2020 Photo Contest

The 2020 Sierra Club Photo Section Contest runs from Saturday, October 17th to Saturday, November 21st at 11:59 PM. See below for categories, rules, and the submission process.

Information For Participants

  • Submit your very best photos – go deep into your archives and pull out the gems!
  • Consider the category you submit to carefully, and whether your photos really fit into it
  • We have a number of guest judges this year
  • We are mostly retaining the categories from 2019 (“Abstract” and “Wild” have been merged)

Contest Rules

  1. Contest is free for 2020 dues-paid members of the Sierra Club Photo Section. Only current members may submit. See the Club Secretary to check your membership status. New members paying dues after September 1 are not eligible for the contest. Do not pay membership just to be in the contest.
  2. Members are allowed to make three (3) individual image submissions per category. Only the first 3 images submitted per category are accepted. Substitutions are not allowed and any submitted images beyond 3 will be deleted, no matter the quality. Think before submitting.
  3. Images in past Photo Club contests that were not winners or honorable mentions are permitted, and we encourage you to submit re-imagined or reprocessed images as your skills have improved. Previous ribbon winners are not allowed (we will verify).
  4. Ribbons and prizes will be determined by the Club Executive Board for winners. Generally, each category will feature ribbon winners in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. The Judge can also select up to 3 additional images for Honorable Mentions.
  5. Category winners will be part of the feature program and announced by the judge at the December Online Meeting. (due to the COVID-19 restrictions, there will sadly be no holiday party this year.)

Submission Instructions

  1. Submissions are to be sent via the Dropbox submission links. Submission by any other method will not be considered.
  2. Please do not resize your images. Larger images show better quality and will be better judged. Images will be viewed on high resolution screens so make sure that your photos withstand critical inspection!
  3. Please send JPEG files only, sRGB color space, no watermarks (obviously)
  4. Honorable mentions and ribbon winners will be revealed at the Holiday Party and will be placed in winners galleries in low-resolution on the photo club website after the Holiday party. Requests to delete images after judging is completed will be honored. Contact us if you wish for your winning image to not be featured. If you wish to replace your winning image on the gallery with a watermarked version, you will need to contact us as well.

Behind The Scenes

  • Your submissions will be fully anonymized (EXIF/IPTC data and filenames will be cleaned before images are sent to the judges)
  • We’re tracking your photographs internally and will re-associate them with contestants after judging has finished
  • Judges will get access to private high-resolution online image galleries via Dropbox

About Judging… And Some Judging Criteria

A number of well-respected photographers from the greater San Diego area’s photographic community are volunteering as our judges this year. The judges have been instructed to evaluate submissions based on the following criteria:

  • Composition. Remember Charlotte Gibb’s presentation? She said “Composition eats subject for breakfast” – meaning that, no matter the type of photograph you are making, it needs to be a strong composition. Consider in your image: Is it powerful? Is it balanced? Does it demand further attention from your eyes and additional study? Strong compositions are the most important element.
  • Faithfulness to the category is important. Each category demands different ideas, skills, and fundamentally, a finished image that represents it. When submitting your images, think about how it relates to the category.
  • Level of skill and technique is definitely considered. Some photographs just do it themselves. We often call those snapshots, even though they may be a nice photograph. A powerful image that requires skill in its craft will stand out.
  • Careful processing is very important. Today’s photographer has more tools and techniques easily available than any time in history. While our editing programs and tools help us turn a flat raw file into a powerful image, when taken too far, they also can produce noisy, garish, or uneven results. Be judicious in your editing and processing. Ask yourself, is this scene recognizable to your eye, or is the method of editing calling attention to itself? Seek a result that is edited but natural.
  • Your image should stand out and be unique. For most of this decade, there were more photographs made in a single year than had been made in the entire history of humankind before it. Many of your fellow photo club members are making photographs similar to yours. Select images that stand out in the crowd and it just might catch the eye of the judge. PS: This is a good rule to consider when submitting to the Spring San Diego County Fair Photo Contest as well.
  • Have fun! This contest is a value-add for our members, a chance to have a low-key way to compete in a photo contes. Enjoy your images as you submit, and congratulate your fellow club members when they place or receive honorable mentions. If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


  • Architecture, Structure, Manmade (Color/Black & White)

  • Birds (Color/Black & White)

  • Black and White
    • Black and white, monochrome, and converted infrared images. Black & whites are acceptable in other photographs where they are a great fit. Think before submitting to other categories if the composition is strong enough to compete with color photographs in those categories.
    • Judge: Alexander S. Kunz
  • Landscape (Color/Black & White)
    • Landscapes, open spaces, scenics, natural outdoor elements EXCEPT oceans, lakes, rivers, etc. (see Waterscapes category).
    • Judge: Lee Sie
  • Macro & Close-Up (Color/Black & White)
    • This category includes photographs taken as 1:1, or true macro images greater than 1:1. Close-ups are acceptable, including details of flowers, plants, insects, etc. All should be composed well and include a good balance between focus and bokeh.
    • Judge: Alexander S. Kunz
  • Night & Astro (Color/Black & White)
    • Any photograph made at night can fit into this category. Night sky photography and astrophotography images will include the majority of submissions, but other photographs made under dark conditions can be a fit here.
    • Judge: Stephen Bay
  • People (Color/Black & White)
    • This category combines several categories that our members participate in. Travel photographs with people as the primary subject would fit in this category. Street photographs with people as the primary subject would also fit in this category. Finally, traditional studio or natural-lit portraiture should be submitted here.
    • Judge: Alexander S. Kunz
  • Waterscapes (Color/Black & White)
    • This category includes outdoor images featuring oceans, lakes, rivers, and other water-based elements as a primary element of the photograph.
    • Judge: Lee Sie
  • Wildlife-Captive (Color/Black & White)
    • Photos of wild animals in captivity or captive environments. If you went to the zoo or have other images from the San Diego Safari Park, this is the best category. Bird photographs are acceptable in this category, but you may consider submitting those in the Avian Photography category.
    • Judge: Sandra Zelasko
  • Wildlife-Non-Captive (Color/Black & White)
    • Photos of wild animals in natural environments. You are on your honor that submissions are non-captive, and the judge reserves the right to request additional verification or disqualify images that are not obviously non-captive. Like the captive category, bird photographs are acceptable but you may wish to use the Avian Photography category.
    • Judge: Sandra Zelasko
  • Wild (Color/Black & White)
    • This is an open category. Do you have images that are unique or not a natural fit in other categories? Submit them here. There are no limits, no obvious rules, and nothing restraining you from submitting “different” images here. Have fun and find something that stands out!
    • Judge: Alexander S. Kunz