Eastern Maine Camera Club

Developing Photographers

January 8, 2004

(Revised August 27, 2014)



This document is intended as Eastern Maine Camera Club’s formal recognition of Digital Photography as an acceptable method of creating photographic images for the purpose of the Club’s monthly photo competitions.  The statement contained herein will describe both acceptable and unacceptable practices for the digital manipulation of images that our members enter in these competitions.  This statement is necessary to preserve the integrity of the Club’s purpose and competition rules as stated in the “Eastern Maine Camera Club Information Booklet.” 

Although some reasons are given for some of the rules set forth, this is not intended as a complete treatise on the digital vs. film photography question.  Since digital photography is a constantly evolving technology, much like film photography has been for the past 170 years, the Club’s approach to digital imaging will no doubt have to evolve over time as our experience with it grows.


Several terms that are used in this statement must be defined or clarified to ensure understanding of the Club’s rules concerning digital photography, and avoid unnecessary disqualification of images submitted for competition.

 “Digital image” or “digital photograph”—For our club’s purposes, this refers to any photographic image that exists as a digital file in a camera or in a computer during any part of its creation.  This includes both images captured in a digital camera and images captured on film that are later scanned into a computer.   The only exception to this is if a slide or negative is taken to a commercial processing lab where the image may be scanned only for the purposes of enlargement and printing at that lab.  However, if the scanned image is returned to you on a disk, any additional prints you produce from this scanned image will be considered as a digital image.

Image Quality—This refers to two of the criteria that we use in judging images for our competitions:  1) Composition–The skillful or artistic placement of the subject and related elements within the frame at the time of exposure (i.e. when the shutter button is pressed), and 2) Technical quality–Correct exposure, accurate focusing, sharpness, good use of depth-of-field, color balance, etc.  In other words, for our purposes, image quality is the summation of those image properties that show the skill of the photographer in using his/her equipment, regardless of the subject matter.

Image Content—All of the physical elements within the frame of the image.  This includes the actual subject matter, any extraneous elements, the spaces between each of the elements, the shapes of the elements, and the colors and tones specific to each element.

Digital Manipulation of Images—The alteration of either image quality or image content through the use of computer programs such as Adobe Photo Shop, Corel Paint Shop Pro, etc.  The types of manipulation that will be acceptable in the Club’s competitions will be discussed in the Competition Rules, below.

General Competition Rules for Digital Photography

(For more specific rules about number of images, image sizes, etc., please see Competition FAQ's.)

Prints—Digital images may be entered to compete alongside traditional film images in the Color Print or Black and White Print categories. In trying to keep pace with the accelerating developments in digital photography, and going by New England Camera Club Council (NECCC) guidelines, any manipulation or enhancement of an image is now allowable in either print category (Color and B&W), EXCEPT for Nature competitions.  Please see the paragraphs below under Acceptable Image Manipulations for Nature Competitions for more information.

Because more manipulation is now allowed in the print categories, we must retain one rule to help differentiate a color image from a black & white image:  To be considered a B&W photograph, the image may not contain any color, except for traditional monochrome toning, such as sepia, silver, blue, etc.  For example, a photograph of a red rose that has been desaturated except for the red color in the rose will be considered a color image.

Also forbidden in any category or format is the use of clip art or other imagery that is not the work of the photographer.

Color Projection—Images entered in Color Projection will now follow the same general rules as Color Prints.  They must be in color, or at least have some recognizeable color in them.  Images may be partially desaturated, as long as a range of colors is still evident.  It is permissible to use partially colored B&W images, e.g. a black and white photo of a woman wearing a red dress, with only the dress showing a full red color. The topic for Color Projection must follow the assigned topic for the month.

Black and White Projection—This is a new category, introduced in the fall of 2013.  Images must be in black and white or monochromatic format.  No partial desaturation or partial color is allowed.  Traditional B&W toning is allowed, e.g. sepia, blue, silver, etc.  The topic for Digital BW will ALWAYS BE OPEN.  However, you are welcome to submit images in the current month's topic as well.  Otherwise, the rules for B&W Projection are the same as for Color Projection.

Slides—Slide competitions in the Club have been discontinued.

Acceptable Image Manipulation for Nature Competitions:

As a general statement, in nature competitions, you may ONLY manipulate the image quality, but NOT its content.

Regardless of the computer program or specific digital tools used, there are two rules of thumb you can consider when trying to decide what is appropriate manipulation of a digital image in a nature competition.  Referring to the above definitions; 1) If the manipulation only alters the Quality of the image, it is probably OK, as that does not fundamentally alter the truth of what the image represents or what the photographer actually saw at the time of exposure.  2) If the manipulation alters the Content of the image, it is usually NOT acceptable because that changes the reality of what the image shows and what was in front of the photographer at the time he took the picture.  So, for example, you may improve on the image exposure or sharpness, but you may not “put a moose that wasn’t already there in the middle of a stream.”  The only exception to this will be the standard practice of cropping to remove or reposition elements within the frame.  Following is a guide as to what digital tools are OK and are not OK for manipulating images submitted in the nature competitions:

Tools that are OK to use (except as noted):

(Note that this borrows heavily from the declaration of manipulated images as presented on the www.photo.net web site.)

·     Brightness/contrast adjustments and color balance adjustments may be made, as may selective darkening or lightening of areas of the photograph (dodging and burning).  The emphasis should be on realism and the result should be as true to the original as practical.  You should only use these tools to enhance an image like you would when selecting normally available films, filters used to correct (not alter) color balance, or applying traditional darkroom techniques.

·     Sharpening tools are OK.

·     Cloning/airbrushing tools may only be used to remove miniscule processing artifacts, such as produced by dust, but not to add features that were not captured by the camera or to move or remove unwanted features that were captured.  An exception to this would be to remove a movable artifact that is in a location that is unsafe to reach, for example a soda can on rocks that can only be reached by climbing to it.

·     Cropping is OK.

·     Stitched panoramic images are OK.

·     High Dynamic Range (HDR) processing is OK.

·     Desaturating a color image to make it black and white is OK, provided the desaturation is complete and not selective.

·     Removal of eye coloration effects as a result of a flash exposure is OK.

Tools that are NOT OK to use:

·     Composites of more than one image are not allowed, except for panoramic or HDR images as noted above

·     Colorizing a black and white image is not allowed.

·     Cut or Copy and Paste tools are not allowed.

·     No tools that artificially add artistic effects or otherwise alter the content of the image are allowed.  These include, but are not limited to:

o        Tools that add flare patterns, starbursts, or other artifacts that normally occur in-camera at the time of exposure.

o        Blurring tools.

o        Grain enhancing tools.

o        Tools that change the texture or shape of objects.

o        Tools that add 3-D effects.

o        Tools that add illumination or reflection effects.