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How to Enter Poly Competitions

Poly’s monthly competitions from January to November consist of three parts: the Project Competition; and two Open Competition categories called the Realistic category and the Enhanced Reality category. Each member may enter one image in the Project Competition; and two images in either one of, or split between the two, Open Competition categories. Here’s how to prepare and send your images.

Entries must be attached to an email (attach all three images to a single email) and sent no later than 5 p.m. the night before the competition. The email address for entries is given to Poly members and not shown here.

Poly’s computer uses Windows. Please be sure to send your images as attachments to your email. Mac users need to be aware that the default behavior of Mac email software is to embed images into the body of an email and become unusable for competition.

File Names in General

Proper naming of your files is important. Images which are not properly named can be rejected.

The file name of each submitted image must start with a category prefix (either “PROJECT”, “R”, or “ER,”), then the Image Title, followed by the word “by”, then your first and last name, and ending with the file-extension suffix “.jpg” (note: only JPEG files can be accepted into Poly competition). Here is an example of a file name for a Project entry: PROJECT Toy Story by Walter Disney.jpg

Open Competition

As of November 2023, Poly’s Open Competition is made up of the Realistic and the Enhanced Reality categories. Descriptions of each category are given below.

You may enter both of your images into one category or enter one image in each category.  Images scoring a 7 or greater are considered accepted for year-end competition and cannot be re-entered at any time. Images scoring less than 7 may be re-entered.

If you want to submit your image into the Realistic category, begin your image file name with the prefix letter “R”; or use the letters “ER” to submit into the Enhanced Reality category. If the image maker cannot be identified, it can be rejected from competition. Image files without a proper starting prefix will default into the Enhanced Reality category.

Here is the required file naming format: CategoryPrefix ImageTitle by Firstname Lastname.jpg

Example of a Realistic Category file name: R Clearing Winter Storm by Ansel Adams.jpg

Example of an Enhanced Reality Category file name: ER Martian Invasion by Orson Welles.jpg

Realistic Category

Images entered in this category must only contain elements, subjects, and scenes that either do, or look like they could, exist in the real-world. In addition, images that use in-camera special effects that could have been taken with a film camera with a minimal amount of darkroom-type corrections (i.e., exposure correction, minimal dodging and burning, etc.) are allowed. The Realistic category includes images that use the following techniques: realistic coloring, black & white, infrared, black-light, stitched-panoramas, HDR, multiple-exposures, composites, cloning, adding realistic textures, among others, as long as the goal is to make the image look natural and appear photographically realistic. An image post-processed to appear painterly in whole or in part is not considered photographically realistic.

If you’re not sure if an image qualifies for the Realistic category, we recommended that you enter it into the Altered-Reality category, described next. Judges will be advised to give a score of 6 to images that are not photographically realistic and have artistic filters, artistic backgrounds and/or other artistic processes. This will enable the maker to reenter the image in Altered-Reality.

Enhanced Reality Category

Images entered in this category may be one or both of the following:

  • Images that do not qualify for the Realistic category because they are not photographically realistic and have artistic filters, artistic backgrounds and/or other artistic processes.
  • Images that contain some or all subjects, elements, and/or scenes that could not or do not exist in the real-world.

Images must have been created by the entrant and start from his or her original photograph. Images cannot be completely constructed of graphic elements that were created by a computer (i.e., Fractals, Plugins that create trees and fire, etc.) and/or come only from other sources (i.e., the Internet, stock photos, art galleries, etc.). When an image’s elements come from places other than from its starting photograph, the maker’s own photographic content must be obvious and prevail.

The Enhanced Reality category can include photographically-based styles such as; photo-illustration, fantasy, enhanced or altered reality, imaginative photo-art, along with other techniques that are not photographically realistic, as long as the starting image came from the maker’s camera.

Project Competition

Entries for the monthly Project Competition must contain subject matter that relates to the Project’s monthly theme (i.e., January: Out-of-Focus, February: Toy Story, etc.). In addition, images for the Project Competition must be photographed on or after November 1 when the themes are announced for the new year starting in January.  Project images winning First, Second, and Third place are considered accepted for year-end competition and cannot be re-entered at any time. All other project images may be re-entered.

Project entries must begin with the capitalized word “PROJECT” and the “Theme.” If you decide to give your image a title, place it after “PROJECT” and “Theme” such as PROJECT Water Rain Drops by Doug Smith.jpg. If your project image does not have a title, use “PROJECT” and “Theme” as your title in the file name like this: PROJECT Water by Doug Smith.jpg.

Although titles of Project images will not be announced during competition, they may be used for winning Project entries that are posted on Poly’s website and in the year-end competition.

File Format and Image Size

Images MUST be in JPEG format (using file extension .jpg). Poly will not accept TIF, PSD, and other file-types.

The computer used for our Zoom competitions has a maximum resolution of 1920 by 1080 at 72 pixels per inch, so there is no advantage to entering a file any larger than that.

For ALL images (vertical and horizontal), please make the image 1080 pixels on the vertical side and let the width adjust to whatever size is necessary to maintain the proper aspect ratio.  For panoramas make the image 1920 pixels on the horizontal side and let the vertical side adjust to whatever is necessary to maintain the proper aspect ratio.

Images slightly larger than this are acceptable because our software will automatically shrink them to fit, but do not submit images at their original in-camera resolution as these will be too large. Please note that adjusting images to greater than 1080 pixels on the vertical side can result in the loss of sharpness in fine details when automatically shrunk to fit the screen by our software.

When converting to JPEG, use maximum quality (minimum compression). If done correctly, your file will be around one, two, or three megabytes in size.

For accurate projected color, be sure your images use the sRGB color space (not Adobe 1998 or ProPhoto). Convert them to sRGB as necessary.

What to Enter

For ideas about what kinds of images do well in competition, look at the winners displayed in the Winning Images galleries on Poly’s website.

Because Poly uses a variety of monthly competition judges, and judging is subjective, you’ll never know for sure what will do well. But after you’ve been to several competitions, you’ll begin to get a good idea of what judges are looking for. Feel free to enter subjects that interest you in their appropriate category, and most of all, have fun.