Guide for Judges 2021-2022

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 2021-2022 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 suspend print competitions for the time being. If we elect to return to in-person judging at any time, we will contact you as soon as possible to determine if you still wish to participate.

Meetings start at 7:00PM. 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.

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 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 – Reflections: 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 reflection may or may not include the subject which is being reflected. Click here for examples of Reflections Photography.

December – 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.

February – Abstract: 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.

April – Architecture: The subject should be a building, group of related buildings, or other man-made structure such as a bridge or tower or a portion thereof. 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.


  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.
    • 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.
    • 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

  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 1024 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 impact?

Contest Mechanics

Digital entries are submitted via email by members, sized to 1024 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 only once during 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. We ask that you observe the following guidelines for online competitions:

  1. Typically, there are 2 separate small competitions, including both novice and unlimited digital. 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.