2017-18 Competition Topic Definitions

The following definitions apply to 2017-18 competitions.


In open competitions, free rein is given to the choices the photographer makes in the creation of the submitted image. Images of any and all subjects or themes, created using any photographic or post-processing methods or techniques, are acceptable. The images are evaluated based upon the judge’s general assessment of their creativity, emotional and/or intellectual impact, aesthetic beauty, uniqueness of subject, and technical skill. The judge need not assign any specific weight to any single attribute of the image.

Nature Photography

Acceptable entries are photographs that portray various aspects of natural plant and animal life; that illustrate the natural features of land, sea, and sky; or that reveal natural phenomena.  No image in this competition may show human intervention. Domestic plants (e.g., in a botanical garden) or animals (including zoo animals) may be included as long as they do not show any human intervention (e.g., collars or ear tags, gates, walls, paths, signage).

Low Light Photography

The term “Low Light Photographyencompasses images that has been made when the ambient light that illuminates their subjects is low. So, for example, an image taken outdoors at sunset or during the night qualifies as low light. The term also includes images that have been rendered in “low key.”  Low key refers to a style of photography that utilizes predominantly dark tones to create dramatic looking images. Low key lighting intensifies the contrast in an image through intensely reduced lighting in some part of the image. Accordingly, low light photographs can be made either indoors or outdoors, at any time of day or night, and may contain an artificial light source that has been supplied by the photographer. The term “low” in this definition is not susceptible to a specific, quantitative valuation: Rather, its parameters are left to the subjective determination of the judge. 

Anything Washington D.C.

The term “Anything Washington D.C.” encompasses images whose subjects are located within the geographic confines of the District of Columbia. Although an image need not contain an obvious or explicit reference to a commonly recognizable subject that is unique to Washington (such as an architectural landmark or political event); the image should endeavor to inform the viewer, either directly or contextually, about some part or aspect of Washington that contributes to making Washington, Washington.

Architectural Photography

The term “Architectural Photography” encompasses images that portray the design aesthetics of buildings and structures, both interior and exterior. The image subjects can include skyscrapers, private residences, historical sites, barns, bridges, warehouses, factories, and many more. Architectural photographs may include the entirety of a building or structure, or they may be limited to some part thereof, such as a wall, an archway, or a cornice detail.

Monochrome Photography

The term “Monochrome Photography” contemplates images that use only a single color, including the full array of shades of that color. So, for example, black and white photos, with black as the single color and its multiple shades of gray, are monochrome. Other single colors and their shades are equally acceptable. Under this definition, a sepia tone photo is acceptable, but a sepia tone photo containing a red umbrella would not qualify as a monochrome. Any subject matter is acceptable. In addition, a photo is acceptable if was originally taken as a color image, as long as the image presented for the competition has been rendered into monochrome.