Categories and Themes

The following are guidelines and up to the judges 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.


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.


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.


Photographs of flowers buds, blooms, or fields of flowers; including single flowers, bunches of flowers, macros of flowers, arrangements or bouquets of flowers; found in the wild, in nursuries, gardens, in your house. Judges are inundated with flower photographs. The trick is to get a uniquely composed image that stands out from all of the other flower images. 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 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, groups of buildings, clouds or a combination of these. The image should not be a close up. An image of a single tree or flower is not a landscape but a photograph of a forest or field of flowers is. A landscape photograph may include people, man made objects and wildlife but these should complement the scene and not be the primary subject of the photograph. Also includes cityscapes and seascapes. Click here for examples of Landscapes, Cityscapes, and Seascapes.


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.


Photographs taken at night. This could include any photograph taken at night, light painting, star trails, etc. These DO NOT INCLUDE sunsets and sunrise shots. 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.

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.