Ask the Rule Guru

Frequently Asked Questions About the Rules

Members are invited to email any questions about the rules to the Cable Release editor ( who will forward them to the “Rules Guy.” Questions and answers appear in the newsletter for the edification of all members.  Here are some questions that were asked recently.

Dear Rules Guru,
I took this lovely snapshot at the zoo. I showed it to one of my fellow club members and I told him I’d like it to be more dramatic and in black and white.  He opened it in Photoshop and came up with the second version, of which I approve. Can I enter this photo in an SSCC competition?
New Member

Dear New Member,
Please have your friend contact Michael Koren about volunteering to teach Photoshop techniques at a future Seminar Night.  I’m sure many club members would be interested in learning how the changes were made.

However, the new version cannot be entered in an SSCC competition.

Silver Spring Camera Club Competition Rules and Awards” clearly state, “Any image retouching or manipulation of digital images must be done by the entrant.”  That includes images shot on film and later scanned.
Rules Guru


Dear Rules Guru,
I’m a new member of the club and really enjoy the speakers and competitions.  I can’t resist commenting aloud (sometimes, to no one in particular) in reaction to funny, unusual or particularly outstanding images.  To me, that seems like a normal/natural reaction.  Long-time members, even club officers, comment sometimes.  What can we do to stop whoever the “old grouch” is who frequently tries to “shhh” everyone?  He/she even does that after the judge asks a question.  Why can’t we simply enjoy the photography without being hassled to keep quiet?

Dear Rowdy,
That is an understandable question from someone unfamiliar with the etiquette of photo contests.  Even the most conscientious judges are human and, therefore, vulnerable to outside influences, no matter how subtle.  The club’s goal is to eliminate as many “outside” stimuli, both physical (sight and sound) and psychological, as possible.  That’s why we aren’t allowed to even answer a judge’s questions.

That even means that a competitor should refrain from discussing ALL his/her entries with the judge until ALL CATEGORIES of judging are completed.  Experienced photographers (i.e. judges) can often see subtle similarities/traits in other photographers’ work; sometimes in very different images.  That subtle, subconscious influence might tilt the “level playing field.”

Sometimes, even “old grouches” have valid intentions!
The Rules Guru


Dear Rules Guru,
All this talk about how many times a print has been entered into competition, whether it has won, how many points I’ve earned, etc. is bewildering.  My memory isn’t what it used to be.  I simply can’t remember all that stuff.
Where are my glasses?

Dear Glasses,
Nobody’s memory is what it used to be, especially the Rules Guru’s! That’s why record keeping is important.  Your records don’t need to be elaborate; a simple list in a notebook, a Word document, a spreadsheet, whatever . . . anything that works for you.

If you need a summary of your previous entries, contact Norm Bernache, the club Historian.  He maintains a database of all competition entries.  He will provide your data as a report or, if you prefer, in a spreadsheet format.

I should also point out that experienced photographers need not wait until 36 points have been earned in a category before moving up to Advanced.  In fact, they are encouraged to voluntarily move to Advanced, in the spirit of fair competition.
Rules Guru

(Editor’s Note: As a champion of the Attention Deficit crowd, I find it useful to mark the month and award on the back of my prints, and to likewise rename my digital files, on those rare occasions when they receive an award.)


Dear Rules Guru’s Buddy,
I keep hearing about the “rules,” but I’ve never seen them.  Who has them and how can I see them for myself?
Doubting Thomas

Dear Tom,
You can, and should, see the rules for yourself. If every member took twenty minutes to familiarize themselves with the competition rules then there would be far less frustration on Competition Night.  The rules are available to all members, and to the general public, on the club website:

So what’s in these rules that I should know?

You should know, or at least be familiar with, everything in the rules. For example, one question that often comes up is who can manipulate and print an image. The rules are pretty clear about this…

Section I. General…  Item 5… Images may be altered, either electronically or otherwise, by the maker and artwork or computer graphics created by the maker may be incorporated, if the photographic content predominates.

And in Section II. Categories, Item 3… Initial film processing of negatives, slides, or alternative media may be done by the entrant or a commercial imaging service. All subsequent custom techniques, including image retouching or manipulation, must be done by the entrant.
Pretty clear, isn’t it? The entrant must have done all the work on the photograph prior to it being printed. You can’t have someone else “touch it up” when they print it, as that clearly violates the rules, which state that all manipulation and retouching must be done by the entrant.