Student contests: Preparing photo entries

Before starting here ...

If you haven't already, please take time to familiarize yourself with the overall competition process, outlined on Submitting online entries.

Preparing your images

All images must meet the following requirements. You can use the list below as a checklist. Each list item links to detailed instructions for how to do each one.

  • File format: Photos must be in JPG format.
  • Color mode: Photos must either be color (RGB) or black-and-white (grayscale) or a combination of color and black-and-white.
  • Cropping: Crop photos as desired for competition. They need not be cropped for competition in the same manner in which they appeared in the publication.
  • Image size: Photos should be as large as possible (without enlarging), but must not exceed 5,000 pixels in the long direction.
  • Metadata: Photos must have the name of its creator, and a caption, entered in the document info for the image. ***Please SAVE AS for your photos rather than Export. The Export process does not keep the metadata and will result in an error when uploading photos into the contest system.

File format

JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) has become the standard file format for sharing files transmitted over the Internet. It is also acceptable for most print media and online media. It is the ONLY format acceptable for images to be submitted in the JEA National Student Media Contests.

The following file formats are NOT acceptable: PSD (Photoshop document), Raw, TIFF (Tag Image File Format), BMP (bitmap), GIF (Graphic Interchange Format), XCF (eXperimental Computing Facility), PDF, (Portable Document Format). Again, ONLY JPEG files will be accepted.

Note that, while PDF entries are accepted for online submission in design contests, PDF entries for photos are not acceptable.

JPEG is a compression scheme. To maintain the highest quality while compromising file size, file should be saved at a compression ("Quality") of 10, 11 or 12. Judges may consider file quality as part of the critique and the judging. Files saved using a compression of lower than 10 may have noticeably lower quality.


Save the file as a JPEG. No other formats are acceptable.

Setting the color mode

Adobe Photoshop and similar programs allow for a variety of color modes, including RGB, grayscale, CMYK, Lab, Index, among others. While each of these modes serves a purpose, only two are acceptable for entries in the JEA National Student Media Contests: RGB and grayscale.


All color images must be saved in RGB mode. Black-and-white images may be saved in Grayscale mode. No other color modes should be used.


Crop the photo as needed to render the best image composition. It does not have to be cropped the same as it was in the publication.

Image size adjustment

When comparing two images, judges will, naturally, be more impressed with a larger image. Unless an image when taken straight from the camera is already smaller than 5,000 pixels in the long direction, size the image so that it is 5,000 pixels in the long direction. The majority of images will be larger than 5,000 pixels in the long direction by default.

While there is no minimum file size, quality of the image will be considered by the judges and they should have adequate digital information to view the image at a reasonable size. To that end, we have designated that the image be:

  • 5,000 pixels or less in the long direction (either horizontal or vertical).

You don't have to worry about the resolution, only the number of pixels in the long direction.

There is no longer an official file size limit for photo entries. As long as the image is no more than 5,000 pixels in its wider dimension, any file size up to 64MB will be accepted.

How to optimize the size of your photo

The idea of this process is to produce the best quality image possible, while complying with image size limits. This is the process to use with Adobe Photoshop.  Other image editing software may require different steps, but most of them have the features we use in Photoshop to do the same thing we describe here.

Here's an image we (hypothetically) want to submit:

On the field, senior Emily McAfee performs with the girls from the Marquette Mini-camp. Emily was able to dance with her cousin on the field. “It was really cool to have her dance next to me,” Emily said. “Whenever they took the picture, my little cousin got to put on my hat and it was really cute.” Photo by Elizabeth Chan, McKinney High School (Texas); Alyssa Boehringer, adviser

When the image is loaded into Photoshop, and the image size properties are viewed by choosing [Image], [Image Size...] from the main menu, we see all the dimensions of the overall image.

This photo clearly does not comply with the size limits for a photo contest submission; its longest dimension in pixels is 6,500.

If the longest dimension is greater than 5,000 pixels, change it — in this case, the width — to 5,000 or less. This will bring the photo into compliance with the image size requirement, a long dimension of 5,000 pixels or less.  If both dimensions of the photo are already less than 5,000, do NOT enlarge an image that is already smaller than 5,000 pixels in both dimensions.

To obtain the best possible image quality within the size limit, do NOT reduce the image any farther than is necessary. Reducing an image entry too much will affect the quality of the entry, which is taken into consideration by judges.

What about the file size limit?

There is a technical limit of 64MB, which is unlikely to be approached by any image meeting the 5,000 pixel limit.

Entering metadata (author and caption)

Adobe Photoshop and most other image-editing tools allow for the inclusion of metadata, everything from aperture and shutter speed used when the image was taken and automatically included with digital images to the captions typed in after-the-fact by the photographer.  Following the lead of all national photo contests and major media outlets, JEA requires credit and caption information for all images submitted in the competitions.

Author credit: Format the credit as follows:

Photo by <author name>, <school name> (<town>, <state>; <adviser name>, adviser)

Note: There is a known bug in Adobe Photoshop regarding the punctuation in the Description metadata field. Attempt to follow the guidance shown here. However, if Photoshop changes the punctuation, the entry will still be accepted.

For example:

Photo by Max Fowler, Lugoff-Elgin High School (Lugoff, S.C.; Jenny Proctor, adviser)

Caption: The caption should follow general rules for caption writing. In general, it should answer the questions who, what, when, where and why with the first sentence in present tense and subsequent sentences in past tense.


A well-written caption will improve your chances of a good ruling.  Click here to download an article on caption writing.

In Adobe Photoshop

In Photoshop, bring up the file info dialog: from the main menu, choose [File], [File Info...]

In other programs

If using other programs to enter the author credit and caption, use corresponding metadata fields compared to Photoshop:

  • Adobe Photoshop — Author and Description fields
  • Adobe Lightroom — Creator and Caption
  • Adobe Bridge — Creator and Description
  • Photopea — Artist and Image Description
  • Apple Photo — Use the Description field (the Author/Creator field cannot be edited)
  • GIMP - As of version 2.13, GIMP support the editing of caption information.

Submitting your photo entries

Some tips for submissions:

  • Double-check to make sure your photos meet all the requirements.  Use the check sheet to confirm all the crucial steps were done.  This will save time and frustration at upload time.
  • JEA will not accept late entries. Do not wait until the last day to upload entries.

Click here for instructions on uploading your photos.

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