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About the Photo-of-the-Day Competition

Background

The photographyvoice.com POTD competition was first announced September 20, 2006 and the first winners followed five days later, on September 25.

The competition, just like the site itself, is the brainchild of Kevin L. Kitchens, web developer and amateur photographer. Modelled after what he saw as the best of several other POTD competitions, Kevin combined his skills writing and coding web applications with his love of good photography. Through this competition, he seeks to help expose the talents of many wonderful photographers and through this site, share the beauty of their work.

He also likes to talk about himself in the third person.


Categories

Initially there were just two categories, General and Open, but soon the quality and variety of entries demanded we add Animals and Scenic/Landscapes just three days later. Bugs, Birds, and Flowers/Plants followed in October 2006 giving the site a total of seven categories. Beginning in November 2006 the floating category began.

Following are brief explanations of each current category:

General - The general category is the catchall for photos that do not fit in others. This would include still life, macros, architecture, and well, general images that did not require excessive digital manipulation to create.

People - Portraits, people working, candids (still clothed of course). Photos where the main focus is the person. Indistinct group shots or distant street scenes would be in the general category.

Scenic/Landscape - The wonder of God's creation. Seascapes, landscapes, waterfalls, forests, sunrises, sunsets, clouds, etc. If the primary focus is architecture, then General would be the place to submit.

Animals: Domesticated & Farm - Dogs, kitties, horses and pretty much anything Old McDonald had on his farm, E-I-E-I-O (except birds, they are separate).

Wildlife & Bugs - Wild animals (except Birds), including those serving time in zoos and those who roam among us like deer and squirrels. Also those nasty, creepy, crawly things that you wouldn't want falling off your ceiling into your mouth while you sleep.

Birds - A category most fowl. Birds in flight, not in flight, yet living (no KFC food shots).

Flowers/Plants - Things that grow from the earth. Large or small, wide or telephoto or macro.

Open/Abstract - The open category is for photos that required massive editing or combining of images (such as HDR). This is not for collages or digital art. It is also for photo studies of patterns and textures.

Shades of Grey - Shades of any single color really: grey, sepia, whatever. Monochromatic studies.

Floating/Monthly - Each month will feature a new, one-month-only category that will allow photographers to stretch their limits. The category is announced on or about the 22nd of the previous months and photos should be taken after the time of the announcment.

Judging Methodology

At present, the photos are judged by a distinguished panel of ONE judge. That is the site owner, Kevin L. Kitchens, again talking about himself as if he wasn't right there listening to himself.

I do my best to be fair, but I am of course human. I do NOT let my opinion be biased by the feedback I've received about the site. I've tossed many photos from people who said very nice things because those photos were not winning calibre in my opinion. Or they violated the rules.

UPDATE: May 23, 2007. In the past I was able to see the photographer name/camera model prior to picking the winning photos each day. I did not let this affect my judgement except to prevent letting the same people win day after day after day as on some sites. With the success of the site and numbers of different photographers who have entered, this is really no longer an issue. I've adjusted my POTD tools so that I do not see the camera or the photographer during the selection process.

In the future, I might assemble a blind judging panel, but one the other hand, I hate to award based on a poll or survey. Regardless, I think the POTD Archives will bear out that good or excellent photographs have consistently won. And not a single winner has been me or my family. Not once!

So what makes a winning photo? The same thing that makes a good photo and distinguises it from being a snapshot. Here are some of the things Kevin is I am looking for.

Clear, sharp image - Not blurry and definitely not oversharpened. What the eye is naturally drawn to is either in focus or it becomes a distraction to what is in focus.

Noise - Low light shots in almost all digital cameras produce noise. Likewise nearly every photo program produces noise filters to remedy this. Sometimes noise can be artistic. Most times it's, well, noisy. And noise distracts. But like oversharpening, too much denoising can ruin a picture. You might have a great composition, but sometimes you have to know when the other factors have ruined it. A dog with three legs may still be cute, but he's not going to win the Westminister.

Good composition - Rule of thirds and all that. Not a super stickler for this one, but in general, it is part of what makes a good photo.

Few distractions - Similar to composition, but I'm a little more picky about this. A great landscape or building with power lines draped in front does not make for interesting viewing. Likewise a beautiful animal with a blown-out sky ruins the photo.

Following the rules - Borders and/or text on your photo earns a visit to the trashbin. I'm not going to crop them out and the rules are pretty clear up front. Something clearly older than 90 days (like shots from LAST winter or spring) also get trashed.

Properly sized - We compromised on this and made the minimum size 480 pixels on the smaller edge. This accomodates 640x480 images. However, the practical LARGE size is 800 wide by 480 or larger. We will automatically resize your photo down to 800 pixels on the longest side prior to even seeing the image. So if you want more control over what we see, don't submit higher than 800x800.

Here's why I'm saying this. Our filesize limit is 500KB, so to get a 5 megapixel or larger image down to 500KB something has got to be reduced. It's either going to be the JPG compression or the dimensions of the photo. If you try to keep your image at 2048x1536 or larger, then to get down to 500KB, the compression is going to be way high, which is going to result in a very poor image. You're much better off reducing the compression factor and resizing the image to 1024x___ thus leaving you with a better, clearer image with few artifacts.

Remember also that the compression is carried over each time you open and resave an image. Saved compression changes won't be apparent on-screen. To prevent surprises, following these steps: Save your image, then go to the folder and view or preview the image from there to see how it looks. So long as you've not closed and reopened the copy, you can make adjustments and save again with new settings. So take the time to check the output from your editing software and be sure that the image you're sending meets with YOUR critical approval.

Hope none of this sounds too harsh. Photographers LOVE to have one of their works named POTD and as such, this site has really taken off rapidly. So we get lots of submissions and only select one per day per category. We have to be discerning and maintain the prestige of being named POTD here.



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From the
POTD Archive

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Notes
Tom Briggs

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Old and Tired
Sven Gude

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Meow! I Think I'll Check Her Shopping
Dov Oron

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Downy Woodpecker
Judy Foxworthy

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Castle Door
ellen hodges

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