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PPSCV Image Competition - Introduction
PPSCV Image Competition - Introduction

PPSCV Print Competition has gone fully digital!

It’s now called PPSCV Image Competition, and will allow members to enter digital images, saving time and expense and making it easier to participate.

Why participate in PPSCV Image Competition?

One of the PPSCV member benefits is being able to participate in image competitions similar to those provided annually at the PPA Photo Competitions, but at our local affiliate level. We encourage all members to participate and take advantage of this opportunity to sharpen your photographic skills and improve your art.

Having a judge critique your work can feel intimidating, but it can provide insights for improving your images, and build your confidence. By making you aware of details you may have overlooked, the feedback you receive can increase your skills and help you create better images.

If you want to earn one of the PPA member degrees, such as Master of Photography (M. Photog) or Master Artist (M. Artist), submitting merit-worthy images to the PPA Merit Image Review is a requirement. That makes PPSCV Image Competition a great place to start or to continue with your quest for the Merit level image submissions needed to earn a degree. 

PPSCV Image Competitions can be held in-person or online. For In-person image competitions, submitted images are displayed on a projector for the audience, and on a color calibrated monitor for the judges. For online image competitions the judges and online audience review the images over the Internet from a web browser or online meeting App. A panel of trained and qualified image competition judges carefully examine each image based on how well it addresses the 12 Elements of a Merit Image. One or more judges will provide an immediate critique of the image, and give constructive feedback encouraging improvements in the future.

On getting a score and a critique yourself, or seeing the results for others, you can become more attuned to composition, lighting etc., before you shoot an image, and have a better understanding of how post processing can be used to make a good image better.

Here is the PPSCV Image Competition scoring guide

(As per PPA District and International competition rules for 2019)

  • 95-100      Exceptional
  • 90-94        Superior
  • 85-89        Excellent
  • 80-84        Deserving of a Merit
  • 75-79        Above Average
  • 70-74        Average
  • 69-0          Below Exhibition Standards

A Merit Image has a score of 80 and above.

Note: images recognized by PPSCV as meeting the standard for a PPA merit is a guide only, it does not guarantee a merit by judges at PPA competitions.


Note: PPA District and International competition rules changed in 2020 replacing numerical scoring with a simpler merit/non-merit voting system for judging (details here). However, at this time PPSCV will continue to use the numerical scoring method to provide more detailed feedback on how close images are to the merit categories.

Pro tip: Try to guess the score for each entry before the judges’ score is posted. This helps you understand how well you can judge the 12 elements yourself – the closer you get, the better you can judge your own work.

How many members do you know in PPSCV? Image Competition is also a way to socialize and learn more about your fellow photographers, what they shoot, where they go, how they shoot, and where they are in their journey, so perhaps you’ll find inspiration, or maybe a mentor or a buddy for that photoshoot you were thinking of arranging.

If you have any questions that are not answered here please contact the Image Competition Chairperson directly at the PPSCV Image Competition email address See also Info->About PPSCV for the current board members and committee chairpersons.

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The 12 Elements of a Merit Image
The 12 Elements of a Merit Image

The 12 Elements of a Merit Image:

In all aspects of life, first impressions are usually lasting impressions; good or bad. So, it goes in image competition. When a photograph is first seen, that impression can make or break the image. Therefore, many photographers agree that this is the most important element in subjective analysis of judging photography. Since everyone has his or her own personal opinions, likes and dislikes, there must be some sort of standard on which judges can determine the merit of prints. The Photographic Exhibition Committee established the 12 Elements of a merit quality photograph. These elements are endorsed by the International Print Competition Judges.

PPA also produced a video "Life of a Merit Image"

Listed below are these 12 elements, along with a brief discussion of each. 

Click here for the PPA extended definitions, and here for a more in-depth discussion and a unique mind-map of the 12 elements. 

  1. Impact: Compelling images evoke emotion—laughter, sadness, anger, pride.
  2. Technical Excellence: The quality of the actual image as presented for viewing. Aspects such as retouching, sharpness, printing, color, and exposure should be spot on.
  3. Creativity: The image is original, fresh, and an external expression of the maker’s imagination.
  4. Style: The subject matter meshes with the presentation. Style can also include the characteristic ways that an artist applies his or her specific lighting, posing, or compositional style to underscore the desired impact.
  5. Composition: The visual elements of an image come together to express intent, whether that’s to please the viewer or otherwise. The viewer’s attention is captured and directed where the artist plans it to be.
  6. Presentation: The way an image is showcased gives it a finished look. Everything in the presentation—mats, borders, color choices—should work to enhance the image.  
  7. Color Balance: Color work together to evoke feelings in the viewer. For example, it can bring harmony to an image and enhance the emotional appeal. It can also be incongruous to arouse diverse feelings.
  8. Center of Interest: This is where an image’s creator wants a viewer’s attention focused. There may be primary and secondary centers of interest. Sometimes all the elements in an image work together to create the center of interest.
  9. Lighting: The image demonstrates excellence in the use and control of light, whether natural or additive. Light informs dimensions and shape, sets tone and mood, and enhances the image.
  10. Subject Matter: The subject matter is central to the story being told, so the subject should sync with the story.
  11. Technique: The approaches used to create the image—lighting, posing, capture, presentation—work together to be effective.
  12. Storytelling: The image evokes the viewer's imagination. While the act of creating is a personal thing, so too is the act of viewing. Each image is a story, and the one it tells a viewer may be unique to that person.

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PPSCV Image Competition Categories
PPSCV Image Competition Categories

Image competition entries are judged according to the sub-category identified when the image is submitted.

It is important to assign an appropriate category to each image. In some cases there may be more than one category that an image is suited for, in which case it is the maker's decision how which one to pick.

Important PPA District and IPC competition CHANGES 2021

PPSCV is a PPA affiliate, and in order that our members can transition their image competition entries to the PPA IPC and District competitions (rules here), we follow the PPA image competition categories, with some small changes to make our competition more relevant to our members.

In 2021 PPA made an important change to recognize the popularity of creating images with multiple components (focus stacking, HDR, background or sky replacement, composites and more). From 2021, the Photographic Open competition including Portraits, landscapes and Illustrative categories include this rule:

  • "The Photographic Open Competition is to show the photographic knowledge and skillset of the maker. However, a maker can use supporting photographic elements that they did not create, provided those elements are referenced as guide images on the face of the entry. The original photographic capture by the entrant should be merit-worthy independent of the work that was not their own. Elements created by the maker must not be part of the guide images."

This means that image composites are now allowed to be composed on a merit-worthy base image, and that those elements are not required to be added as guide images if captured by the maker. For those additional elements added but not captured by the maker, guide images must be included in the submitted image file, typically as thumbnails along one edge of the submitted image. 

This makes it possible to enter composite images in more categories than before where they may have been suitable only for the Artist category.

Reportage/Events are not included in this change.

A. Portrait - Images can portray a subject or subjects from all walks of life and should reflect the personality of the subject(s).

  • A.1 Animal: This sub-category is for portraits of animals using structured lighting in a studio or outdoor environment, where the owner or photographer controls the animal.
  • A.2 Children: This sub-category must contain a child or children from birth to age 16.
  • A.3 General Portrait: This sub-category includes families, groups, couples, high school seniors (16 and older), and adults (18 and older), relationships, models, and fashion portraits, in addition to tastefully artistic figure studies.

B. Illustrative - Consists of commercial/industrial images, scenic, pictorials, digital paintings, and similar subject matter. Illustrative can also be conceptual images that tell a story.

Portraits and weddings are not appropriate for this category.

  • B.1 Architecture: This sub-category can include the interiors and exteriors of buildings, and industrial or urban landscapes, where man-made buildings are the primary subject.
  • B.2 Commercial: This sub-category is used when images are created for a commercial client to advertise a product and promote a brand or company. Images can be an interior or exterior of a structure or from within an industrial environment.
  • B.3 Landscape: This sub-category shares joy and adventures while expressing a sense of place. Natural and urban landscapes, cityscapes, seascapes, and sunsets with or without people can be placed here.
  • B.4 General: Conceptual images that tell a story or that do not fit in the other sub-categories above can be placed here. 

C. Nature - Consists of images where the subjects are plants and/or animals in a domestic or wild setting.

  • C.1 Flora: This sub-category includes images where the main subject(s) are trees, flowers, or other kinds of plants.
  • C.2 Fauna: This sub-category includes images where the main subject(s) are mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish, insects, or other kinds of animals.

D. Reportage/Events - Images that illustrate an actual public or non-public event, life, an area of human interest, telling news that has meaning in the context or record of events, high impact, and/or lasting emotional response. Images that illustrate sporting events are included in this category. ONLY basic color and brightness adjustments, cropping, dodging and burning in are allowed. Only single-capture images will be accepted. Composite and multiple exposure images will not be accepted in this category. The original captured image (in RAW or jpg) must be available if requested by the committee.

  • D.1 Photojournalism: This sub-category is for images that document news items, including sporting events., 
  • D.2 Street Photography: Images are typically from a public or urban setting capturing candid moments and situations, which may or may not include people.
  • D.3 Wedding: This sub-category includes traditional wedding day images documenting any aspect of the preparations, ceremony and festivities. Images can portray subjects from all aspects of a wedding, including traditional portraits, candids, or detail work. Images such as bridal portraits taken before or after the wedding day can be entered in the Portrait category.
  • D.4 Special Occasion (non-wedding): This sub-category includes images from non-wedding events including engagements, bar/bat mitzvahs, quinceañeras and other celebratory occasions.

E. Artist - A conceptual image altered or manipulated from its original condition. Creations can be a subtle application using post-processing techniques or a dramatic combination of details to suggest a larger story. The artist is responsible for the idea behind the image and the work done to create the finished art piece.

  • E.1 Creative Open: This category is for images that are fundamentally altered from the original image(s) captured by the camera, including composite images and images that were never captured by a camera. The image maker is allowed to use photography and visual elements created by other individuals provided the image maker has the legal right to use those assets. It is required to include guide images (thumbnails along one side of the image) to show work done on the image. This would include very heavy use of filters or painting, computer generated artwork, etc. Entries will be judged for digital, artistic, and technical proficiency.
  • E.2 Restoration: This sub-category is for images that have been restored from original damaged or degraded photographs. The original and restored images should be shown in the same frame.

S. Special category - varies.

From time to time an Image Competition may designate a special theme category, described in the Image Competition entry details.

N. Non-Member Open This category is for images entered by makers who are not PPSCV affiliate members. This category is open, and can include images from any of the image competition categories.

Not all competitions will have a non-member category. Non-member entries are not eligible for awards or prizes.

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PPSCV Image Competition - Entry Details
PPSCV Image Competition - Entry Details

How do I enter?

Keep an eye on the PPSCV Calendar for Image Competition dates as they are scheduled.

Competitions and deadlines for entry will also be announced to our email subscribers, and through the PPSCV group and PPSCV Facebook Group pages.

PPSCV Image Competitions meets

For 2022 PPSCV Image Competition is switching to the award winning platform used by over 80 PPA affiliates. The platform has been refined over 10 years to provide numerous benefits to entrants and organizers alike, with multi-platform GameDay viewing, convenient image upload, high quality viewing and convenient scoring for judges, plus an reviewable archive of over 80,000 images and scores many with audio commentary (an excellent training tool to tune your eye to a competition quality image.)

Select the images you want to enter.

The competition announcement will detail how many images an entrant may submit, typically 3-5 images per entrant. Images don’t have to be perfect, but be prepared to be alerted to flaws by the judges, so check your image against the 12 Elements of a Merit Image. Maybe there is some cropping or other enhancement that you can improve on for some of the elements. 

If you think the image itself is ready to submit, consider improving the image presentation. For print images this is done by matting, for digital images presentation can be improved by adding a border to create a digital mat effect. 

For information on adding borders, see these tutorials [Link 1Link 2.]

Remember to maintain the final image dimensions within the competition requirements for Image File Formatting.

Select the Category for each image.

Refer to the Image Competition Categories for the possible categories for an image, including portraits, landscapes, events, and artistic imaging.

Pick the category that best matches your subject and preparation.

Save your images in the required digital image format

PPSCV Image Competition requires a specific digital image format for submitted files. 

Save each image file with the following image format:

  • File Type: JPEG - File types of .jpg or .jpeg are acceptable, capitalization not important.
  • File Quality JPEG highest quality (save using the maximum quality value for best viewing, e.g. 10/10, or 100/100), this can reduce compression artifacts.
  • Color space: Each file should contain an embedded color profile of either sRGB or Adobe RGB1998.
  • Dimensions: Save at 4000 pixels on the longest dimension, including any presentation border.
  • DPI: This is a print related setting, and is not relevant to digital image competitions, you can ignore it.
  • File name: File name is at your discretion. The image title will be entered separately. Avoid special characters, such as: ’ “ + \ / ? 
  • File size: The final file size in MB is not limited at this time.

Watch Image Competitions for free

When you visit you can view any competition for free just using their GameDay App, which lists the competitions available that day. Pick your competition and click Go to view the entries, scores, leaders and progress.

To submit entries to a competition you first need to create an account.

Create your account

Go to, select New Artist Registration and sign up with your email and password. You can also select PPSCV from the list as your "home" organization.

Note: the PrintCompetition,com platform is supported by annual or quarterly subscriptions.

You can subscribe to the minimum $13/year level.

Logging-in to Your account will show you the upcoming competitions for state and local affiliates across the country, alphabetically.

Look for the PPSCV logo, and click to see the next PPSCV competition.

The PPSCV competition page will show you the requirements and rules.

Use the Create New Image Entry button to start building your entries.

Enter Image Title

The image title will be read out to the judges. It is considered a thirteenth element of a merit image by some, as the title creates a context for your entry and can help get the judges thinking aligned with your ideas. Titles can be fun, descriptive, or creative. Capitalization of words in the caption is at the maker’s discretion. Avoid special characters, such as: ’ “ + \ / ? 

Pro-tip: Keep it short, do not use foreign words or associations the judges may not recognize.

Select Image Category

This is where you assign the category to your image so it is judged amongst similar images.

Pick your category and sub-category from the available list.

Upload your image

Clicking the Create New Entry button will allow you to upload your image file.

Image resolution will be checked, but all image parameters are your responsibility.

Repeat for each entry in your "case"

The images you upload become part of your "case" - think the shipping container in which you would send in prints to a physical print competition.

Note: you can return to your account for any upcoming competition and review all your entries. You can also delete or change entries until the competition deadline.

Case Fees - Not for PPSCV Members

PPSCV provides a Member Benefit allowing PPSCV members to enter image competitions at no charge, in which case you can ignore the pay case fee button.

Non-members can use this to pay their entry fees. Unpaid images will not be included in the competition.

Awards and Prizes

PPSCV Member Benefits also include eligibility for Image Competition awards and metal print prizes thanks to our sponsor BayPhoto Labs

It's Game Day!

To view the online competition progress visit at the scheduled day/time and click on the Game Day App.

Note: PrintCompetition Apps are web pages, and do not need to be installed. Just visit the web page on your computer, tablet or phone, select the competition from the list and watch the show.

You can register for the Image Competition event at to receive the Zoom link and join us follow the audio from the scorekeeper and judges.