Rules on Digital Adjustments

On this page you can find rules related to digital adjustments. These rules are set up so that the images entered into this competition represent real places and moments in time. However, they are not perfect and the judges will be able to use their discretion. Submission requirements and Terms and Conditions are found on their relevant pages.

This competition aims to present the best of the natural landscape captured on film or digitally. Digital adjustments are allowed with the understanding that:

“The integrity of the subject should be maintained.”

t h e   g o l d e n   r u l e

This is our Golden Rule which you should always refer back to if you are unsure on any particular process. Another way to look at this would be to say that: A viewer familiar with the landscape and photographic process should not feel deceived if they were shown the original scene and raw file.

Most of the post-processing techniques photographers employ are permitted, including stitching and stacking; however,  the final decision on what is accepted for competition will rest with the judges.

We appreciate that this Golden Rule may be hard to interpret so to provide further clarity, below are a number of reasons why images may be rejected along with some examples of these techniques.

1.  Introducing new elements or “compositing” either from photographic sources or digital painting. For example, adding in skies, foregrounds, birds, mist, sun, moon, rainbows, sunrays, lighting effects, etc. to the original image.

2.  Removing significant elements from the original scene. For example, cloning out a tree or electricity pylons. However, removing small or transient elements is allowed – for example a leaf, a small branch or a distant car. Entrants may also remove dust spots and flares.

3. Distorting existing elements. For example, stretching mountains to make them appear more dramatic. However, correcting lens distortions, perspective control (e.g. a digital version of tilt-shift lens) or performing distortions necessary for panorama creation are allowed.

4. Combining images taken at different focal lengths to create ‘best of both worlds” images. For example, shooting at foreground at 14mm and a mountain backdrop at 50mm and combining the two.

5. Combining images taken at significantly different times. For example, shooting a foreground just before the sunset and combining it with clouds lit red after sunset or astro elements taken during the night. However, exposure bracketing is allowed.

6. Combining the best parts of an image sequence to create a ‘perfect moment’. For example combining 10 different images of waves breaking on the same scene to create one image where the waves are breaking everywhere simultaneously.

 Permitted Digital Adjustments and Exceptions

It is expected that common digital adjustments will be made by the photographer such as changes to: White Balance, Exposure, Colour and Contrast as well as dust spot and flare corrections. These changes can be made across the whole image and/or  locally (such as dodging and burning) . Some of these changes may be significant as long as the ‘golden rule’ is met – “The integrity of the subject should be maintained”.

Black and white conversions are allowed. Heavy contrast and dodging and burning may be used as long as these techniques are not used to effectively ‘clone out’ image content by simply darkening it to black or brightening it to white.

Cropping is allowed, even significant cropping just as long as the image remains sufficiently detailed to produce a high quality print at up to 24″ on the long edge.

Compositing or other techniques may be permitted for reasons such as:

  • Creating panoramas
  • Exposure bracketing
  • Improving the technical quality of the image (image stacking/averaging, focus stacking)
  • Removing lens flare
  • Removing dust spots 

Post-processing remains a critical part of realizing the potential of an image and the vision of the photographer.

    Special Considerations for the Nightscape Category

    What type of techniques and edits are allowed for the Nightscape category?

    Night photography introduces various technical challenges which are commonly solved through processing so we have given additional consideration to this category. Two of the founders of the competition are experienced night photographers and understand the nuances involved in creating compelling nightscapes.

    At the heart of our rules is what we consider to be our golden rule – “the integrity of the subject should be maintained.” This should be the very first thing to consider when thinking about what techniques are allowed for this competition; however, let’s get into some specifics:

    What about use of Star tracking mounts?

    Images made using tracking devices are acceptable as long as the golden rule is met. We recognize that using a star tracker requires the use of compositing techniques to blend the tracked night sky with the landscape; however, the section of night sky should be the same in both shots (obviously within reason, we’re not going to compare the pixel location of stars!). If chosen as a finalist for the competition, your RAW files will be requested and if they resemble the scene you were capturing, we are good to go!

    What about Blue Hour blends?

    If more than one image is taken, they all must be taken within moments of each other without the camera or tripod moving.

    What about “Deepscapes?”

    “Deepscapes” are essentially the combination of deep sky objects such as nebulae and galaxies, which are combined with a landscape element and require special techniques and processing to create. If the “Deepscape” was created using allowable techniques above such as with a star tracking mount, they are allowable as long as they adhere to the golden rule of the competition.


    If you have further questions about night photography techniques that are commonly used, please let us know at info@naturallandscapeawards.com