How to distinguish between what is allowed and what is not allowed when entering Federation and PAGB Competitions?

This article is reproduced from the PAGB Newsletter e-news, Issue 279, 1st April 2021

The SPF and PAGB use the same eligibility criteria –

Images entered must be entirely the work of the photographer. Composite Images are permitted provided all component images meet this requirement. For the avoidance of doubt, use of images from any sourceincluding, but not limited to, royalty free image banks,textures and clipart are not permitted

(An entry may also be subject to additional specific Competition requirements. e.g. for Nature or Monochrome).

 It is impossible to construct rules which cover every eventuality and questions beginning “What if …” are easy to construct.  We expect entrants to be honest and to comply with the spirit of the rules.  You will know when you have gone too far.  Organisers will not always detect infringements but, if one is spotted, the consequences can be severe.  Please “police” yourself.

It is impossible to precisely define what is meant by this statement, and interpretation may vary by different Judges and Organisers in different competitions.

Our advice is to try your best to enter images that comply with the “spirit” of the rules. The following notes may help but they are not meant to be definitive, merely a guide.

  • “Images entered must be entirely the work of the photographer” – does not preclude trade processed prints but does mean that you should have taken any photographs or made any elements used in the image.

  • “Royalty free Images are not permitted” – but neither are images which are freely available on the web or elsewhere, to use for other purposes, nor copyright images that you have purchased the right to use, but did not take yourself.

  • “Clip art” – includes any other material available for you to use, whether free or paid for, but you did not make. This includes photographing such things as artwork, scrapbooking, crafting material and passing it off as your own. This does not forbid you from photographing such things as statues and other objects and works of art, provided that you use them in a way that doesn’t pretend they are your work.

  • “Plagiarism” is a very different issue which was comprehensibly covered by Christine Widdall in e-news 249 at


Q – Using a FILTER in Photoshop to create (say) a rain-drop effect – is that allowed?
A – Yes, provided it is only using picture material from within your photograph(s) to create the effect – as opposed to say Filter > Render > Photo Frame (or Tree) within Photoshop, where a complete Photo Frame (or Tree) is imported into your image from a selection in Photoshop’s library. If it adds an ‘image layer’ that was not created from your own work, then it’s not allowed.

Q – Are filters such as Posterize and Dehaze allowed?
A – Yes, these are calculations, just as are Levels, Curves, Brightness, Contrast etc. All “calculations” are permitted, provided that no material is added which was not photographed by the author.

Q – Is the use of AI software such as ‘Skylum Luminar AI’ acceptable? As an example, if it appears to automatically enhance the original image and skies etc., are added seamlessly without much input from the photographer?
A – Yes, provided it is using picture material from your own photograph(s) to create the effect – as opposed to importing Skies, Planets, Mist etc., into your image from the program’s library. If it adds an image layer where that layer was not created from your own work, then it’s not allowed.

  • The use of Textures, not created by you, should not be used for the same reason as above.
  • The use of non-standard Brushes e.g. birds/snowflakes and the like, not created by yourself, falls into the same category as above.

Q – I can create things digitally in Photoshop, like a non-existing planet – is that allowed?
A – Yes, the PAGB and SPF allow you to create elements, (graphics or artwork), to use within your images. Note that this is not now allowed in FIAP Competitions unless it is solely created from your own photographs.

Q – Can I use Photoshop text? My understanding is that it is not my font?
A – Theoretically you are correct, although it is unlikely that your image would be disqualified for this, but it is not currently allowed in FIAP Competitions

Q – If I make the font and use that as a text from within Photoshop – is that allowed?
A – Yes, but not in FIAP Competitions