The Power of Competition

Happy New Year (new competition year that is)!

PPA's International Photographic Competition is the gold standard for photography competitions and features the best of the best photographers from around the world every year. Having an image "go loan"—chosen for inclusion in the world's most prestigious photo exhibit—is an achievement pro photographers cherish.

The 2010 competition is wrapping up this month, so while the calendar says the year is only half over, it's time to start fresh with a whole new view on how competition can help you grow your photographic skills and your business.

New Rules and Procedures
The Photographic Exhibition Committee (PEC) is the governing body of PPA photographic competitions. Along with PPA‘s board of directors, PEC manages the rules and procedures to ensure they are the best they can be...while protecting the integrity of PPA competitions. In 2009, PPA's board of directors also appointed a task force to consider important competition changes, based on a PPA membership survey.

"The goal with these modifications is to provide what PPA members want in their photographic competition while keeping it as strong and viable as ever," notes PEC Chairman Dennis Craft, M.Photog.Cr.Hon.M.Photog., CPP, API, F-ASP.

While we're waiting for the 2010 results, peek ahead to see some exciting competition changes coming your way.

Districts, Not Regions
Five competition districts replace the twelve regional competitions, starting this fall.

"We hope that this change makes the affiliate competitions less burdensome on each association group," says Craft.

The only effect this change has on photographers is in where you submit your district competition entries. "We all should be taking advantage of competing at the district level," Craft adds. It's a great way to test-run your images before the International Photographic Competition .

What's your district? Every PPA member is assigned to a district based on where they live (or the address in their PPA member record), and a map is available here: Contact your affiliate association or Rich Newell ( ), PEC Administrator, if you have questions.

Size (Almost) Doesn't Matter
Starting with the Southwest District competition in the fall of 2010, all photographers will be able to submit different sizes of print images in all PPA photographic competitions—they won't be restricted to a 16x20 presentation.

Keep in mind, though, that while your images' shapes and sizes have more flexibility in the 2011 competition, there will still be some requirements. The presentation must be a minimum of 80 square inches to a maximum of 480 square inches, with the largest dimension no longer than 24 inches.

The Category You've Been Waiting For
In the 2011 International Photographic Competition, the Photographic Open category will be split in two: Photographic Open and Illustrative.

Due to popular demand, this category split will allow for images of similar subject types to be judged together. The new Photographic Open category will accept wedding images, portraits, etc. The new Illustrative category is for landscapes, flowers, nature images, creative digital composites and that sort of imagery.

"This is something that many photographers have asked for, and PEC listened," Craft says.

Digital Submission Makes Its Debut
In the 2011 International Photographic Competition, people can enter digitally in every category.

Digital submission was introduced in the 2010 competition, with a handful of categories allowing digital or print entries. In 2011, every category will have that choice. Why? Well, 70 percent of PPA members said they would be more likely to enter photographic competitions if they could submit digital files.

"No longer will PPA tell you what format you must submit," says Craft. "Print or decide what's best for your image."

Just remember that how you submit is how the image will be displayed at Imaging USA (if you earn a spot in the exhibit). Prints will be displayed as they've always been in the traditional International Photographic Exhibit. If you enter a digital file that qualifies for the exhibit, your image will be rotated on large monitors with other award-winning digital entries.

Digital Judging Details
In fact, that is how the digital images will be viewed by the jurors. Two 30-inch NEC monitors will be set up in a room of six jurors, and the image will come up on both screens. "PPA will own all this digital judging equipment for the International Photographic Competition and will ship it to the different district competitions, which will really help those affiliates," explains Craft.

Jurors are already being trained on this new entry option. Those trained jurors will then help other jurors in district competitions, and PEC will hold refresher courses to keep everyone up to speed.

"If you think about it, we actually started the transition into digital judging years ago with Adobe® Photoshop® software," Craft comments. At that time, PEC had to train jurors to look for errors like banding, cloning tracks and chromatic aberration. "In the past, we had to train jurors to see these flaws in prints. This time, we had to make sure they are comfortable viewing an image and catching those flaws with light coming from behind the image (via the monitor), rather than reflected off it (when viewing a print)."

Thinking of Entering Digital?
If the digital entry option captures your interest, remember these important points:

  1. Use the Technical Excellence and Print Presentation elements. As Craft points out, "Those elements are still part of an image, whether you're viewing it as a print or on a monitor." So don't forget the key lines, borders or any of the presentation touches.
  2. Read and follow the parameters set by PEC for entering the correctly sized files. You don't want your image to be pixilated or stretched-out on the judging monitors. (These details will be in the competition rules.)

So just how good are you? Make this the year to find out.

What's Next?

  • Right Now: Start prepping your entries for district competition—it's a great place to start! In the process, you might find colleagues who are willing to critique and offer suggestions for making your images even better. Don't forget to join in the conversation on theLoop as well.
  • This Month: Watch for the announcement of the 2010 results from the International Photographic Competition (June 13-16 in Atlanta, Ga.). Want to learn more about how images are judged? Start by reviewing the "12 Elements of a Merit Image " for a foundation (found on
  • This Year: Look for upcoming articles in the magazine and online newsletters about PPA competitions, merits and degrees and some real-life inspiration from PPA members who see competition as an effective way to improve skills.

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