Hermanus Photographic Society
Definition of Categories

Definition of Categories

The Society’s entry categories are based on those recommended by the PSSA.

Their primary purpose is to inform the viewer, judge or critic of the way in which the photographer envisaged the image and therefore how the viewer should interpret and critique the image.

The advent of digital image processing has introduced a secondary purpose for entry categorisation. Some categories have strict rules that define which image processing techniques may NOT be used to enhance the original image.


Definition of categories


The subject is captured from nature in all its variety. The category includes the many facets of Archaeology, Botany, Geology and Zoology. It includes Wild Life photographs of animals and birds, fish and insects. Similarly, the category includes images of rocks, flowers, plants, leaves and trees, where the intent is to display the subject in its natural context using visual imagery to communicate understanding and meaning to the viewer. Human elements if present should be unobtrusive and enhance the nature story. Cultivated plants, domestic animals, creatures in captivity, still life, floral arrangements, mounted museum habitats or groups or similar subjects which are no longer alive are not classified as nature. However, images drawn from nature may be entered in other categories, if the photographer wishes, such as Portraits, Still Life, Contemporary or Open.

NB   Within this category, Wild Life images, of the subjects listed above, are subject to certain constraints that do not apply to images not of a Wild Life nature.



Landscapes, seascapes, whether rural or urban and similar outdoor scenes. Scenic images, when entirely natural can also be classified as Nature.Portraits

These can include images of people, animals, birds, insects, etc. where the intention is to capture the essence of the subject, visually as well as, perhaps, to communicate information on mood, personality and other less visual characteristics. Whilst portraits often involve images of the head and shoulders of subjects, this is by no means a requirement. Images of inanimate subjects can also be classified as portraits if appropriate.


Still Life

These usually involve images of inanimate subjects, arranged ‘table top’ displays and floral arrangements. However, it is perfectly valid to include images of naturally occurring arrangements of subject matter if appropriate.



These are defined as creative, experimental, imaginative, impressionistic images and involving some form of departure from realistic representation. Images of this type may also be entered in other categories if it suits the photographer’s purpose. Realistic images may be included in this category if the purpose is to explore shapes, patterns, textures and colours rather than to display the subject itself.



These are generally story telling images that capture events, people, animals or subjects in action and include sport and newsworthy events.



All photographs not covered by the above sections. Photographers may at their discretion, classify any image in the open section if it suits their purpose.


These descriptions are in no way intended to limit the freedoms of photographers to submit images in any category that is appropriate nor to imply that creativity and innovation are more appropriate or sought after in some categories than in others. The choice of category should support the photographer’s vision and it should inform the viewer about the kind of image the photographer intended to produce.


Photographers are free to use any and all available techniques to produce and/or enhance their images. These may be in camera and post camera techniques of a traditional film or darkroom nature as well as digital techniques. These techniques include inter alia, brightening or darkening, changing contrast, changing colour saturation, sharpening and cropping the image.

However, if images are categorised as Photojournalistic or are Wildlife images entered in the Nature category, constraints apply.

Wildlife and Photojournalism pictures may NOT be composite images. Nor may they be digitally altered by the addition or removal of any parts of an image such that the final picture does not show a true representation of the subject matter and surroundings as photographed, in their original context and environment.

The term “No Altered Reality” has been loosely applied to describe this limitation.

Composite”. Is an image that includes parts of another image or cloned parts of the same image. Thus an image that has been enhanced using the PhotoShop Cloning tools, Healing brush, History brush, Paint brushes and any similar tools, is a composite.

NB There is one exception to this rule. Dust and scratches on film or blemishes formed as a result of dust on the surface of the digital capture device, may be removed by cloning and similar methods.

“Altering Reality” In addition to Compositing, techniques that are deemed to alter reality include Blurring (if not applied in camera) and the application of Digital Filters.

Photographers’ Options

The Altered Reality constraint applies to Photojournalistic images entered in the Photojournalism category and images of Wildlife entered in the Nature category. Images so entered will be judged and evaluated as Photojournalistic or Wildlife images with due consideration given to their merits as images of this type, the difficulty of obtaining the image and the uniqueness of the subject matter.

However, images like this, whether Reality has been altered or not, may also be entered in one of the other categories. In such case the image will be interpreted as a photograph that has been subjected to compositing techniques and will be judged and evaluated purely on its photographic merits.

Thus Photographers are free to categorise their images as they see fit recognising that the categorisation will affect the way in which a viewer interprets and responds to the image. Photographers should also make full use of the title of their image to further guide the viewer in understanding the content of an image and the intent of the photographer in creating the image.

Clearly, the careful choice of title and category is an important component in the process of ensuring that the viewer is able to appreciate fully, a photographer’s creativity and hard work.