Competition Guide

This is not intended to be a guide of “How to be a Photographer”. Many books, DVDs, web sites and magazines will help you to do that. This is simply to help you to get the most out of competitions in the club. An up to date copy of the Stevenage Photographic Society Competition Rules is available to all members and should be read carefully before entering competitions.


To gain maximum marks, your image must be presented to the judge in a way that pleases them. You must use card mounts in our club. The picture should be mounted straight and securely.  The mounts MUST measure 50cm x 40cm.  This was introduced so that your entry complies with EAF and PAGB requirements and could be used for external competitions. Fingerprints and dust should be removed before the competition. Lighter fuel is very effective for cleaning stubborn marks from prints. Do NOT try this on inkjet prints. Coloured mounts can be extremely effective with prints, but should be used with care. The colour should be complimentary and not distract from the image. Champagne or cream card is neutral and is probably the safest bet for most images. Black or white card can be effective, too.


Most judges suggest cropping the image to make the subject stand out more. Remember that you are trying to keep the judge’s eye in the picture. Cropping out any distractions from the background always helps.


Everything that you bring to the club should have your name on it somewhere. Prints should be labelled clearly on the back with:

  1. Your Name
  2. Your Membership Number
  3. The Title of the Print
  4. The Number of the Print (Usually 1 or 2
  5. The Number or Name of the Competition.
  6. Stevenage Photographic Society (In case they are entered at other clubs)

This will help the Chairman to announce the title confidently and clearly to the judge. It also tells him which way up to show the print. Most are obvious, but with reflections or abstracts, for example, he may need guidance. Digitally Projected Images should be cropped and resized to a maximum of 1400px x 1050px. A thin white line around your image is sometimes desired to separate the image from the screen. Thick white borders seldom reap praise from a judge. They are considered a distraction. Shaped and artistic, creative borders can help certain images, but be careful not to over use them. One is a treat, two is a crowd.


Titles are essential for an entry to identify them, and they can help the judge to understand your picture. They can be humorous or factual, but please keep them brief. Be wary of trying to make the judge laugh with your witty title. He may have seen the same title used on hundreds of different pictures and you are more likely to make him yawn. Every competition sees at least one entry called “Eye, eye!” Some members find it easy to give their pictures the right name, where others find it extremely difficult. For Natural History shots, you should give both the common name and the Latin name for that species. Many authors try to make their picture sound exotic with a title like “Cuban Sunset” or “Kilimanjaro at Dusk”. Most judges are not impressed unless the content of the image makes it stand out from the crowd. “Boat”, “Bird”, “Tree”, or “Flower” is better than nothing, but how different you would view an image called “Sailing Home”, “Flying Free”, “The Mighty Oak”, or “Poppies at Dawn”.


Competition nights are always extremely busy, so we ask that you bring in your entries the week before the date of the competition. Early preparation is always preferable to dashing around at the last minute. Once your entry is ready, store it safely until you transport it to the club. Do try not to be late on competition night if you possibly can. Members trying to sneak in quietly after the judge has started speaking are a distraction.  Please turn off mobile phones to avoid disrupting the evening.

Themed Competitions

We decide these topics or themes at the AGM more than a year in advance to give you as much time as possible to decide what sort of picture you want to take. Do not leave it to the last minute! Make a note of the topics before you go out anywhere with your camera. Judges can always tell when a picture has been taken specifically for a competition and when someone has just had a root through what they have on their computer.


Composition is probably the most important aspect of your image. Decide what your subject is going to be and use every trick you can to draw attention to that subject. I.e. Frame it with foliage, put a red hat on it, lead up to it with a path or something, throw the background completely out of focus, just make sure that the judge has nothing else to look at!

Stop and Think

When you are composing your shot, think about what you are doing. Search the viewfinder for distractions. Look around and see if there is another way of getting a better picture. Get as close as you can to your subject. Use your legs! (The photographer’s most under-used tool…) Judges often ask for a sense of perspective, too. They need something that tells them how big the subject is. Don’t rely on putting things right in Photoshop. Get it right in the camera first!


I mentioned red just now, because it is one of the strongest colours that you can use. A splash of red in a picture can turn it into a winner. The eye is led straight to it. A scene or landscape can be transformed by the inclusion of a person in a red jacket. Do not overdo it, though.


In Stevenage Photographic Society, we have a tradition of awarding a scratch card to the winner of a “Twenty”. We may also ask you to speak a little about your picture if there is time. This is not done to embarrass you, but so that the judge and the other members learn how you took your picture. What lens you used, where it was taken, how difficult it was to take. Just a few details to inspire others. The most important thing to remember is that when judges give their opinion of an image, it is just that. Their own, personal view! Inconsistency among judges is legendary. One judge will rave about a picture and give it maximum points. The next one will slate it and award it a lowly ten! What matters is that you like the picture.

DPI upload 

Images should be no more than 1400px on the longest edge.

Images can not be larger than 2mb in size each

Images must be in a jpeg format.

Please ensure your image file names are nameofimage.BYyourname.jpg