Competitions Ideas

Subjects for Photographic Competitions

In November 1960, a past President of FCC - Mr. L. G. Clark, prepared a handbook to be distributed by FCC entitled "COMPETITION SUBJECTS - Suggested Subjects & Definitions". It is a given, that since then, many clubs have introduced competition subjects in additional to this starter listing.

To start the ball rolling Mr Clark wrote:
"The following subjects include many that are suitable for present day competitions. The listing has been compiled to help club committees to decide upon topics for the annual syllabus."

The exact meaning of each subject for competition should be defined and printed in the syllabus or club newsletter. This will prevent any competition entry from being declared ineligible in a club competition. From the photographer's perspective, having gone to the trouble of preparing an exhibit only to have it declared ineligible could be both disappointing and embarrassing. Other competitors might well resent entries being submitted which do not comply with the conditions of the competition particularly in the case of competitors closely placed in the club annual points scoring. Thus, it is extremely important for the set subjects to be accurately defined.

A club should encourage members to photograph a variety of different subjects! Competitions should be programmed/selected with this in mind. Both the public and member interest may be stimulated by a more ambitious selection of subject matter.

Note too, if unusual or difficult monthly competition topics are set the monthly competitions may be poorly contested. However, members who take the initiative to enter the more difficult competitions are then fully deserving of any "extra" points going toward an annual point score.

It is suggested that about six weeks before the actual competition, a discussion on the possible approaches to the subject will stimulate interest of members and should give them some ideas of their own. This is particularly important for the more unusual type of subject such as abstracts, photograms and montage, and will help members to avoid the elementary and stereotyped approach.

The following definitions have no universal acceptance and are intended as a guide for the committee on which to base their own. Those of a small club trying to encourage its members to exhibit will necessarily be more tolerant than those for a large club.

Finally, it is hoped that this list will serve as a Source of ideas for members to extend the scope of their work. The more of these subjects that a photographer is competent to handle, the greater will be his versatility.

Types of Competitions:

Type Suggested Definition/Description
Open Any subject treated pictorially. A pictorial treatment is one embodying the elements of good design, arrangement or composition and which reflect the interpretation of the photographer.
Set Subject A subject set on the club syllabus and defined by the club committee - similar to examples elsewhere.
Set negative/image contest Every competitor is supplied with a duplicate negative or, digital image from all or part of which they are to make a picture. The subject should be sufficiently complex to allow several interpretations and there should be no serious faults of composition in the supplied negative/image.
Diverse subjects A set number of pictures of widely different subjects allowing the photographer to demonstrate skill and versatility.
Restricted subject A subject selected to have limited possibilities of interpretation. Eg. statues, night scene all photographed under similar lighting conditions. Although there is little scope for originality such competitions are useful to compare the relative techniques and skills of the club members.
Pictures telling a story (3 - 5) A set number of pictures which together illustrate a theme or story selected by the photographer. The pictures will either be submitted on separate mounts or as a montage on one mount - as decided by the committee.
Picture a title Pictures made to illustrate a set title - such title being either balloted for or selected from a limited number of set titles.
Outing Photographs taken on a club outing either at the rendezvous or within the area covered when touring. A certain theme is sometimes set for these competitions.

Suggested Subject Definitions:

Topic Description
A Child's World Children at play or engaged in any of the intense activities of their own little world.
Abstract A composition consisting of shapes which are not suggestive of any particular object. Natural or man-made objects may be employed provided that they are not readily recognisable.
Abstract Table Top An arrangement of abstract or unusual shapes or objects arranged as a still life or table top. The result may be abstract, surrealistic or symbolic in nature.
Against The Light A picture in which the light source is substantially more than ninety degrees from the camera and which captures the quality of back-lighting.
Angle Shot A picture taken from an angle markedly above or below the subject. A picture taken so as to accentuate the perspective of the subject.
Animal, Bird or Insect A picture of living animals, birds or insects either confined or in their natural environment. Studio portraits of animals.
Architecture A picture of one or more buildings or structures, or a portion of a building. Human figures may be included. Significant architectural feature, with emphasis on pattern, texture and the use of space in context.
Available Light A photograph taken under available light conditions, which may be indoors or outdoors.
Character Study A portrait of a person of a well pronounced type, a portrait suggestive of a recognised occupation, a portrait of a person depicting a character from history, literature or the theatre, a study in costume.
Child Study A portrait of one or more children, up to the age of 12 years. A picture of a child engaged in some activity where the emphasis is on the child.
Close Up Close-up pictures taken within the range of closer than 1 metre.
Cloud Study A picture of clouds in which a landscape or skyline may play a minor part.
Documentary A style of photography portraying people, their activities and their environment. Such photographs show how other people live, or form a record of social conditions. The photos in the "Family of Man" are documentary in nature.
Flash A picture in which the main source of illumination is flashlight under the control of the photographer.
Flower Study An arrangementCut flowers or a single flower in a suitable composition. The container may form part of the composition. A picture of living flowers in their natural state.
Genre A style of picture which portrays a scene/incident of ordinary life in its most natural form without pose or artifice
Glamour A photograph of a young woman/man, showing attractive features and figure in a glamorised pose.
Hands A picture of one or more hands with accessories if desired. Graceful, strength, are some of the qualities that can be suggested in such pictures, or the hands may tell a story.
High Key A subject which is predominantly light in tone. Such pictures should have delicate tones and detail. Small areas only of dark tones may be included as an accent.
Historical Photographs of buildings and objects belonging to a past age. Pictures of present day events which can be expected to have historical interest in time to come.
Human Environment A documentary style portraying the homes or neighbourhood in which people live and suggest their social strata or way of life. People may be present in such pictures.
Humorous A picture with a humorous or whimsical slant or portraying a humorous incident. The humour should be in the picture and not merely in the title.
Interior A picture of the interior of a building, using either the existing illumination or light under the control of the photographer.
Landscape A picture of natural scenery which may include trees, people, houses or other objects, provided that these elements do not dominate the picture. In visual art these restrictions are not relevant and will include studies of urban scenes or scenes of the built environment.
Lovers The tenderness or passion of people in love, their dependence, companionship or trust for each other. These and other qualities as shown by an expression, caress or any other suitable gesture or body language.
Low Key A picture in which the darker tones predominate.
Male  physique A part or full length figure study of one or more men, featuring pictorial treatment of the physique in an appropriate pose, often classical as exemplified in sculpture. A photograph of a statue however is not permitted.
Marine A picture of scenery, objects or events associated with the sea. This is a general heading which also includes seascapes and wave studies.
Modern Architecture A picture of a modern building or structure or of a significant architectural feature, with emphasis on modern design.
Montage A picture containing the elements of two or more exposures combined, either by multiple exposure, by printing or by layers. Together the images portray a single theme.
Motherhood The quality of motherhood as suggested in photographs of women caring for children, the tenderness and affection shown towards them, the sacrifices made, or any other picture appropriate to this theme.
Nature Study A study of insects, wild life or plants in their natural state, or depicting a part of their life cycle.
Night Study A picture of buildings or scenery taken outdoors at night with the existing illumination, or with flashlight contributing as appropriate.
Night Life of a City Any of the activities of a city that comes to life after dark - the theatre, dance halls, beer gardens, sporting events, etc.
Nude Study A part of full lengths study of the of the male or female figure unclothed or very lightly draped. Also group nude studies. (Note: photographers should be aware of the pornography laws in their states/territories of residence as it pertains to photographing children.)
Old Age Portraits of old people showing the dignity, experience, loneliness or other aspects of old age.
On Show A picture taken in a theatre (ballet, play, musical etc.) either the actual performance and by the existing light. Or, during dress rehearsal when additional lighting may be used.
Pattern Any subject in which the arrangement of basic shapes(line, two dimensional or three dimensional) are repeated and create a sense of rhythm.
People at Work One or more men or women at their work, in a picture showing a recognisable occupation.
Photogram A picture made without the aid of a camera by exposing sensitive paper or film to light, using masks or various objects in contact with the emulsion to form the images.
Portrait A study of a person, ranging from head studies to full length portraits, with or without accessories. Ideally a portrait should show some aspect of the character or personality of the subject. For some competitions the committee may restrict portraits to head and shoulders only.
Record Shot A Photograph of factual or personal interest in which the subject matter does not demand pictorial treatment. The principles of good composition should be adhered to if possible.
Recreational Activities People relaxing, or enjoying themselves in any of their spare time activities - in the home, outdoors, or elsewhere.
Seascape A picture of natural coastal scenery, a wave study, or the open sea. Boats or other items of marine interest may be included.
Self Portrait A portrait taken by the photographer of himself, either in a mirror, by means of a remote release, or with a self-timer.
Signs of Spring The re-awakening of life under the influence of the new season. Its effect on plant growth, on animals or on people.
Speed or Action A photograph which conveys the impression of movement. In some such pictures actual movement will have been frozen at the peak of the action. In another type of picture rhythmic lines are created by movement photographed with a slow shutter speed.
Stage Shot A picture taken in the theatre (ballet, play, musical etc.) either the actual performance and by the existing lighting or during dress rehearsal.
Still Life A man-made arrAn arrangement of objects. Flowers - google the Dutch masters. The main idea is to create a good composition and the objects used should be compatible with one another.
Study of Water Water in its natural state or as used or harnessed by man.
Texture A picture conveying an impression of the physical nature of the surface of the material being portrayed.
The Four Seasons A picture symbolic of any one of the four seasons.
Search for Knowledge The activities of children or adults at schools, colleges or other centres of learning, photographs symbolic of the search for knowledge.
The Spirit of Music A photograph capturing the excitement, rhythm, exhilaration or other qualities of music. Also any photograph of instruments and musicians which is symbolic of such.
The Spirit of Science A picture of scientific apparatus, equipment or techniques which by their novel appearance seem to symbolise the spirit of research or progress in science.
Theatre Portraits Portraits studies of actors from a stage play.
Train Study A picture of one or more trains, or of appropriate scenes taken near the permanent way of a railway. Model trains are excluded.
Tree Study A landscape in which one or more trees are the important feature. A study of a tree or portion of a tree.
Wharves and Shipping Shipping or wharf scenes, either separately or together. A ship refers to a large vessel.
Wave Study A picture of waves in which rocks or coastline may be included. The qualities of rhythm, or movement are often suggested in such pictures.

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