Categories and Themes

Note: The following definitions are guidelines and up to the judge’s interpretation.

Above or Below (Hi/Low Angle)

A photograph of something above you or below you either from a low angle or hi angle respectively. This pretty much includes anything except eye level images.


This category should include images that are in some way altered from the usual way it is viewed. The photograph can concentrate on color, form, texture, pattern, line or other aspect of the object. The subject of the photograph may be an identifiable object, but should be rendered in a way that the identity of the object is secondary to aspects of form, color (or tone), lines, shapes, or texture.  That is, the subject may be recognizable, but the photograph should not be representational.  The distinction can be subtle, and ultimately will reside with the judge.  Click here for examples of Abstract Photography.

Abstract Landcapes

This is a combination of our landscape (e.g., land/sea/city) and abstract categories.  Click here for examples of Abstract Landscapes.

Action / Motion / Movement

A photograph that gives a sense of motion. The subject can be a person, moving man made object, animal, or moving water. Click here for examples of Action/Motion/Movement.


Any photograph whose main subject is an animal. These could be domesticated pets, animals in the wild, in a zoo, or on a farm. This includes all kinds of animals including insects, fish, etc. but not people. Click here for examples of Animals.


The subject should be a building, group of related buildings, or other man-made structure such as a bridge or tower or a portion there of. Both interior and exterior photographs are allowed. Images may focus on the structure as a whole or a part of it. Click here for examples of Architecture.


The autumn season is a season full of color, and change. Images should capture the essence of autumn: trees turning color, fall festivals, pumpkins, changing weather, etc. Images may focus on the natural aspect of the turning of seasons, or the human and cultural aspects of the season. Click here for examples of Autumn photographs.


Any photograph whose main subject is a bird or birds. These could be domesticated pets, animals in the wild, in a zoo, on a farm, or in your backyard. The primary subject of the photograph should be birds. In other words, people may be in the photo, but the subject should clearly be the bird. The same for landscapes. The primary subject should be the bird(s) not the landscape. Click here for examples of Bird photographs.


Cityscapes consist of photographs capturing buildings and streets from a broader perspective, avoiding close-ups. An image featuring only a single building does not qualify as a cityscape. While a cityscape photograph may include people and/or wildlife, these elements should enhance the overall scene rather than dominate the composition. Click here for examples of Cityscapes.

Craftsmen, Artists, and Musicians

The photography theme of Craftsmen, Artists, and Musicians revolves around capturing the essence and creative spirit of individuals who excel in various artistic pursuits. It aims to showcase the dedication, skill, passion, and craftsmanship that these individuals possess in their respective fields. The theme focuses on documenting the artistic process, the meticulous attention to detail, and the unique personalities of craftsmen, artists, and musicians.

In this photography theme, the photographer seeks to capture the intimate moments and interactions between the subjects and their art forms. It involves capturing the artists at work, highlighting their tools, materials, and techniques. The photographs may also depict the environments where the artists create, such as studios, workshops, or performance venues, providing insight into their creative spaces.

The images within this theme emphasize the human element, displaying the emotions, expressions, and gestures of the craftsmen, artists, and musicians. The goal is to capture the essence of their personalities, the intensity of their focus, and the joy they derive from their artistic endeavors. These photographs may also highlight the relationship between the artists and their creations, illustrating the intimate connection between the individual and their craft.

Lighting and composition play important roles in this theme. The photographer may use natural or artificial lighting to accentuate the textures, colors, and details of the subjects and their artwork. Attention is given to the framing and composition of the images to create a visual narrative that tells the story of the craftsmen, artists, and musicians and their artistic journey.

The Craftsmen, Artists, and Musicians theme serves as a celebration of creativity and the diverse forms of artistic expression. It offers a glimpse into the world of talented individuals who dedicate their lives to honing their skills and bringing beauty, inspiration, and meaning to the world through their crafts.

Click here for examples of photographs of Craftsmen, Artists, and Musicians


This one is tough. This is more about the symbology associated with death than death itself. Remember the photograph still must be artistic, well composed, and interesting. Ideas include sugar skulls, the Day of the Dead, Halloween Skeletons and Grim Reapers, graveyards, cemeteries, etc. Don’t risk yourself trying to get an interesting photo. Also don’t hurt anyone or anything. Click here for examples of Death photography.


Decay can be defined as to decline from a sound or prosperous condition, to fall into ruin, or to decline in health, strength, or vigor. Your challenge is to create images that document or convey the sense of decay. Click here to find examples of Decay Photography.

Environmental Portrait

An environmental portrait is a portrait executed in the subject’s usual environment, such as in their home or workplace, and typically illuminates the subject’s life and surroundings. By photographing a person in their natural surroundings, it is thought that you will be able to better illuminate their character, and therefore portray the essence of their personality, rather than merely a likeness of their physical features. It is also thought that by photographing a person in their natural surroundings, the subject will be more at ease, and so be more conducive to expressing themselves, as opposed to in a studio, which can be a rather intimidating and artificial experience.

The emphasis should be on creating a portrait that tells the viewer something personal about the subject: their job/hobby/passion/etc. The subject should be engaged, that is they should know that they’re having their photograph taken.

How do you know someone is a teacher/lumberjack/civil engineer or loves bicycling/tying fishing flies/building robots/coaching little league baseball? You can take pictures of people riding their bike to work all day, but those aren’t environmental portraits. But if you sit the little league coach down in the dugout, have him put on his jacket and/or cap, include his whistle, clipboard, and water bottle, frame the shot to include the bench and dugout steps, and engage him in making some photographs, that’s an environmental portrait. Click here for examples of Environmental Portraits.


The photography theme of flowers involves capturing images that highlight the beauty, colors, and intricate details of diverse types of flowers. Photographers who specialize in this theme may focus on capturing images of flowers in their natural habitats, in gardens, or in other types of environments.

One of the most essential elements of flower photography is composition. Photographers may experiment with different angles, perspectives, and framing techniques to create visually interesting and dynamic images. They may choose to focus on a single flower or use multiple flowers to create a sense of depth and complexity.

In addition, flower photographers may use a range of techniques to create images that highlight the unique colors and textures of each flower. This can involve experimenting with different lighting conditions, such as natural light or artificial light sources, to capture the nuances of the flower’s color and form.

Another important aspect of flower photography is capturing the emotions and symbolism associated with different types of flowers. For example, photographers may focus on capturing images of flowers used in weddings, funerals, or other types of cultural events, as well as images that convey the beauty and transience of life.

Overall, the photography theme of flowers is about celebrating the beauty and intricacy of the natural world. By using creative composition, lighting, and techniques to capture the unique qualities of each flower, photographers can create stunning images that evoke a sense of wonder and appreciation for the beauty of nature.

Click here for examples of Flower Photography. Click here for a Spark Page on Flower photography.


The sustenance of life. Any photo of food. How do you photograph food and get such great results? What separates magazine-worthy photos from their less impressive counterparts isn’t a fancy camera or expensive equipment. It’s an understanding of what it takes to compose an appealing image and the confidence to execute your vision. Details like composition, lighting, and styling, which apply regardless of whether you’re using a digital single lens reflex camera (DSLR), a simple point-and-shoot, or an iPhone. First and foremost, a good food photo should evoke the food’s best traits and its inherent deliciousness. The colors and textures of a dish should be celebrated, not muted or hidden. That means avoiding blurry snapshots, unappealing angles, and that all-too-common yellow cast at all costs. If your mouth doesn’t water when editing your photos, you did something wrong. Click here for examples of Food Photography.

Geometric Photography

Uses lines, shapes, and patterns found in the world to create interesting compositions, balance and symmetry. The focus of the resulting images will be on the geometric lines, shapes and patterns formed; and the geometric aspect should be clearly conveyed. Subject matter may include, but is not limited to, Architectural, Urban, and Natural patterns. While there may be a sense of the abstract to this type of image, it is not a required component. There may also be a strong sense of repeating patterns, but this is also not required. The object is to “see” geometric shapes in the environment around you. Click here for examples of Geometric photography

Geometric Shapes

The geometric shape/pattern can be made of anything. Lines, circles, squares, triangles, etc. Abstract works are not allowed, the geometric shape must be something present in the real world, something that we’ve seen and shot. It must be a characterizing element of the picture but doesn’t need to be the only subject of it. The trick is in learning to find objects with appealing shapes and to capture them in an equally appealing way. Organic shapes occur frequently in nature (hence the name). They include curves, such as those you might see in the petal of a flower, and irregular shapes such as those you might see on a rock face. Geometric shapes, on the other hand, are straight and symmetrical. As you might have guessed, geometric shapes are found more often in the man-made world than in nature–they include things like buildings, roads, and bridges. Click here for examples of Geometric Shapes.


A photograph where the primary subject is made of glass. Photographing glass can be challenging due to glare from unwanted or uncontrolled highlights. Techniques like dark field lighting and light field lighting can give definition to the rims/edges of glass. Another interesting property of glass is refraction of light viewed through glass. Many commercial photographs are of glass like wine, beer, or perfume bottles. You can even try photographs of shattering or broken glass but be careful. Click here for example photographs of Glass.


A high key image mostly consists of highlights and midtones, is generally bright and even, and delicately toned, often with pastel and/or white shades. Click here for examples of High-Key.


This theme will be challenging. You must take photos that evoke a sense of humor, which is very subjective. Humor is defined as the quality of being amusing or comic, especially as expressed in literature or speech. Click here for examples of Humorous Photographs. Take them for what they are worth but remember the final interpretation will be by the judge.

Interesting Perspectives

Perspective in photography is defined as the sense of depth or spatial relationship between objects in a photo, along with their dimensions with respect to what viewer of the image sees. By changing perspective, subjects can appear much smaller or larger than normal, lines can converge differently, and much more. The most common and often least interesting perspective is “eye level.” At first we were going to define Interesting Perspectives as “Anything NOT at Eye Level”. Try these (1) Shoot down on your subject. (2) Shoot up at your subject. (3) Lie down and shoot from ground level. Click here for examples of Interesting Perspectives Photography.


We all have a kitchen. This theme can be basically any photo taken in a kitchen or a photo of anything that can be found in a kitchen. For example, people cooking or washing dishes or seated around the kitchen table enjoying a meal. Although the image may include food, it should complement the scene and not be the primary subject of the photograph. Click here for examples of Kitchen Photography.


Photographs of land, water, clouds or a combination of these in the outside environment. The image should not be a closeup.  An image of a single tree, flower, or building is not a landscape.  But a photograph of a forest or field of flowers is. A landscape photograph may include people, manmade objects and wildlife but these should complement the scene as a whole and not be the primary subject of the photograph. This theme includes Natural landscapes, and seascapes. Click here for examples of Landscapes.

Light and Shadow

This theme emphasizes the use of dynamic lighting, and by extension shadows to create mood and composition. It is not about the source of light, but rather its effect. Examples may include, but are not limited to: beams of light in dust, broken light filtering through trees or window blinds, “Rembrandt” portrait lighting, and the shadows they create. The shadows created should also be a considered subject. Click here for examples of Light and Shadow photography.


The possibilities are almost endless for long-exposure photography. Examples include light painting and streaks of car headlights, the blurred motion of a runner or another athlete, the silky motion of a waterfall, star trails in a night sky, amusement park rides, clouds blurring across the sky, fireworks, lightning, etc. It should be clear to the judge that the resulting image is the result of long-exposure. Click here for examples of Long-Exposure photography.

Looks Like a Painting

A photograph that appears to be a painting. This effect could be achieved in-camera or through post processing techniques. We have all seen photographs that when first viewed appeared to be a painting. This can be accomplished through composition, costume selection, poses, colors. Another option that requires less creativity is to use filters in your favorite photo editing software to achieve the effect.  Click here for example photographs that Looks Like a Painting.


A photograph that comprises predominantly of dark or monotone colors.  Click here for examples of Low-Key.

Leading Lines

Leading lines refers to a technique of composition where the viewer of your photos attention is drawn to lines that lead to the main subject of the image. A leading line paves an easy path for the eye to follow through different elements of a photo. Click here for examples of Leading Lines.


The photograph should be taken from a position very near the subject. Generally this means that the lens should be focused at or near its closest focusing position. The use of screw on close up filters, extension tubes and macro lenses is permitted. Click here for examples of Macro.


This category includes plants, animals and non man made objects. People, domestic animals such as pets and livestock, and agricultural crops are not appropriate. Wild animals, even in captivity, such as at a zoo or aquarium are allowed as are flowers in a garden, are allowed. Click here for examples of Nature.


The photography theme of night involves capturing images after the sun has set, typically in urban or natural environments. Photographers who specialize in this theme may focus on capturing the unique qualities of nighttime lighting, or the unique atmosphere and mood that emerges after dark.

One of the most important elements of night photography is mastering low light photography techniques. This can involve using a tripod to stabilize the camera, adjusting the camera’s ISO and aperture settings to allow for longer exposures, and using artificial light sources such as streetlights or car headlights to illuminate the scene.

In addition, night photographers may use a range of techniques to create images that convey a sense of atmosphere and mood. This can involve using creative lighting and color to create a mood of mystery, romance, or drama. They may also use composition and framing to create images that convey a sense of scale and perspective.

Another important aspect of night photography is capturing the unique qualities of nighttime lighting. This can involve creating images that showcase the vibrancy and energy of cityscapes after dark, or images that highlight the natural beauty of nighttime environments, such as starry skies or moonlit landscapes.

Overall, the photography theme of night is about celebrating the unique qualities of nighttime environments and lighting. By using creative composition, lighting, and techniques to capture the unique qualities of nighttime environments, photographers can create images that are visually striking, evocative, and convey a sense of atmosphere and mood that is distinct from daytime photography.

Click here for examples of Night Photography.

One Light Portrait

One light portrait lighting uses a single key light or main light. This is usually a speedlight or strobe. It’s only one light. But you can supplement with a reflector, a window, or the sunlight. Each lighting pattern talks about where to place the light in relation to the subject. Click here for examples of One Light Portraits.


Patterns are simply repeated shapes, colors or objects, ordered in either regular or irregular formations. As a photographer, using pattern is key to good composition and, when used effectively, can transform an otherwise bland image into something dramatic and eye catching. Click here for examples of Patterns.


The idea is that the image should primarily be about people. The images can be portraits, street photography, dancing or whatnot, but the image should call attention to people. The photograph may include other elements, but these should not be the primary subject of the photograph. A landscape or cityscape that just happens to have some humans in it should not qualify. Click here for examples of People/Portrait.


Photojournalism is a particular form of journalism (the collecting, editing, and presenting of news material for publication or broadcast) that creates images in order to tell a news story. Click here for examples of Photojournalism.


Reflection photography, also referred to as mirror photography, is when you use reflective surfaces to create an artistic echo of a scene. This type of photography can add an interesting spin to locations that are hotspots for photographers such as oceans, lakes, puddles, and even rain drops. They’re all subjects that are commonly used to create brilliant reflection photographs. Of course, less traditional resources such as metal, tiles, mirrors and anything with a shiny surface can also be easily incorporated into this type of photography. The photograph may or may not include the subject which is being reflected. Click here for examples of Reflections Photography.


Often confused with Reflection, Refraction is the change in direction of a wave passing from one medium (e.g., water, glass) to another caused by its change in speed. For example, waves in deep water travel faster than in shallow. This bending by refraction makes it possible for us to have lenses, magnifying glasses, prisms and rainbows. Click here for examples of Refraction Photography.

Sacred Places and Places of Reverence

The photography theme of “Sacred Places and Places of Reverence” revolves around capturing images of locations that hold deep spiritual or cultural significance. These are sites that are revered by communities, religious groups, or individuals due to their historical, religious, or symbolic importance. Photographers exploring this theme aim to convey the sense of awe, tranquility, and spiritual connection associated with these places through their images.

The theme encompasses a wide range of sacred locations across different cultures, religions, and geographical regions. It may include ancient temples, churches, mosques, synagogues, monasteries, pilgrimage sites, natural landscapes, sacred groves, or even simple spaces that hold personal reverence for individuals.

The photographs within this theme often emphasize the architectural beauty, intricate details, and artistic elements found within these sacred spaces. Light, both natural and artificial, plays a crucial role in highlighting the spiritual ambiance and creating a sense of transcendence in the images. The composition and framing may vary, but photographers often seek to capture the overall atmosphere, the sense of hallowed serenity, and the emotional impact that these places evoke.

Photographers approaching this theme may choose to focus on specific aspects such as rituals, religious ceremonies, the interaction of worshippers with the space, or the interaction between the sacred place and the surrounding natural environment. These images can capture the essence of devotion, contemplation, and the profound connection between humanity and the divine or the transcendent.

The goal of photographing sacred places and places of reverence is to not only document these locations but also to convey the significance, spirituality, and cultural heritage they represent. It allows viewers to experience and appreciate the power and beauty of these sites, even if they are unable to visit them in person.

Click her for examples of Sacred Places and Places of Reverence

Still Life

A photograph of an inanimate object or group of objects arranged as the subject for a picture. It can serve as an exercise in skill and creativity, to show an artist’s understanding of composition, his ability to depict color harmony, form, texture, and the effects of light upon the objects. Click here for examples of Still Life.

Street Photography

Street photography is photography that features the human condition within public places.Framing and timing can be key aspects of the craft with the aim of some street photography being to create images at a decisive or poignant moment. Street photography can focus on emotions displayed, thereby also recording people’s history from an emotional point of view. Click here for examples of Street Photography.


“Surreal photography would be more about creating a world or image which goes beyond the physical world as we know it. It usually shows something which would be impossible in real life or tampers with the line defining what is real and what is imaginary. Surreal = beyond the real.” Click here for examples of Surrealism Photography.


Photographers use triptychs to arrange three of their images within one frame with clear borders between them, or by using a separate frame for each photo and mounting them on the wall next to each other. Triptych photography might involve taking one picture and splitting it into three different parts or shooting three separate photos that are related. The artistic works compliment each other with similar subjects or a relatable message. Click here for examples of Triptych Photography.


You got it. Any photo where the primary subject of the photograph is water. This includes lakes, oceans, beaches, rivers, pools, ponds, waterfalls. But don’t limit yourself. Water photos could include kids playing in water, people walking in the rain, dogs playing in the sprinkler, water splashes or drops, etc. Click here for some examples of Water photographs.


This theme will be challenging. You must take photos that evoke a sense of whimsy, which is very subjective. Whimsical is defined as playfully quaint or fanciful, especially in an appealing and amusing way. Whimsical can also be defined as acting or behaving in a capricious manner. Click here for examples of Whimsical Photographs. Take them for what they are worth but remember the final interpretation will be by the judge.


Any photograph whose main subject is an animal. This includes all kinds of animals including insects, fish, etc.; but not people. This year we decided NOT TO ALLOW domesticated pets, animals in a zoo, or on a farm. Acceptable wildlife shots could range from the wilds of Alaska to the birds and insects in your garden. Click here for examples of Wildlife Photography.

Windows and Doors

A photograph where the primary subject consists of Windows and/or Doors. This could be a classical photograph of the door at the entry to a building or maybe decorated for Christmas. Old doors have lots of character. Like those from abandoned or historical buildings. Doors can be open or shut providing many composition options looking through the door. Windows similarly show character and often have reflections or provide the opportunity to peek within. Click here for example photographs of Windows and Doors.