Explanation of PTCC's Competition Categories and Point Awards

We have roughly one competition per month during the Club year. These are shown on the Calendar page of this site. Each general category is headed up by a Competition Chair who decides the content and nature of each competition and manages the process from judging to returns presentation. The outside feedback gained from these competitions, coupled with open discussion, really helps members understand what goes into making a compelling image.

Competitions & Judging:

Each member may submit up to three (3)* digital images for each competition judging. The images are sent to an independent judge, often a PSA member or local professional, for judging. The top three, plus up to three honorable mentions, are awarded. The judge's written or recorded comments are presented when the judging is complete. Win or lose, the process provides an important learning experience for future competitions and helps everyone create more satisfying and enjoyable images.
Beginning with the 2015 Club Year (October 1, 2014), members may submit up to three (3) images per competition.


Image of the Year:
At year-end in October, a final competition is conducted to award the image of the Year. Winning entries from the various competitions throughout the year are eligible for entry.
Competitive Field Trips:
At least once a year, the club takes a photographic field trip. Though working independently, each participating member works from a common list of subjects. One image per category is submitted for judging. Past field trips have included Monterey's Fisherman's Wharf, the charming San Juan Bautista area and the Moss Landing waterfront, Carmel by the Sea, Pacific Grove, and beautiful Capitola.
Group Shoots:
Unlike the annual Club Field Trip, our Group Shoots are all about learning from other club members in a field setting. It's stimulating to see how other photographers set up for a shot, what equipment they bring (or don't bring), and watch experienced shooters work a subject. We try to work in three of these each Club-Year.

Competition Categories


Pictorial photography is the use of the photographic medium as an art form. The emphasis here is on the image's, visual impact, composition, interest and technical excellence. Some of our pictorial competition are "Open", consisting of any subject matter, or "Directed", consisting of a specified subject, such as landscapes, portrait or architecture.

"Directed" pictorial competitions may also call for a specific compositional technique, such as the use of leading lines, selective focus or negative space. As with all the competition categories except Creative, the reality of the subject must not be altered. For pictorials, slight adjustments to exposure and color balance elements, sharpening and minor noise elimination to enhance image quality without distorting the reality of the subject is permitted. See "Nature" competitions for additional manipulation restrictions.


Creative photography is producing an image through the use of imaginative skill or originality of thought including the altering of reality. From a judging standpoint, no image should be eliminated from competition simply because it looks realistic, provided the image demonstrates originality of concept. Creative images may include modifications in the darkroom, on the computer, or in the camera, as well as unusual points of view, imaginative use of subject matter or lighting, or any other presentation that begins with the maker’s photograph or a collection of photographs.


Nature is a tricky one. The following is the 430-word Photographic Society of America (PSA) definition of nature photography in its entirety. The "Exhibitions" referred to below are PSA-specific events, not PTCC monthly competitions.

"Nature photography is restricted to the use of the photographic process to depict all branches of natural history, except anthropology and archaeology, in such a fashion that a well-informed person will be able to identify the subject material and certify its honest presentation. The story telling value of a photograph must be weighed more than the pictorial quality while maintaining high technical quality. Human elements shall not be present, except where those human elements are integral parts of the nature story such as nature subjects, like barn owls or storks, adapted to an environment modified by humans, or where those human elements are in situations depicting natural forces, like hurricanes or tidal waves. Scientific bands, scientific tags or radio collars on wild animals are permissible. Photographs of human created hybrid plants, cultivated plants, feral animals, domestic animals, or mounted specimens are ineligible, as is any form of manipulation that alters the truth of the photographic statement.

No techniques that add, relocate, replace, or remove pictorial elements except by cropping are permitted. Techniques that enhance the presentation of the photograph without changing the nature story or the pictorial content, or without altering the content of the original scene, are permitted including HDR, focus stacking and dodging/burning. Techniques that remove elements added by the camera, such as dust spots, digital noise, and film scratches, are allowed. Stitched images are not permitted. All allowed adjustments must appear natural. Color images can be converted to grey-scale monochrome. Infrared images, either direct-captures or derivations, are not allowed. Images used in Nature Photography competitions may be divided in two classes: Nature and Wildlife."

Images entered in Nature sections meeting the Nature Photography Definition above can have landscapes, geologic formations, weather phenomena, and extant (not extinct) organisms as the primary subject matter. This includes images taken with the subjects in controlled conditions, such as zoos, game farms, botanical gardens, aquariums and any enclosure where the subjects are totally dependent on man for food. Images entered in Wildlife sections meeting the Nature Photography Definition above are further defined as one or more extant zoological or botanical organisms free and unrestrained in a natural or adopted habitat. Landscapes, geologic formations, photographs of zoo or game farm animals, or of any extant zoological or botanical species taken under controlled conditions are not eligible in Wildlife sections. Wildlife is not limited to animals, birds and insects. Marine subjects and botanical subjects (including fungi and algae) taken in the wild are suitable wildlife subjects, as are carcasses of extant species. Wildlife images may be entered in Nature sections of Exhibitions.

For more on this subject from PSA's Nature Division, go to: http://www.psa-photo.org/index.php?nature-division

* PTCC has not made this distinction in the past for its Nature competitions. If that changes, further explanations will be forthcoming.

In 2016, the Club established a separate, more relaxed category of Nature competition which we've called "Backyard Nature". See the definition.

Backyard Nature:

Many of us struggle with the strict requirements for “Nature” images set down by the Photographic Society of America,(PSA). Some members may be reluctant to submit images to PSA conforming Nature competitions as a result. To help open up the fun of nature photography to those who may be hesitant we’ve opened one side of the PSA box to let in some easy creativity in this category for us all.
Of the three Nature competitions scheduled each year, two are PSA conforming and one is not. One Nature competition will be what we’re calling “Backyard Nature.”

For PTCC, what is "Backyard Nature" Simply put, it’s nature photography with the PSA restrictions removed. Nature, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “the physical world and everything in it, plants, animals, mountains, oceans, stars… that is not of human creation.” For us, "Backyard Nature" includes domestic animals, hybrid or cultivated plants, and any other subject celebrating the beauty and unique attraction of the natural world. We’re looking for nature images that WOULD NOT be acceptable in PSA conforming competitions.

The emphasis is on capturing the beauty of the thing. As far as the “hand-of-man” goes, it’s fine in this category. A belligerent Jay perched on a fence or the hood of a pickup truck is a very acceptable “Backyard Nature” image. A murder of crows circling a telephone pole, a hawk eating a squirrel on a mailbox or a shot of your Labradoodle romping through a bed of pansies would all be acceptable. Beginning to get the picture?

This idea seems to be working! Overall participation in Nature competitions has increased since we introduced our “Backyard Nature" competitions.


Photojournalism entries consist of pictures with informative content and emotional impact, including human interest, documentary and spot news. The primary objective is to make story-telling and/or newsworthy photographs. Good titles are important and should add to the photo-story. Photojournalism entries are pictures with informative content and emotional impact, including human interest, documentary and spot news.

As with all other club competitions, up to 3 images per member can be accepted however, sequences of up to four (4) images within a single collaged image can be included as one of the three maximum submissions. The journalistic value of the photograph shall be considered over pictorial quality.

In the interest of credibility, photographs which misrepresent the truth, such as manipulation of the image, or situations which are set up for the purpose of photography, are unacceptable in this Photojournalism competition. No manipulation or modification of Journalism images is permitted except resizing, cropping, selective lightening or darkening, and restoration of original color of the scene. No special effect filters can be applied. Any sharpening must appear natural. No elements may be moved, cloned, added, deleted, rearranged or combined.


A Travel picture must express the feeling of a time and place, portray a land, its people or a culture in its natural state, and has no geographic limitations. Ultra close-ups which lose their identity, studio-type model shots, or photographic manipulations which misrepresent the true situation or alter the content of the image are unacceptable in Travel competition. No manipulation or modification is permitted except resizing, cropping, selective lightening or darkening, and restoration of original color of the scene. No special effect filters can be applied. Any sharpening must appear natural. No elements may be moved, cloned, added, deleted, rearranged or combined. The title should give the location and complement the travel story.

Competition Points:

Points are awarded in Club Competitions and serve two purposes. They determine progression through the three Competition Groups: AAA-Developing, AA-Intermediate and A-Advanced and they form the basis for yearly achievement recognition.
Images that win points may not be entered again in future competitions. Non-placing images may be entered again, in any category.
Images placing (1st through HM) are eligible for Image of the Year competition.
The number of places receiving points is based on the number of entries in a given Group for a competition.

Number of entries/Group for any given competition
Place 20+ Images 15 - 19 Images 9 - 14 Images 8 or Fewer Images
1st 4 points 4 points 4 points 4 points
2nd 3 points 3 points 3 points Not awarded
3rd 2 points 2 points Not awarded Not awarded
HM 1 point Not awarded Not awarded Not awarded