includes sports.

ANIMALS -Animals depicted as the main theme (excludes birds).

CLOSE UP - Photographs of small subjects or close up views of sections of large subjects. Think of this Class as “close up” to the subject. A photo of a faraway galaxy appears closer using a telescope, but it’s not a close-up image. A close-up on a face is good, but maybe better is a close up of an eye. This class is expecting some level of magnification.

CREATIVE - Creative is defined as altered reality that is apparent to the viewer. This definition includes alterations utilizing: colored lights and gels, black light, Mylar, sandwiches, projected images, double exposures, zoomed images, lithograph, birefringence, and computer manipulation. The image should have strong composition, pleasing quality, and color, texture, pattern, and/or tone impact. The appropriateness of the technique selected and pictorial merit is considered in judging. Small amounts of manipulating images (changing opacity, using filters, adding text, fantasy or textured backgrounds, etc) is NOT considered Creative. The content is unrestricted.

DESERT SCENES - Scenes depicting the environment, plants, animals and birds of the southwestern deserts. Excludes scenes dominated by desert wildflowers.

DESERT WILDFLOWERS - Close-ups and landscapes dominated by desert wildflowers.

FLOWERS (5/2016 Competition only) - Single or multiple blossoms of one or more plants, including Desert Wildflowers.

FLOWERS - Single or multiple blossoms of one or more plants, excluding Desert Wildflowers.

HUMAN INTEREST - In addition to the requirements for Photojournalism General (see below):

Human Interest is defined as an image depicting a person or persons in an interactive, emotional or unusual situation, excluding recreational or organized sports action. Guidelines for Human Interest Images. [SEE: Alterations], [SEE: Note], [SEE: Borders]

MACRO - Macro photography is extreme close-up photography, usually of very small subjects, in which the size of the subject in the photograph is greater than life size. In practice, this usually means the subject is smaller than 2“x2”.

MONOCHROME - An image is considered to be Monochrome only if it gives the impression of having no color (i.e., of containing only shades of grey which can include pure black and pure white); OR it gives the impression of being a greyscale image that has been toned in one color across the entire image.

A greyscale or multi-colored image that gives the impression of having been modified by partial toning, multi-toning, or by the inclusion of spot coloring does not meet the definition of Monochrome.

Pictorial Monochrome images are judged both for their technical and pictorial merit. The image must be properly exposed, be in focus, and have an appropriate depth of field. A Pictorial Monochrome image should have strong composition; pleasing quality; and texture, pattern, and/or tone impact. The content is unrestricted.

NATURE - The story telling value of a photograph must be weighed more than the pictorial quality while maintaining high technical quality Human elements shall not be present, except where those human elements are integral parts of the nature story such as nature subjects, like barn owls or storks, adapted to an environment modified by humans, or where those human elements are in situations depicting natural forces, like hurricanes or tidal waves. Scientific bands, scientific tags or radio collars are permissible. Photographs of human created hybrid plants, cultivated plants, feral animals, domestic animals, or mounted specimens are ineligible, as is any form of manipulation that alters the truth of the photographic statement. Something that exists in nature: insects, butterflies, spiders, trees & leaves, etc., Nature can have landscapes, geologic formations, weather phenomena, and extant organisms as the primary subject matter. This includes images taken with the subjects in controlled conditions, such as zoos, game farms, botanical gardens, aquariums and any enclosure where the subjects are totally dependent on man for food. [SEE: Note], [SEE: Borders], [SEE: Checklist and Explanations of Nature Definitions]

Photographs of all flowers and plant blossoms, hybrid or not, in any stage of development (including buds, seedpods, fruit, etc.) are ineligible - unless they are acting as an adopted habitat for eligible living organisms that are the main focus of the image*. However, small flowers may be included provided they are incidental to the main subject of the image. – Such as a bee in the wild pollinating in a flower, its adopted habitat for the purpose.

PANORAMIC - Images may be stitched together to create a single image and/or cropped. Panorama size must have one edge at least 2 times as long as the other edge. Prints must not have any dimension of more than 30” or less than 16” on the long side. The short side must have a dimension of no more than 12” or no less than 6”. Any work greater than 20” will be considered Panorama. Less than or equal to 20” (long side) but is 8” or greater (minimum short side), could also be entered in other classes.

PHOTOJOURNALISM - Photojournalism entries shall consist of images with informative content and emotional impact, reflecting the human presence in our world. The journalistic (story-telling) value of the image shall receive priority over pictorial quality. In the interest of credibility, images that misrepresent the truth, such as those from events or activities specifically arranged for photography or of subjects directed or hired for photography, are not eligible.

Note: Entrants are cautioned that the previous sentence includes any images that appear to be arranged or posed to the judges. Entrants are therefore advised that such images are likely to be disqualified (DQed). [SEE: Alterations], [SEE: Note], [SEE: Borders]

PICTORIAL - Picturesque scenes such as landscapes, seascapes or scenic views.

PICTORIAL LAND - Scenic photograph with land as the predominate theme.

PICTORIAL SKY - Scenic photograph with sky as the predominate theme.

PICTORIAL WATER - Scenic photograph with water as the predominate theme.

PORTRAIT - Portrayal of a person or persons either posing or candid. An image is eligible for the Portrait class whether or not the image is acquired indoors – such as in a formal studio setting – or outdoors in a natural or artificial environment. Such elements include but are not limited to: the lighting, including the use of reflectors and diffusers; the arrangement of people, props; backgrounds; makeup; or apparel.

STEP INTO THE PAST - Historic sites, buildings, antiques, and relics of the past. This can include images of people in period costume.

STRUCTURES - Man-made objects such as buildings, bridges, lighthouses, etc. EXCLUDES VEHICLES.

TRAVEL - A Photo Travel image expresses the characteristic features or culture of a land as they are found naturally. There are no geographic limitations. Images from events or activities arranged specifically for photography, or of subjects directed or hired for photography are not appropriate. Close up pictures of people or objects must include features that provide information about the environment.

For PSA Journal article clarifying this definition, (SEE: Note Clarification Photo Travel Definition), however, S4C uses a uniform definition regarding alterations for all 3 reality-based divisions (see Alterations below).

Note 1: An image taken just while traveling may or may not fit this definition. The primary elements of the image must be characteristic with respect to features or culture.

Note 2: Entrants are cautioned that the sentence on arranged events or activities includes any images that appear to be arranged to the judges even though the judges will give the benefit of the doubt to the maker. Entrants are therefore advised that such images may well be disqualified (DQed). [SEE: Alterations], [SEE: Note], [SEE: Borders]

VEHICLES -Any type of vehicle (car, boat, airplane, etc.)


SEE Alterations: As with all reality-based divisions, (Nature, Photo Travel, and Photojournalism), techniques that add, relocate, replace or remove any element of the original image, except by cropping, are not permitted. The only allowable modifications are the removal of dust, scratches or digital noise, restoration of the existing appearance of the original scene, sharpening that is not obvious, and complete conversion to grayscale monochrome. Other derivations, including infrared, are not eligible. All allowed adjustments must appear natural.

SEE Note: “Restoration of the appearance of the original scene” may include techniques such as HDR, focus stacking and dodging/burning provided they do not alter the contents of the original scene and the result looks natural.

SEE Border: Borders are optional, but must be 3 or 4 pixels in width and must be white or a shade of gray.

* Nature Story, Photo Travel Content, or PJ Story as appropriate.


(Return to Nature Open or Nature Wildlife definitions)

The following explanations of the Nature definition have been modified - and slightly augmented - from an article by Dan Charbonnet, PSA VP of Exhibition Services, that appeared in the September 2014 issue of the PSA Journal. It should be used as a checklist for those entering S4C nature competitions.

With regard to the definition of Nature Photography: (scroll down for specific comments on digital processing)

  • The definition prohibits human elements that are not an integral part of the nature story. Human elements are not limited to people or parts of people in the image. Human elements that can cause images to be disqualified, or at best scored low, include but are not limited to:
    • Roads, paths, vehicle tracks, or trails
    • Fences and fence posts
    • Signs
    • Power Poles
    • Wires
    • Buildings (or parts of buildings)
    • Walls or parts of walls
    • Mowing and plowing patterns in fields
    • Cut tree stumps, cut off limbs, branches or stems
    • Jesses and thongs on legs of raptors and other birds (these are not scientific banding)
  • The definition does include some examples of human elements that are integral parts of the nature story. Other examples of allowable human elements include:
    • Birds nesting or feeding young on or in man-made objects.
    • Insects depositing eggs or egg sacs in man-made objects.
    • Animals eating fresh kills on fence posts, pilings, in roadways, etc.
    • A flood with raging water with a house or other human element floating in the flood.
    • A tornado ripping apart buildings or throwing around human elements. Such “natural force” examples show nature stories where the natural forces are out of control.
  • The keys are whether the judge considers the human element integral to the story and considers the nature story to be strong.
  • The definition specifically lists domestic animals, including those that have gone feral, as not being allowed. Domestic animals are animals, such as horses, cats, dogs, poultry, cattle and sheep, that have been tamed and kept by humans as work animals, food sources, or pets, especially members of those species that have become notably different from their wild ancestors through selective breeding.
  • This particular restriction does eliminate just about all the “wild” horses in the world since those in the Americas, Europe and Western Asia are feral domestic horses, not true wild horses. The only true eligible horse is the rare Przewalski’s Horse also known as the Mongolian Wild Horse. Zebras, kiangs and onagers (wild asses) are also valid eligible members of the horse family.
  • It also reinforces the exclusion of any Llamas and Alpacas because those have always been domestic animals and have no ancestors that were never domesticated.
  • All Koi and goldfish are hybrids and are not allowed.
  • Cultivated plants are those that are grown specifically in decorative gardens and for food. Wildflowers (that are not hybrids) planted in botanical gardens are allowed subjects in Nature Open in the same manner that wild animals in zoos are allowed subjects.
  • “Slow” water (longer exposures) is allowed.
  • Star trail images created through the superimposition of multiple images (such as circumpolars) are not allowed, regardless of whether any human-created lighting is present.

With regard to digital processing in Nature Photography:

  • The definition does not allow replacing the background of the image, adding additional content from another image, or cloning out content from your original image. This restriction of cloning out content includes what may appear inconsequential, such as a blade of grass in front of an animal’s face. Also cloning elements already in the image and making additional copies of those elements is the same as adding elements and is not allowed.
  • Adding pictorial elements to the image or removing pictorial elements from the image is not permitted.
  • Adjustments are allowed that enhance the image without changing the content, including: exposure (globally and selectively), color balance, contrast, sharpening (globally and selectively), noise reduction, conversion to greyscale monochrome (with no color added), straightening, resizing, and cropping.
  • Deliberately blurring the background is not allowed.
  • Adding a vignette not originally produced by the camera is not allowed.
  • The overriding requirement for any of the allowed adjustments is that the results must appear natural to the viewer (the maker is not the viewer – the viewer is the judge!).


For all PSA-recognized Photo Travel (PT) exhibitions and Interclub PT competitions closing after December 31, 2015, an updated Photo Travel Definition will apply. This definition reads as follows (major changes from the previous 2012 Definition are in bold type):

A Photo Travel image expresses the characteristic features or culture of a land as they are found naturally. There are no geographic limitations. Images from events or activities arranged specifically for photography, or of subjects directed or hired for photography are not appropriate. Close up pictures of people or objects must include features that provide information about the environment. Techniques that add, relocate, replace or remove any element of the original image, except by cropping, are not permitted. The only allowable adjustments are removal of dust or digital noise, restoration of the appearance of the original scene, and complete conversion to grayscale monochrome. Other derivations, including infrared, are not permitted. All allowed adjustments must appear natural.

Why was the definition updated? This has to do with the fact that the Photo Travel Division is a reality-based division, like the Nature and Photojournalism Divisions. The object of Photo Travel is not just to produce good images, but to portray and communicate the world as we find it, rather than as we can arrange it to obtain THE best photograph. Our world is an infinitely interesting and varied place. We want to explore, capture and present it as it is, in its many interesting manifestations, rather than photographing the same limited number of setup situations over and over (think camels wandering the dunes at sunset) or to post-process the image to the point where it deviates substantially from the original scene.

The update concerning image manipulation is relatively easy to understand and follow,both for photographers and judges. Compared to the previous definition, it was simply made more precise.

The update concerning setup situations is a guideline for photographers to follow, rather than for judges to discern. Many setup situations are not obvious to the person who has not been there. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, even a judge who suspects a setup needs to give the photographer the benefit of the doubt. However, if the same type of image shows up in exhibition after exhibition, this may be a contrived situation created for the purpose of giving a small number of people a better shot at winning a medal.

In the sentence “Images from…” the emphasis is on “arranged specifically…” and “subjects directed or hired…” In order to illustrate the specific meaning, let’s assume someone photographs a reenactment of a civil war battle or a festival and submits this to a PT exhibition. No problem, because the people that were doing this were not hired or directed specifically for the photograph to be taken.

Is it okay to tip a subject? Yes, if the subject is doing what they would substantially be doing without being photographed, if it’s a small tip, and if the behavior, dress or posture was not specifically managed for the primary purpose of obtaining a better photograph.

Photo Travellers are ambassadors to other people and cultures. We do not want to contribute significantly to the distortions that are taking place as a result of the business that is being made out of hiring or directing native people to act in unnatural ways for the purpose of tourist photography.

The other three PSA divisions, Projected Images, Pictorial Prints and 3D do not have definitions that limit the subjects of their images. In other words, any subject matter can be submitted to those exhibitions, including camels wandering the dunes at sunset hired for that purpose.

If you have further questions about this definition, please contact me at ptd-chair@psa-photo.org. Tom Tauber, EPSA Chair, Photo Travel Division

competitions/classdefinitions.txt · Last modified: 2021/07/07 18:15 by kathyn