Resizing and Labeling Instructions

Photos submitted to our photo challenges must be appropriately sized and identified. Instructions vary depending on whether the photograph is submitted to the Projected Image or Printed Image Division:

Projected Image Division

The maximum resolution is 1400 x 1280 pixels (width x height). Having your images at the highest allowable resolution will be beneficial. You should also use SRGB color space for all digital imagery.

Digital images must be renamed in accordance with the following template:

category_maker name sequencer_image title

The category will always be either “assigned” or “open.” The maker name is the first and last name of the maker. The sequencer defines the order of presentation, 1 or 2, if you submit more than one image into the project image division. Finally, the image title is a descriptive title (not a file number). As an example, the following are sample file names:

Assigned_David Smith 1_Sultry Sunset.jpg and
Open_David Smith 2_Cool Sunrise.jpg

If you are unsure about how to resize your digital images, refer the following document:

Resizing and Renaming Instructions for Digital Imagery

S4C Competition Chair, Stuart Lynn, published a guide for resizing images. His guide is applicable to S4C competitions and is equally applicable to TOPG digital competition. We have reproduced the guide on our website:

S4C Guide to Resizing Digital Images

Printed Image Division

Print submissions may be any size up to a maximum physical outside dimension of 16" x 20" and must mounted on Foam Core or inside a rigid mat, (no paper mats, no double matting allowed). The outside of the mount or mat dimensions cannot be larger than a maximum of 16"x 20". Hard frames of any kind are not allowed, and prints may not be mounted behind glass or plastic.


A Companion Digital Image must be submitted with each print. These images will be projected at the meeting so club members can view a copy of the image while the judge is viewing in printed form. File size and naming of companion images follow the same guidelines describe above for projected images.

All prints must contain the proper labeling information printed on the back side of the print. You must include the following information:

  • Category (Assigned or Open)
  • Full name of the maker
  • Photo Title (The title of the companion digital image must match the printed image title.)

Photo Challenges

TOPG members can submit photographs to monthly photo challenges and have their prints and digital images evaluated by qualified judges. Our judges are selected from a pool of prominent photographers who are well known in the field of photography. Their experience and expertise enables them to offer valuable critique and assessment of photographs in a stress-free environment. Photo critiques are performed anonymously. Above all, the goal of our photo challenges is to learn by example what makes a good photograph and how your own photos can be improved. After all, all photographs, no matter how good they are, could be made into better photographs.

Our Photo Challenge Guidelines

Images submitted to TOPG photo challenges are judged for their technical and pictorial merit. They should be properly exposed, be appropriately in focus, and have appropriate depth of field. Imagery should have impact, appeal, and strong composition. Each month we provide an assigned theme to challenge club members to make photographs that address a specific set of guidelines. We also provide an open category where club members may submit photographs without restriction.


Whether the club member chooses to submit digital images or prints for evaluation, our Photo Challenge Guidelines provide a construct for conducting photo challenges simply and easily. Club members may submit photos in two different divisions: the Printed Image Division and the Projected Image Division.

Please note that the Printed Image Division has been temporarily discontinued while we meet in a virtual world in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. We will resume the Printed Image Division once we start meeting in person.


We’ve pulled out most of the stops beginning in 2021. Our editing restrictions have been greatly relaxed when compared to challenge guidelines used in previous years. We hope this allows our club to be their most creative and not be hampered by rules. For specific details, please read:

2021 Photo Challenge Themes

The Thousand Oaks Photo Group offers judged photo challenges 10 months out of the year, from February through November. In January, we conduct a photo review of the best images from the previous year, and in December, we just have a party. The following themes have been selected for the 2021 Challenge Season:

Thousand Oaks Photo Group
2021 Photo Challenges

 Month Theme
 January   2020 Photo Review – no photo challenge
 February My Hometown – select a theme that would make our judge want to live in your hometown. This could be the Conejo Valley, Simi, Moorpark, just about anywhere in Ventura County, the San Fernando Valley or even Boise, Idaho. Show us the place where you live now!
 March Shadow – this is rather self-explanatory, or is it? Only you will really know until we see your image.
 April Odd - An odd number, odd person, odd object, … there are so many possibilities.
 May Small World – Some may take this literally as a “macro” technical challenge, but it leaves open the opportunity for many other possible creative interpretations While it’s a small world after all, there are so many possibilities in it.
 June Geometry - An extremely broad subject with subtle creative and compositional challenges. Think of things that are round, triangular, square, etc., etc., etc. An equal opportunity subject for beginner to advanced.
 July Vanishing Point – this could be across a table, down the block, the end of the valley or, or …
 August Impressionistic – this is a wide-open topic. This is your opportunity to be creative. Try your hand at creative editing or try a new camera technique. Is this art? Only you really need to make that decision.
 September  Slow Shutter - a broad ranging challenge with lots of possibilities. Think sports, moving water in landscapes, people or things in motion. Or try a tricky camera movement. There are so many possibilities.
 October  Technology – Make an image that represents technology. Technology is constantly changing and evolving. Your image may represent a physical aspect of technology, or it may be an interpretive essay. There are so many opportunities that will challenge your creativity.
 November  Repetition – If I say this once, I have said it again, and again, and again … Things repeat. This is a compositional component that can be found in both the natural world and in the manmade environment. Repetition can be found in everything from macro to large panoramas.
 December   TOPG Holiday Party (no photo challenge)

 

If you are not sure what a particular theme means. Google it, and you will see lots of concepts and examples to help spur your imagination. Or ask a friend. Have fun and share your vision.

Rules? I thought there were NO rules!

OK, there are a few pesky rules.

  • You have to be TOPG member in good standing to enter our challenges.
  • You must use a camera in the creation of your primary theme materials, and all key elements of your photo must be made by you.
  • You may submit up to 2 photos per month, either print of digital. The choice is yours.
  • All photographs must conform to specific size and naming requirements as described in the Photo Challenge Guidelines as well as in the Resizing and Labeling Instructions.

Simply stated, our rules are simple and easy to understand. But you do need to read them to know what they are. Please read:

 

The Photo Critique -
Softly passing judgement

Photographs submitted to our photo challenges will be reviewed and critiqued by a judge. The purpose of the critique is to help TOPG members better understand what constitutes an exceptional projected image or printed photograph. Learning by critique can be a highly effective way to improve one’s photography and post processing skills. It can help the photographer prepare for future TOPG photo challenges as well as photo competitions outside the TOPG. Our goal is to help every TOPG member become a better photographer and be less sensitive to receiving objective criticism of their work in an anonymous setting.

Whether reviewing a projected image or a print, each photograph is evaluated as follows:

  • The photo is displayed.
  • The photo title announced.
  • The judge takes a brief moment to study the photo. (Judges have already previewed images prior to the challenge meeting.)
  • The judge evaluates the photograph, providing critique and comment. The judge will comment about the photos artistic and technical merit, creativity, and presentation. The judge will also identify how the photo could be improved. If applicable, the judge will determine whether the photo fits the assigned category.
  • The judge will announce the images score using our 5-9 point rubric below.
  • If an image receives a score of 8 or 9, the name of maker will be announced.


How are photographs scored?

Judges assign scores according to the following grading scale:

9 – Photos exhibiting exceptional technical skill and impact
8 – Photos with very high technical skill and impact
7 – Good photos, worthy of award consideration
6 – Average quality photos
5 – Below average photos, needing improvement
4 – Below average photos with serious defects
3 – Photos with multiple serious defects

Note: when photos are submitted to an “assigned” category or topic, they must meet the requirement of that topic or category to receive consideration. Photos which do not fit the assignment will be disqualified for rating and may not be critiqued (depending on the judge).
All images, even the best ones, can be improved. It is hoped that everyone will learn from the discussion. All judge’s decisions are final. Our photo challenges are intended to be instructional.

Again, if you have any questions, please refer to the complete photo challenge guidelines:


Questions?

If you have any questions, please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Photo Challenges and Competitions

All TOPG members are encouraged to participate in these photo competitions. It is the best way we know to improve one’s photography capabilities. Taking more photos alone will not improve your skills as much as they will improve if you submit your images for critique and review.

The Thousand Oaks Photo Group offers judged photo challenges 10 months out of the year, from February through November*. TOPG members are given an opportunity to have their images and prints evaluated by judges selected from a pool of prominent photographers who are well known in the field of photography and have the experience and expertise to offer valuable critique and assessment of submitted photographs. Typically, photographs are judged in front of the group at large as they are displayed via a projection system. (Hard-copy prints are reviewed by the judge separately, and no critique is given.) Our photo competitions offer club members a chance to share their photos and have them reviewed by reputable judges in a stress-free environment. Image critiques are performed anonymously, as the judge only sees the displayed image and is told the image title. The photographer remains anonymous throughout the session. Only if an image is deemed to be of high merit will the photographer's name be announced. Above all, the goal of all image competitions is to learn by example of what makes a good photograph and what could be improved. After all, all photographs, no matter how good they are, could be better. These challenges are the centerpiece of our general meetings.

The TOPG judging process and rating criteria are described near the end of this page. Finally, instructions for resizing naming digital images are covered at the bottom of this page.

Types of Photo Challenges

We offer two types of photography challenge/competition opportunities: (1) Digital Composition Challenges and (2) Print Competitions. The nomenclature for these two types of competitions is largely historically based, and they are more like each other than they are different from each other. The specific rules for each competition will be explained below:

  • Digital Composition Challenges. The Digital Composition Challenge (DCC) was established to encourage members to expand and grow technically and creatively as photographers. Members are challenged to submit photos that are related to the months assigned topic. On DCC nights, there is no print competition and only digital images are considered. Images are projected anonymously and are critiqued and scored by the judge. There are no editing restrictions placed on images submitted for the DCC. See our Digital Composition Challenge Rules for complete details.

  • Print Competitions. On Print Competition evenings, members may choose to submit prints, prints and digital images, or just digital images. The intent of the Print Competition is to promote TOPG members to produce printed products. However, there is no requirement to do so, and members may submit digital images without prints if they so choose. Typically, club members who submit prints also submit digital versions of those prints for review by the judge. Regardless of digital or hard-copy submission, images may be entered into either of two categories: (1) “Assigned,” a pre-announced category, or (2) “Open,” a general category. Photos submitted into the Assigned category are reality based, and generally may not be manipulated beyond basic editing such as exposure, white and color balance, saturation and cropping. In addition, removal of dust spots is allowed. There are no editing restrictions placed on images submitted to the Open category. See our Print Competition Rules for complete details.

Again, there are detailed rules for both the Digital Composition Challenges and Print Competitions, and club members are encouraged to review these rules in detail before submitting photos to a specific challenge: It is very important that TOPG members review TOPG competition rules before submitting photographs to our competitions:

Digital Composition Challenge Rules
Print Competition Rules

 

Thousand Oaks Photo Group
2020 Photo Competitions

 Month Competition Type Theme
 January   2019 Photo Review   No submitted images 
 February  Print  Red
 March  DCC  Planes, Trains & Automobiles 
 April  Print  Abandoned
 May  DCC  Tools
 June  Print  Around the House
 July  DCC  Sports
 August  Print  Roads
 September   DCC  Abstract
 October   Print  Architecture
 November   DCC  People
 December   No Photo Competition   Party On!

 
Generic Photo Submission Requirements:

 

The Photo Critique -
Softly passing judgement

Images submitted to either the Digital Competition Challenge digital session of the Print Competition will be reviewed an critiqued by a judge. The purpose of the critiques to help photo group members better understand what features constitute an exceptional image or print and to help them prepare for submitting prints and images for consideration in competitions outside the TOPG. The goal is to help every TOPG member become a better photographer and be less sensitive to receiving objective crticism of their work in an anonymous setting.

Print Competitions: Prints are reviewed by the judge in a gallery setting while the general business portion of the monthly photo group meeting is being conducted. The judge will assign 1st, 2nd and 3rd place for both Assigned and Open categories. The results of the print competition and a short critique (time allowing) of each print will be presented at the end of the meeting.

Digital Review and Critiquing sessions are conducted monthly using a large screen display device. Images submitted for digital review will be displayed to the entire group according to the following procedure:

  • Each image is displayed anonymously
  • The images title announced
  • The judge has a brief moment to study the image
  • The judge evaluates the image, providing brief critique and comment.
  • Then, the judge will provide comments regarding the images artistic and technical merit, creativity, and how the image could be improved. If applicable, the judge will determine whether the image fits the assigned category.
  • The judge will grade images per club’s image scoring system and names of authors of images with score 8 or 9 will be announced.

How are images scored?

The judge may award images with exceptional impact, composition, technical quality with a “Merit” award according to the following grading scale:

9 – Images exhibiting exceptional technical skill and impact
8 – Images with very high technical skill and impact
7 – Good images, worthy of award consideration
6 – Average quality images
5 – Below average images, needing improvement
4 – Below average images with serious defects
3 – Images with multiple serious defects

Note: when images are submitted to an “assigned” category or topic, they must meet the requirement of that topic or category to receive consideration. Images that do not fit the assignment will be disqualified for rating and may not be critiqued (depending on the judge).

All judge’s decisions are final. Our image competitions and critiques are intended to be instructional. All images, even the best ones, can be improved, and the hope is that everyone will learn from the discussion.

 

Resizing and Renaming Images Instructions

For submitting ditigal images to either competition, the maximum digital image resolution for competitions is 1400 x 1280 pixels (width x height). All files are provided to the judges prior to our digital and print competitions. Having your images at the highest allowable resolution will be beneficial. If you are unsure about how to resize your images, read the following document:

Resizing and Renaming Images Instructions

S4C Competition Chair, Stuart Lynn, published a guide for resizing images. His guide is applicable to S4C competitions and is equally applicable to TOPG digital competition. We have reproduced the guide on our website: 

S4C Guide to Resizing Images