Guide for Judges 2022-2023

Photography contests for Arundel Camera Club have been conducted since 1957. We operate from Severna Park, Maryland and provide photography centered learning and recreational activities as well as competitions for members weekly from September through May as well as monthly field trips to locations with photography opportunities for members.

In March 2020, the COVID-19 epidemic forced the club to go online, with a gradual return to normal in-person operations anticipated in the 2022-23 academic year. The club will move more activities to in-person as the health guidelines permit.  Meanwhile, we will conduct contests online for digital images and will resume print competitions in Fall 2022 for as long as it is deemed safe for members to do so. We are returning to in-person judging for prints, and we will comply with masking and distancing requirements as they evolve.

Meetings start at 7:00PM.

For digital contests, please connect no later than 6:45PM and no earlier than 6:30PM so that we can go over the contest mechanics with you. We will send a digital copy of the submissions for the contests in advance of the competition for review. Typically, we will send these to you the day prior to the contests.

For print contests, please arrive at the Severna Park Baptist Church (click here for directions) around 6:45PM, and we will go over the procedures upon your arrival.  The Club intends to broadcast print contest meetings on Facebook Live. Please provide a good cell phone contact number to the contest chair prior to the contest so we can reach you if there are last minute changes in the venue, timing, or schedule.

This guide is to help you understand how the competition will operate and the kinds of feedback we are seeking from judges.  It is a learning experience for members, and so we are hopeful to let each photographer walk away from each contest, having learned both from feedback on their own work but also by listening to the feedback on the photographs submitted by other club members.

Contest Themes

Contests will either be open or have a theme. Anything goes in an open contest. Themed contests will have an assigned theme. For instance, here are some example themes: portrait, street, landscape, macro, insects, wildlife, high-key, low-key, shadows, night, light-painting, slow shutter speeds, sports, transportation, trains, cars, plans, abstract, architecture, still life, flowers, butterflies, birds, etc. The contest chairman will provide you the club definition of the theme before the contest. If you have any questions, please ask.

September, November, January, March – Open: During open competitions there is no set contest theme, and any subject matter or style is acceptable.

October – 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.

December – 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.

February – Glass: 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.

April – 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.


  1. Give feedback that will help the photographer (and the other members observing the contest) to learn. We urge you to first recognize the effort the photographer has made in producing the image.
  2. Let the photographer know how well the image met the theme or not. Images that do not abide by the theme should not be awarded prizes. However, this is mostly subjective and up to the judge’s interpretation.
  3. Tell the photographer if the photograph succeeded in having impact on the viewer. If the image is strong and has impact, describe the features that contributed to the impact. Also let the photographer know what features of the photograph weakened its impact and why. This information will be extremely valuable to novice photographers who may lack experience in this area.
  4. Use the photographer’s vocabulary. That is, to the extent possible, use precise terms that are simple and clear and that are traditionally used in discussing photographs. Vocabulary such as “leading lines,” “rule of thirds,” “flat light,” “saturation,” “contrast,” and “composition” are helpful. Terms such as “weird light,” “cool-looking,” or “unpleasant” may not help the photographer understand what is working and what is not in a photo.
  5. Provide the photographer feedback on the composition and treatment. For purposes of competition a photograph consists of two elements: Composition and Treatment.
    1. Composition is the arrangement of “things” in the image. It’s elements, subjects, objects, etc. and how they are arranged in the image. How an image is cropped is also a compositional element.
    2. Treatment is the way the photograph, as a whole, has been treated. Treatment includes techniques such as (but not limited to) toning, coloring, posterization, solarization, sandwiching, etc.

Digital Contests

Digital entries are submitted electronically via the club website by members, sized to 2048 pixels on the longest side. They are numbered and coded according to a predetermined system to assure the judge is not aware of the name of the photographer. Each photograph is named by the photographer, which will be read to you at the beginning of the competition. For online digital competitions, the judge will receive a file of the images, usually no more than one day in advance of the contest. If you fail to receive a copy of the images, please contact the contest chairman.

  1. Download the digital images to your own computer, but please do not distribute or copy the files since they are the property of the respective photographers who created them. Import the images into a photo viewer that makes it easy to delete or filter ‘out’ images as you down select to the winning images.
  2. Please review the images in advance of the contest, so you can get an overall idea of the range and quality of the images you are receiving. Please check to make sure the images are of the quality that you can make decisions during the judging. If you have any issues, please reach out to the contest chairman.
  3. Calibrate your computer monitor to be assured of having the best image quality possible during the contests.
  4. Please use the digital images we sent you via email the images digitally broadcast over the internet during the contest. The digital images broadcast over the internet may suffer due to bandwidth or other issues during transmission. In fact, the broadcast usually lags behind by up to 30 seconds.
  5. The images will be numbered for easy reference during the contest. Please reference the image by number during in/out and placement rounds.
  6. Please do not study metadata nor “pixel-peep.” The online digital contest is our best way of replicating the in-person digital contests we have run in the past. For the in-person contests, the judge would sit near a screen to see a projected image clearly, and provide feedback and decisions based on what was on the screen. The most successful feedback for photographers is your impressions of the photo. We do not want you to be unduly influenced by file metadata or zooming into the photo. All the images should be a maximum of 2048 pixels on the long side.
  7. Digital manipulation is acceptable. It does not matter if the image was initially a singular image straight out of the camera or digitally edited in Photoshop or some other image editing software. The image can even be a composite if all photographic elements of the image are the work of the photographer. Clip art, stock images, and other copyrighted material are not allowed. You do not have to police the image or determine if the club member abided by the rules. Just judge the image on its merit. Does it work or not? Does it have an impact?

Print Contests

For print contests we have four smaller contests, one for monochrome and one for color, unlimited, and novice.

Monochrome – A monochrome image is defined as having varying shades of no more than one color (carious shades of that color from very light to very dark) but it may be any single color. Multi-toned images (various shades of two or more colors) and greyscale images with an added accent color are not acceptable. Monochrome prints which are toned (sepia, selenium, cyanotype, etc.) will be considered monochrome. Prints displaying more than one color must be entered as color prints. In the event of a dispute the Contest Chairman’s application of this rule will be final.

Photographic Processes – Photographs made by any recognized photographic process will be acceptable. Recognized processes include, but are not limited to, chemical prints, ink and/or dye-based prints, collage, montage, toning, and the like.

Digital Manipulation – Like the digital contest, digital manipulation is acceptable. Just judge the image on its merit. Does it work or not? Does it have an impact?

Print Quality – Print Quality is critical to print contests and is what separates the print contest from the digital. It usually requires a better image for printing (e.g., higher resolution).

Presentation – Presentation is important to print contests. While the image itself should be the primary focus of judging, we understand that poor matting can negatively impact the overall presentation. While great care is taken, due to the process of submitting, sorting, and presenting the prints, the mats are sometimes damaged.

Contest Mechanics

  1. Typically, there are 2 separate small competitions, one for novice and one for unlimited. The difference between unlimited and novice is the number of points accumulated by the club member. In general, unlimited club members are more experienced and accomplished.
  2. Each contest has three rounds as follows:
Round 1 Review – Quick run-through of all images and titles.
Round 2 Feedback – Go through the images again, one-by-one providing feedback. Start to remove images that are not going to advance to the placement round.
Round 3 Placement Round – Down select and assign 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and honorable mentions. We assign honorable mentions equivalent to 10% of the number of entries.


If you have any questions, please contact the VP of Contests, Ron Peiffer at or the Club President at

Finally, we would like to express our deep appreciation for your time and skill in judging and providing feedback to our club. We understand that virtual contests are not as personal as in person and look forward to safer times when we can meet in person again. Your support contributes to the richness of our club experience.