Last Updated: 09 May 2022 09 May 2022

Photo Challenges

TOPG members can submit photographs to monthly photo challenges and have their prints and digital images evaluated by qualified judges. Our judges are selected from a pool of prominent photographers who are well known in the field of photography. Their experience and expertise enables them to offer valuable critique and assessment of photographs in a stress-free environment. Photo critiques are performed anonymously. Above all, the goal of our photo challenges is to learn by example what makes a good photograph and how your own photos can be improved. After all, all photographs, no matter how good they are, could be made into better photographs.

Our Photo Challenge Guidelines

Images submitted to TOPG photo challenges are judged for their technical and pictorial merit. They should be properly exposed, be appropriately in focus, and have appropriate depth of field. Imagery should have impact, appeal, and strong composition. Each month we provide an assigned theme to challenge club members to make photographs that address a specific set of guidelines. We also provide an open category where club members may submit photographs without restriction.

Whether the club member chooses to submit digital images or prints for evaluation, our Photo Challenge Guidelines provide a construct for conducting photo challenges simply and easily. Club members may submit photos in two different divisions: the Printed Image Division and the Projected Image Division.

Please note that the Printed Image Division has been temporarily discontinued while we meet in a virtual world in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. We will resume the Printed Image Division once we start meeting in person.

We’ve pulled out most of the stops beginning in 2021. Our editing restrictions have been greatly relaxed when compared to challenge guidelines used in previous years. We hope this allows our club to be their most creative and not be hampered by rules. For specific details, please read:

2021 Photo Challenge Themes

The Thousand Oaks Photo Group offers judged photo challenges 10 months out of the year, from February through November. In January, we conduct a photo review of the best images from the previous year, and in December, we just have a party. The following themes have been selected for the 2021 Challenge Season:

Thousand Oaks Photo Group
2021 Photo Challenges

 Month Theme
 January   2020 Photo Review – no photo challenge
 February My Hometown – select a theme that would make our judge want to live in your hometown. This could be the Conejo Valley, Simi, Moorpark, just about anywhere in Ventura County, the San Fernando Valley or even Boise, Idaho. Show us the place where you live now!
 March Shadow – this is rather self-explanatory, or is it? Only you will really know until we see your image.
 April Odd - An odd number, odd person, odd object, … there are so many possibilities.
 May Small World – Some may take this literally as a “macro” technical challenge, but it leaves open the opportunity for many other possible creative interpretations While it’s a small world after all, there are so many possibilities in it.
 June Geometry - An extremely broad subject with subtle creative and compositional challenges. Think of things that are round, triangular, square, etc., etc., etc. An equal opportunity subject for beginner to advanced.
 July Vanishing Point – this could be across a table, down the block, the end of the valley or, or …
 August Impressionistic – this is a wide-open topic. This is your opportunity to be creative. Try your hand at creative editing or try a new camera technique. Is this art? Only you really need to make that decision.
 September  Slow Shutter - a broad ranging challenge with lots of possibilities. Think sports, moving water in landscapes, people or things in motion. Or try a tricky camera movement. There are so many possibilities.
 October  Technology – Make an image that represents technology. Technology is constantly changing and evolving. Your image may represent a physical aspect of technology, or it may be an interpretive essay. There are so many opportunities that will challenge your creativity.
 November  Repetition – If I say this once, I have said it again, and again, and again … Things repeat. This is a compositional component that can be found in both the natural world and in the manmade environment. Repetition can be found in everything from macro to large panoramas.
 December   TOPG Holiday Party (no photo challenge)


If you are not sure what a particular theme means. Google it, and you will see lots of concepts and examples to help spur your imagination. Or ask a friend. Have fun and share your vision.

Rules? I thought there were NO rules!

OK, there are a few pesky rules.

Simply stated, our rules are simple and easy to understand. But you do need to read them to know what they are. Please read:


The Photo Critique -
Softly passing judgement

Photographs submitted to our photo challenges will be reviewed and critiqued by a judge. The purpose of the critique is to help TOPG members better understand what constitutes an exceptional projected image or printed photograph. Learning by critique can be a highly effective way to improve one’s photography and post processing skills. It can help the photographer prepare for future TOPG photo challenges as well as photo competitions outside the TOPG. Our goal is to help every TOPG member become a better photographer and be less sensitive to receiving objective criticism of their work in an anonymous setting.

Whether reviewing a projected image or a print, each photograph is evaluated as follows:

How are photographs scored?

Judges assign scores according to the following grading scale:

9 – Photos exhibiting exceptional technical skill and impact
8 – Photos with very high technical skill and impact
7 – Good photos, worthy of award consideration
6 – Average quality photos
5 – Below average photos, needing improvement
4 – Below average photos with serious defects
3 – Photos with multiple serious defects

Note: when photos are submitted to an “assigned” category or topic, they must meet the requirement of that topic or category to receive consideration. Photos which do not fit the assignment will be disqualified for rating and may not be critiqued (depending on the judge).
All images, even the best ones, can be improved. It is hoped that everyone will learn from the discussion. All judge’s decisions are final. Our photo challenges are intended to be instructional.

Again, if you have any questions, please refer to the complete photo challenge guidelines:


If you have any questions, please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..