Digital & Print Entry FAQ's for the
2020, 2021 San Diego County Fair

International Exhibition of Photography


No San Diego Fair Photo Contest this year?  

No problem - we've still got "Specials" ..

• Master File Creation Service (more here) - $40, all formats

•  Mounted & Laminated Custom 16x20 Prints - (more here) - $99

Good through July 1st, 2021 ...
More on 2021's Contest postponement here


San Diego County Fair Photo Contest Postponed until 2022

As you may have heard already, the latest news is that the Fair Board voted to postpone the Fair until 2022. They are going to keep the same theme and utilize as much as they can from 2019.  

We were looking forward to seeing all of you this Fair season, but unfortunately this will no longer be possible. 

We appreciate everyone hanging in with us through all of this and hope you will join us in 2022.  The Photo Show would not be possible without your support.

Keep in touch.

Stay safe and stay healthy,

Lois Fong-Sakai, Co-coordinator - SD Fair Photo Contest

More here

 ... and here:

Questions? Confused?
We might have your

answers right here ...

Deadline for Online Digital Entry:
Friday, April 10th April 17th, 2020 at 11:59 PM PST

Welcome to the not-really-unofficial, but kind-of authorized, Digital Entry FAQ page for the 2020 SDC Fair Photo Contest.

"We're no longer in Kansas, Toto" - The c
ontest has gone partially "electronic", so if you've never entered this kind of contest, it might seem a bit confusing..

Simple explanation of how this works: This is a "2-tiered" submission process:
  • If accepted to the "second round" (Tier 2), you will be notified via email by the end of the day, Wednesday, April 22nd. Date TBD
  • You'll then submit your actual physical "hang-ready" print to the Fair on either Tuesday or Wednesday, May 142h or 13th, DATE TBD noon - 7 PM, for judging in Tier 2.  
  • Please Note:  Advancement of images to Tier 2 does NOT guarantee that a print will hang in the show; - images must meet Fair rules and judges' standards for print quality and presentation!
The purpose of this FAQ is to answer specific subjects, mostly technical, that are NOT already on the Fair's official page. For more details on deadlines and specifications, see the SDC Fair "official" page.

Oh, and many, many thanks to  Gene Wild (Photo Exhibition co-coordinator), Lois Fong-Sakai (Ass't Co-coordinator) David King, Larry Vogel, and Brian Wright for all of the help - you folks are awesome!!!


John Watts :-)

For questions not answered on this webpage,
or the Official SDC Fair website, contact:
General Questions: call or email:
SDC Fair Entry Office -  858-792-4207 -
Tech Questions Only:
(No phone calls to Watts Digital, please!)

* * * Last updated: May 12th, 2021  * * *

Did your Image(s)
get accepted
to Tier 2?

Check out my SDC Fair Print Special ...


Preparing your Digital Images prior to Upload:

Here is the simplest and easiest way to do this:

Save your image as a JPG, at the highest quality setting,
with an approximate size of:
        • 1800 x 1200 pixels for a landscape (horizontal) orientation, or
        • 800 x 1200 pixels for a portrait (vertical) orientation.
Legally, your file can not be more than 7 MB in size.  However, if you use the above as a guide, your file will appropriately represent your image on the judge's computer monitors.  The small file size (2 MB or less) will upload quickly and will look no different on the judges monitors than the same image at a higher resolution, larger pixel dimensions, larger file size, or file format.

Now for the fine print:

  • Your image must be a minimum of 400 pixels on the longest side, but no greater than 7 MB.  However, you will NOT gain anything in quality by making the file much bigger than 1 to 4 MB (or longer than  about  2000 pixels) due to the limitations of  most monitors - including the ones the judges will be using to view your images.
  •  The acceptable image formats are JPG, .GIF, BMP, PNG, TIF and TIFF  only.  However, to keep things simple it is STRONGLY suggested  that you save your file as a JPG, and, if given the choice, using sRGB as your Color Space.  Again, you will NOT gain anything in quality by saving it in a different format (such as TIFF) or color space (such as Adobe RGB), due to the limitations of most monitors (including the ones the judges will be using to view your images).  By default, JPG's must be "formatted" correctly in order to save it.  If you upload TIFF's, for instance, your file must  be flattened, in an RGB color space, and in 8-bit; otherwise, it  probably will not upload, and the error message from the upload system will not tell you why.
  • Please note that the resolution of your uploaded image is immaterial, as the way it will be viewed is dependent on the monitors (ALL monitors, not just the judges!) - A file saved  at 4"x6" @ 300ppi is the same as one saved at 16.67x25 @72 ppi - they are both 1200 x 1800 pixels, and will both show up on the monitor as the same size. Oh, and as an aside, if you make it to "Tier 2", do NOT make your print from this uploaded file - File resolution is critical to printing - see more on this below.


Re-sizing and Saving your Digital Images
using Photoshop or Photoshop Elements:

If you are using Photoshop  or Photoshop Elements, here is a general step-by-step procedure for how you would re-size and save an image for the Fair (the pics shown are Photoshop CS5 on Windows, but similar on newer versions):

1) Open your finished image
     in Photoshop

Menu => Open..."

   ** Image must be Flattened, in 8 bit,
    and in an RGB Color space! **

2) Open "Image Size" Dialog Box -

age" Menu => "Image Size ..."
"Image" Menu => "Resize" =>
     "Image Size ..." 
in El

3) (See Diagram 1)

     ** Please note that your original values
     will be different than shown...
A) If available, all 3 boxes (Scale Styles, Constrain Proportions, Resample Image)  must be checked, as shown.
B) Enter the desired pixel length on your longest side, as shown.

C) Choose the proper Bicubic choice ("Resample" in newer versions of PS) from the drop down list, as shown - - As this image was bigger than the new desired size, "Automatic" or "Bicubic Sharper (best for reduction)" is chosen.

D) Press the "OK" button - Your image is re-sized..
4) (See Diagram 2) -

Go to "File"  Menu => Save as ...",
     choose "JPG" from the
     "Format" drop-down menu,
    then enter your chosen file name
    and location.

5) The JPG dialog box opens  -

     Make sure that you're saving at the
     best quality, as shown, and that
     your file size is less than 6 MB,
     as shown.

Press the "OK" button -

Your image is now saved and ready for upload!

_ ____________________

How the Judges Will View
Your Digital Images:

Judges will view your images on calibrated and profiled computer monitors, in a room with reduced lighting. Although it is not strictly necessary, you can assure consistency with the judge’s monitors by calibrating and profiling as close to the following values as you can:

Color Temperature: 6000° Kelvin
Gamma: 2.2
Brightness: 110 Lumens (CD/M²)

The best way to accomplish this is by using a Monitor Profiling package, such as the X-Rite Eye One Display Pro or Colorvision Spyder 5 Elite – These packages typically cost around $200 and up. If you do not have one, and purchasing one is not an option, here are some suggestions:
  • Borrow a Monitor Profiling package temporarily from a fellow photographer.
  • Use a friend’s calibrated monitor to “fine tune” your final images.
  • Use the “By-eye” software calibrators built into your operating system, such as Adobe Gamma Utility for Windows, and “Mac Calibration” for Mac.
For more specific information, including VIDEO, visit my blogpost here:

__ _______________________________

Putting a "pinstripe" around
submitted JPG images:

Question: Is it a good idea to put a pinstriped line or "stroke" on the outside border of the submitted JPG's?

Answer:  It is not recommended that you put a put a black pinstripe around the image as it isn't necessary -  Judges will be viewing them displayed against a black background.  A small 7 to 10 pixel white pinstripe/stroke is acceptable, but be careful, as it may distract from your images subject matter...

__ ________________________________

When and How will Tier 1
(Electronic Submission)
"accepted" entrants be notified?

Entrants whose image(s) have been accepted to the second tier of judging will be notified by email only on Wed., April 24th.

Included in your email will be an "entry tag " for each accepted entry. This information goes on the back of your print, and includes a thumbnail of the accepted image(s).


What's allowed in the way of
manipulation and enhancement
to your digital files in the non-Digital Arts categories?

  • Digital enhancement of images to improve photographic quality and impact is allowed in most categories. See specific categories for further details.

  • Images in the Documentary category can be adjusted for quality, but must be a single image not altered to change content.

  • Images highly manipulated for artistic purposes should be entered in the Photographic Digital Art category.

  • Digitally created images or images using only a small amount of photographic content should be entered in the Digital Art category (Class 33)


If your image makes it to Tier 2 (accepted), is there anything special that you need to know to prepare your file for printing?

First, congrats on making it into the Fair - only 1 out of 3 images submitted gets accepted!  Now the fun begins...

Here's how to optimize your image file(s) for printing from the perspective of one who's been a custom printer for over 30+ years.  Regardless of the print lab that you use (or if you print at home), these guidelines will give you excellent results:

    • Save to your desired final print size (i.e. "11x14")  at 300 ppi
    • Save using Adobe 1998 RGB as your working space

    • Save as a flattened RGB TIFF, 8 bits per channel
                          as a JPG, Max Quality

Keep in mind, these are "guides", not "absolutes" - -
each print lab or home workflow may be different.
  • If you are a photographer who's shooting digital, but know little or nothing about digital post-processing, then it's strongly recommend you find someone to help you get the most out of your image(s), such as a knowledgeable person at a print lab or in the industry (like yours truly), a friend or fellow photographer who understands Photoshop, etc. -  It would be a shame to have your image accepted and not have it properly printed.
  • If you're starting with a small original file size (1 to 2 MB as a compressed JPG), and want to print it as an 11x14, "up-sizing" your file correctly is critical.  Proper use of the re-sizing capabilities of Photoshop or Lightroom generally gets the job done.
  • So, how do you avoid "problem files" in the future? Let me introduce you to the concept of a "Master File":

    A Master File is a multi-purpose, multi-layered, un-cropped and un-sharpened 16-bit TIFF or PSD file of a photographic image.  This is the file that you want to put all of your creative Photoshop "mojo" into.

    Creating a Master File is NOT for every image: It's for those images that you want to spend time with, doing all that's necessary to make your image "pretty" - Here's where you pour your artistic "blood, sweat, and tears" into your image.

    Think of it as your "final image",  from which all further uses of this image derive  -  It has been enhanced and prepped so that you can crop, sharpen,  convert to 8-bit, reduce or enlarge in size, save as a JPG for the web, and so on, depending on your needs.

    So, in the case of a Fair entry, and assuming you are accepted to Tier 2,  you'd make 2 files from your Master File:

    1. A small JPG for electronic entry (don't print from this JPG!)
    2. A larger file for printing, prepped to size and to the specs mentioned above


A Judge's observations from Judging
at the 2013 and 2012 SDC Fair Photo contest

Dave King's "must-read" observations on the SDC Fair Photo Contest judging is wisdom for more than just photo contest entrants - - Dave teaches Photography at San Diego City College, and eloquently makes the same observations I had as a Judge in the same contest - make sure and leave him a nice comment:

Did your Image(s)
get accepted
to Tier 2?

Check out my SDC Fair Print Special ...