Photographic Competitions

There has been much debate amongst amateur photographers, since we “went digital” about just how far we should be allowed to go in producing creative images – where should we draw the line particularly with regard to eligibility for photographic competitions? My thoughts are as follows:

Before I enter my photographs in a photographic competition I should have a clear conscience about two things; that they are my photographs and that they are my photographs.

The first point, relates to authenticity, defined as “Real, actual, genuine; original, first-hand; really proceeding from its stated source, author, painter, etc.” (New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary).

That would appear to be the easy bit. More difficult to answer is the question, in relation to any single image, “Is this a photograph?” (in the sense of “Should it be allowed in a “photographic competition”?”) We might require at least 50% (of the area?) of the image to be photographic. But what about the other 50%? Even if not photographic it must be authentic, i.e. created by the stated author – not plagiarised!

I believe that if we are to produce a set of rules or a code of conduct we should avoid explicit reference to commercial products, particular tools, plug-ins or whatever. It is quite clear that if you use a brush in your post processing that is circular (hard or soft) it is a mathematical entity and does not embody another person’s artwork – if on the other hand it is shaped like a butterfly it should not be allowed, not because it is not a photograph but because it is not yours.

Personally I would similarly not allow the use of textures, whatever the source (built in or plug-in) if they are not yours. Your textures are the ones that you photographed or scanned on a flat-bed scanner. In this context, I have no problem in regarding the output of a scanner as a “photograph”. Problems obviously arise if, for example, you scan a watercolour painting (your own) and enter that in a photographic competition – a digression best avoided.

Whatever rules or guidance we formulate, we should not worry about “policing”. I believe this is often used as an excuse to do nothing. I am sure that I could win medals using some of my wife’s unpublished images; nobody is policing this – my conscience prevents me doing it.


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