All Valley Professional Photographers | Image Prep for DPC

Hello Photographers!

Below you will find a video featuring our own Robin Swanson demonstrating, step but step, how to prep and save an image for our Digital Photography Competition. This includes, loading, resizing, creating a mat and stroke on the image, as well as the correct size and saving of your Image.  These are the technical steps to creating the image to meet the criteria for our local affiliate Image competitions.  For other criteria, please visit the following links:  


1) The Twelve criteria used to judge print competition:


2) print competition rules:


3) Demystifying print competition rules:


4) Paying for your image submissions:


5) instructions for submissions:


The video below used Photoshop to prep and create the sample final image for print competition. While other photo editors can be used, steps centric and unique to photoshop were used for simplicity can clarity. 



Some General Tips for Digital Photography Competition. 

1) Always prepare your image as if you are going to print it.  This “future proofs” your image for further competitions (state and national) if you choose to enter physical prints.

Printing specifications for image competitions is:

a) Entrants may submit printed images of any shape and size on a mount board a minimum of 80 square inches to a maximum of 480 square inches, with the largest dimension no longer than 24 inches. (Recommended mounting thickness is 1/8” to 3/8”.) 

b) Print entries must be mounted on standard mount material (double weight mat board, gator board, .” foam, or Sintra). “Float” mounting is accepted at the entrant’s risk for damage. Images on metal and mounted to another standard material must have rounded corners and smooth edges. No mount that could potentially damage other entries or pose a danger to print handlers will be accepted. Masonite, glass, stretcher frames or conventional frames will not be accepted.  

c) A digital reference file must be submitted with each print entry. This file must exactly match the submitted print entry (image and presentation). File specifications are the same as under the Digital Submission categories. 


2) Make sure you are working in the correct colorspace: either sRGB or Adobe RGB 1998. This is a requirement for competition. 


3) Even if you working off a jpg image. save it as a psd or a tiff. this will be important later because these formats don’t compress the file. Repeated savings of jpg images, especially after even a minor edit, will add compression artifacts to you images that may show up in the competition. This will directly affect your ability to merit. 


4) Also make a note of where you save your image since you will need to access it later. 


5) You will need to also need to set up your rulers to be visible in the photoshop canvas window. So in photoshop, go to view->Rulers (Command R on a mac) 


6) During Robins demonstration on how to set up an image for competition, she references Smart Objects. As defined by Adobe, Smart Objects are layers that contain image data from raster or vector images, such as Photoshop or Illustrator files. Smart Objects preserve an image's source content with all its original characteristics, enabling you to perform nondestructive editing to the layer.  For further information regarding the use of Smart Objects, you can go to Adobe’s own help page:

Use of Smart Objects for your image to create a resolution independent placeholder for your image. This allows you to use any version of your image, even a place holder, for your image, allowing for ease of editing and updating at any time. 
Robin uses the rectangle shape as a clipping layer to always have her image behind the “mat” layer (she uses the rectangle shape layer labeled “rectangle_1 in the video).

7) When free transforming your image, always use the shift key and grab a corner of the image to proportionally resize you image without distorting it. 
You can use “command semi-colon” key combination to display or hide your guidelines.

8) Robin sometimes uses colors from within her image to select her mat layer color (the blank area around you image).  She makes this possible by using a color fill layer  as her mat color layer (labeled as color fill 1 layer in the video), where her shape layer (rectangle_1) “clips” her image into.  This allows her to freely select and experiment with any color as a mat color for her image. 

9) To create a border around her image, or a "Stroke” as its called, robin applies the stroke FX to her rectangle shape. Again, another benefit of using the rectangle shape as a clipping layer other image: it allows an easy way to experiment with different stroke colors and widths on her image using the geometry of her rectangle shape layer. So if you later decide to change the shape and size of the shape layer (which defines the size of your mat), the stroke updates with it automatically! 

10) Please note the differences in how you label your image for competition at the affiliate, state and national level.  Incorrectly labeling your image will disqualify you from competing. 

11) When you save your image, make sure it is NOT flattened, save as a photoshop file and that you Embed your color profile, which should be either sRGB or Adobe RGB (1998).  The benefit of saving as a PSD file is that you can revisit the image and revise it based on feedback from the judges. 
When saving for an the actual image submission, flatten & "save as" a jpg, DO NOT hit save, you will overwrite you psd file with a flattened image.

12) Verify that your image is correct by loading it up (the saved jpg) to make sure that it has either an Adobe 1998 or sRGB color profile assigned to it, and that its longest side is only 4000 pixels long, saved at jpg quality 10.  The final image size must be 3.5 MB or less; if it is still to large, changing the DPI from 300 to 200 can aid you in this.  However, remember this is just for the affiliate jpg submission.  Remember to keep your master psd file at 300dpi and its original resolution. 

13) When reducing the image size to fit the Competition requirements, remember to set your resample method to Bicubic Sharper (reduction) for best results.


Review the video and remember to ask fellow affiliate members if you have any questions.  Also keep to the deadlines and competition requirements. Remember, its fellow affiliate members donating their time to prep and catalog your images for judging. Their time is valuable. 

Good luck!