Image Competition Issues

Image Competition Issues
Let’s clear up some confusion

In recent months there have been many conversations and discussions around images created during instructed workshops and whether or not they can be entered into image competition. To settle the primary question, the answer is, “No, they cannot be entered”. That being said, let’s break down the issue so that there is a clear path as to why.

The PPA rule says: No entry will be eligible that has been made under the supervision of an instructor or as a class assignment.

The rule is simple and specific, however there have been many questions regarding interpretation. To put the issue to rest, you cannot enter any images created during a workshop, seminar, class that were set up by an instructor, teacher or assistant to the leader of the session. They are the creator of the scene. They are the designer of the image. Even if you make changes to the photograph, you are not able to enter any image that is created in that session.

The next question centers on an assignment from the class instructor. The same rule applies as long as the assignment is handled during the term of the workshop, class or seminar. So that you understand the extent of the question, if you are in a multi-day workshop or class, any images taken during the class for an assignment are not eligible. If you are photographing outside of class hours and the images are completely different, then the images created during the class are eligible.

The next question is, “What about getting critiques” from known PPA Approved Jurors? Recently there has been a lot discussion on various social media about critiques. It is important to remember that if a PPA Approved Juror gives a critique to an image that will be entered in a competition that they will be judging, they will have to recuse themselves when that image appears during the competition. With the advent of Facebook, there are many pages on which members request critiques. While this is an excellent way of obtaining feedback, it is important that you ask the judge whether or not they are judging at the competition in question.

Hopefully, I have been able clear up any confusion. Simply put: do not enter any images that were created during an instructed photographic education opportunity.

Tim Mathiesen M.Photog.Cr., F-ASP, CPM

PPA Judges Review Committee

Up Close and Beautiful: Macro Photography in a New Light

Macro Shorts #1 by Frank Peele
Depth of Field: Making the Most (or Least) of it

Exposure 1.3 seconds, f/32, ISO 100
Exposure 1.3 seconds, f/32, ISO 100

Depth of field in photography is the zone of acceptably sharp focus in any scene which includes subjects at differing distances from the camera. The factors which control depth of field are these: Lens focal length, lens aperture (f/stop), and the distance focused on. (There is a fourth, known to scientists as the Allowable Circle of Confusion, but that’s a set value for each film or digital sensor format, so we’re not going to let that confuse us.) As we get really close to our subject – and of course, that’s what macro shooting is all about – we quickly learn that depth of field is severely limited. There are 3 ways to deal with this limit. The first is to celebrate the limited depth of field, carefully composing and focusing so that only the most important part of our subject is sharp. Letting everything else go out of focus really draws the viewer’s eye to what we want to feature in the image, and reduces or eliminates distracting “clutter” at the same time.


 Exposure 1/100 second, f/2.8, ISO 100
Exposure 1/100 second, f/2.8, ISO 100

There are times, however, when we really need to have greater subject depth in sharp focus, and that brings up method number two: stopping the lens down to a small aperture (expressed by a large f/number, such as f/22, f/32 or f/45).

But there is a price to pay when we use such small apertures. It’s a law of physics known as diffraction, which causes any lens’s optical performance to decrease when its aperture is stopped down too far. The law of diffraction applies to all lenses, no matter how expensive, no matter how new, and its effects are quite real. Look closely at the next two images, which are magnifications of the previous two shots:

Shot at f/2.8. Note sharp detail
Shot at f/32. Note softness caused by diffraction
Shot at f/32. Note softness caused by diffraction











There’s an easy rule of thumb we can use to determine the optimum aperture of a lens – the f/stop which yields the greatest sharpness – and it works for most general-purpose lenses. (There are special-purpose lenses designed at great expense to have maximum sharpness at other apertures – even wide open – but we aren’t likely to run into any such lenses in our work.) The rule of thumb is this: The optimum aperture is found by stopping the lens down between 2 and 3 f/stops from its maximum (widest) opening. Thus an f/2.8 lens should provide its greatest sharpness between f/5.6 and f/8, or f/7.1. A lens whose maximum aperture is f/4 should be stopped down to between f/8 and f/11, or f/9; an f/5.6 lens will be sharpest at between f/11 and f/16, or f/13 … and so on.

Now, using the optimum aperture doesn’t give us greatly extended depth of field. What it does give us is our lens’s greatest sharpness possible. That is a very good basis for going on to the third way of getting greater depth of field when we need it. It’s called Focus Stacking, and it’ll be the subject of the next of these “Macro Shorts” from PPC. Stay tuned!


“Do I really need a tripod?”

It might seem like too much work to always carry a tripod around, but you may find that it can make the difference between getting the shot or missing the mark. Using the right tripod for your shooting style can help too. If you need to support a camera with a 600 mm lens then you need something a little more heavy duty then if you were shooting with a macro 60mm lens.

Some people think that if the hold their breath and press the camera to their face that they can hand hold anything. The general rule of thumb is that one should not try to hand hold a camera using a shutter speed that is less than the focal length of the lens that they are using. I shoot with a Tamron 90mm fixed focal length lens, which means I can’t handhold less than 1/90 of a second. My tripod is a Vanguard Alta Pro 284 tripod. It’s developed for macro photographers because it has a center column that pivots from 0-130 degrees and locks into place anywhere in that range.

Not Sharp...
Not Sharp…

For this image I tried to hand hold the camera using a shutter speed of 1/30 of second at an aperture of f3.5. I was trying to capture the single water drop as the center of interest. It was early in the morning so it was very still outside, no wind at all. As you can see, I missed the mark. While there are areas of the image that are in focus, my intended center of interest is not. The second image was shot at 1/160 at f3.5. Considerably sharper wouldn’t you agree.


Lightroom Lightroom Lightroom…

We have all heard of and most of us use and live by Lightroom. It has become a staple for almost every photographer I know. Technology is ever changing and we need to stay current. Its not just about shiny toys; software can and often will change the way we capture and create our art.


This latest Lightroom is a perfect example. With Lightroom CC Adobe added the ability to make HDR and Panoramic’s right from Lightroom.  No big deal you might be saying? Think again. Imagine if you will an HDR that is composed of 2 to 10 + images in a RAW file! Not an exported and downgraded TIFF, but a beautifully packaged DNG file of HDR bliss. Exposure latitude and all that Lightroom has to offer can now be thrown at your HDR’s. This is game changing! It’s fast and amazingly accurate.  Images look natural and intentional. If you want crunchy it’s but a few clarity adjustments away, although I personally prefer my HDRs to look as natural as possible, but its your call.






Lets not forget Panoramic’s. You already guessed it – Right out of Lightroom you will have your images assembled. It’s nothing short of amazing.  Never before has there been an easier and more beautiful Panoramic option. Once assembled and DNG created, you can adjust in RAW editing bliss.


Panoramic: Nikon D4s 10000 ISO 24mm 1.4 - Hand Held
Panoramic: Nikon D4s 10000 ISO 24mm 1.4 – Hand Held


Heres a twist!  Try a HDR-PANO!  I find myself shooting more panos and HDRs not because I couldn’t do it before, but because I couldn’t do it as effortlessly and with such spectacular results!


Hand Held Pano 10000 ISO 2
Panoramic: Nikon D4s 10000ISO 24mm 1.4 – Hand Held


I’ve heard it said that “Time is Money”.  Sounds pretty good, but I’d rather go to lunch than watch a progress bar anytime. The process of creating HDR and Panoramic’s is now the fastest and easiest it has ever been.

They are so easy to do I can write the instruction from memory….(kinda)

  • Make those award winning captures getting everything as perfect in camera as possibleImport into Lightroom (Hold off the urge to tweak and tune at this point – Let Lightroom do it’s magic before you do yours.)Select all your images for the HDR or PANO while in the library module, then go up to Photo > Photo Merge and chose your happiness (You can also right click on the selected images from the grid view and choose Photo Merge as well.)

    You will then be greeted with an easy to understand dialogue box.


Go create and have fun!




Photoshop Life Hacks

Create A Three Image Pano in Seconds!

Creating your three image pano in seconds has never been easier now that Photoshop has introduced the “New Guide Layout.” You no longer have to add guides then measure and measure and measure them. It’s easy.

Open a new file – I made this one 15” x 5”. Go to view – New Guide Layout. Fill in the blanks, I chose three columns and one row with the space for images at three inches by three inches. It fills in the gutter and margins for you on this instance. Then click OK. How hard was that? You now have the guides in place to drop your images into.

michael article illustration


Oh, by the way, you can’t do this in Photoshop CS6 or earlier, you need to have Photoshop CC and have it up to date.

[Michael Collins is an award winning photographer from Santa Barbara County. He is a Past-President of the Professional Photographers of California, and has served as the President of the Gold Coast Professional Photographers Association for ten years.  He was a Photoshop instructor at the West Coast School of Photography for 2015 & 2016.]