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Technical Guidelines

Entries for the 2021 Best of Photojournalism competition should be entered via the new online portal. ALL NEW ENTRANTS WILL BE REQUIRED TO CREATE A NEW CONTEST ACCOUNT regardless of whether they are an NPPA member or not. If you entered in 2019, you will be able to use that account.  (Your NPPA login credentials will not work on the competition submission site.)

Entries will be accepted from Tuesday, December 22, 2020, through 11:59 P.M. ET on Sunday, February 7, 2021. (Note: The submission deadline has been extended due to ongoing national events.) All entries must have been made between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020. Story category entries may contain images made in prior years but the majority of the work must have been made between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020.

Entry is free for NPPA members in good standing and $75 for non-members. If you choose not to join the NPPA, the fee will be collected at the end of the entry process. Membership status will be checked at the closing of the entry timeframe. Non-members who have not paid the entry fee may be disqualified.

Each entrant may have up to 20 entries spread across any combination of disciplines (Still Photojournalism, Picture Editing, Online Video, Presentation and Innovation, Video Photojournalism and/or Video Editing) and categories. This 20-entry limit applies to all disciplines and all entrants including Video Photojournalism and Video Editing. Multiple entries in one category will count towards the total number of entries. (For example, if you enter two images in the Sports Action category, that accounts for two of your 20 total entries.) A single photograph or video may not be entered on its own in more than one division. However, a photo may be entered in both a single category and as part of a picture story, portfolio, or compilation. A video may also be entered in both a single category and as part of a compilation. Each entry counts as one towards the 20-entry total.

Please read the individual Category descriptions for more information as some categories have additional restrictions.

All individual entrants will need to provide a headshot in JPG format and 3000 pixels on the long dimension, not to exceed 5 MB in size. Team entrants should use a station or publication logo with the same sizing standards. Thumbnails will be required for video entries and should be 1920 x 1080 pixels in a JPG format. Online entries will need a screen grab to be uploaded.

For some categories, you may be asked when material was first published or broadcast.

If you cannot enter the competition online, please request mail-in entry procedures by sending an email to bop@nppa.org. Mailed entries must be received by January 22, 2021.

Please feel free to send any questions along to bop@nppa.org.

Preparing Your Entries

We will not fix or recategorize any entries that do not follow the guidelines. Entries that do not meet the criteria or are improperly categorized will be disqualified from the competition. 

Still Photojournalism

Entrants to the BOP Still division must ensure their pictures provide an accurate and fair representation of the scene they witnessed so the audience is not misled.

Photographs must have complete, accurate captions and associated metadata as described below. Photo credits or other identifying information should be removed from the caption (but may remain in other metadata fields).

No multiple exposures, panoramas or stitched photos, produced either in-camera or with software, will be accepted.

Photographs may not be altered or manipulated during post-processing except for basic toning/contrast adjustments or by cropping. See the Visual Integrity guidelines for further information.

Entrants must be prepared to provide file(s) as recorded by the camera for images that proceed to the final stages of the contest when requested. These file(s) will be requested between February 22 and February 26, 2020. Failure to provide these files when requested may lead to the exclusion of the entry.

Please remove any personal rating or color codes.

Images in the story and portfolio categories will be sequenced based on the order they are uploaded so pay close attention to the order during the submission process. To reorder, you will need to delete and re-upload images. File names in story and portfolio categories must begin with a sequence number (01, 02, etc.) to ensure the final round judges see them in order. (Two different display systems are used in judging, one will sequence based upon the order uploaded and one based on the file names.) Each image should be saved as an RGB file. Do not save them as CMYK.

Images should be sized to be 3500 pixels on the long dimension.

Image files must be saved as a JPG with a quality setting of High (9 on a 12 point scale, 8 on a 10 point scale). File sizes should be no more than 5 MB.

Including the correct metadata and file formats in your entry is critical to the smooth running of the competition as well as the post-event archiving of material. The judges will rely upon the entrants to ensure the following standards are met. Failure to meet these requirements may result in a disqualification of an entry.

Image metadata can be entered in whichever image management program you are most familiar with. So, if you already use Photo Mechanic, Bridge, Lightroom or MediaPro or some other tool, you can enter the metadata in your familiar working environment.

If you do not currently have a preferred image management tool, Camera Bits has a free 1-month trial version of Photo Mechanic.

The following IPTC fields are required for entries:

  • Caption/Description – See Caption Guide below.
  • City, State/Province and Country
  • Date – The date the image was made.
  • Photographer and Credit/Byline (please fill in both) – The name of the photojournalist who made the image. Please be consistent from photo to photo. For example, please use Joe E Smith for each image, not Joe Smith on one, Joseph Smith on another, J.E. Smith on a third, and so on.
  • Source – Your employer or client.
  • Copyright – Who holds the copyright on the image (this may be the entrant, employer or client).
  • Contact Email – Please use the same address here as you will use when you create your account for submission.
  • Contact Phone – Please use the same phone number here as you will use when you create your account for submission.

Caption Guide:

Captions must be accurate and answer the basic questions of good journalism. They must be written in English only and follow basic AP style. Here are the basic AP guidelines. 

  • The first sentence of the caption should follow this structure;
    • The first clause should describe who is in the photograph and what is going on within the photo in the present tense followed by the city, state or province and country (if outside the United States) as appropriate. The last portion of the first sentence should be the date. Use absolute dates and absolute locations, meaning you should have a date of, “Monday, December 17, 2018” and not just, “Monday” or “last Tuesday.”
  • Captions must give attribution of action not seen (e.g. the scene of accident where more than 10 died, according to police).
  • Names should always be listed in order, left to right, unless it is impossible for the caption to read normally otherwise.
  • With multiple people identified within the caption, enough representations to placement are necessary that there is no confusion for who is who.
  • The second sentence of the caption is used to give context to the news event or describes why the photo is significant.
  • If in doubt of the need for a second sentence, leave it off.
  • Whenever possible, try to keep captions to no more than two concise sentences, while including the relevant information.
  • Try to anticipate what information the reader will need.  

Example: Democratic presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., delivers his policy on Iraq speech, Sept. 12, 2007, in Clinton, Iowa. Obama called for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. combat brigade.

(Adapted from the AP Style Guide)

If the photograph is a portrait, the caption must contain a note stating that the photograph is a portrait and was posed and directed.

For the story categories, within the caption block of the first image in a story, you must include a short overall story description at the top of the caption (up to 100 words). There may also be a fillable field for this on some categories.

For story and portfolio categories, images need to be uploaded individually - there will be buttons and caption-proofing windows for each image, there is not a bulk-upload function. (Please note the file naming convention above.)

Picture Editing

Entries should be submitted in the PDF format. Please make sure they have been saved as RGB files and not CMYK. Each entry should be combined into one PDF.

For the Online Photography Presentation, either a PDF or web link may be submitted.

Online Video, Presentation and Innovation

Either web links or videos may be submitted, depending on the categories (web links are required for Innovation, Social Media and Presentation categories).

All entries should be compressed for smooth playback online. Videos must be mp4 format at 720p resolution. If you already have a video compression tool that you're familiar with, use it. If you don't, Handbrake is a popular choice.

Video Photojournalism and Video Editing

All entries should be compressed for smooth playback online. Videos must be mp4 format at 720p resolution. If you already have a video compression tool that you're familiar with, use it. If you don't, Handbrake is a popular choice.

Eliminate any slate or title showing your name, station, website, newspaper, or city that may be at the beginning or end of each entry. Failure to do so will disqualify the entry. Station reference is only permitted in the Station of the Year air check and Deadline Photography entries that include live shots (including Deadline Photography stories submitted as part of an Ernie Crisp Television News Photographer of the Year or Station of the Year entry).