Current theme: none this week

During the Christmas of 2011, PhotoSE introduced themes for the Picture of the Week (PotW) contest. Themes were an idea that had been floating around for some time, almost since the inception of the PotW itself. The idea of a Christmas theme was brought up a few times in early December, and a spur of the moment decision was made to do themes for the rest of December. Seeing as themes were sprung on the membership rather suddenly, here is the official statement about PotW Themes.

Picture of the Week Themes

Every so often, a picture of the week theme will be announced. Themes will impose additional rules above and beyond the normal picture of the week contest, usually revolving around acceptable subject matter, and any other photographic requirements, for submissions to qualify. All theme specific rules will be included in that weeks PotW details, above the standard set of rules. Any non-qualifying submissions will be deleted. If your submission is deleted for lack of qualification, you will still be allowed to submit one item for that week if it complies with the requirements of the theme.


As far as scheduling goes, we will always announce themes before hand. We will give members at least two weeks advanced notice. Details of an upcoming theme will be linked in the PhotoSE header below the current weeks winner details and next to the current weeks winning photo. We will try not to have themes more frequently than once a month, however during special times of the year, say Christmas or other holidays, we may have an extended period of themes (i.e. two strait weeks of Christmas/Holiday theme).

Theme Ideas

There are a bunch of ideas for PotW themes. Christmas seemed like an easy way to start, as there is usually a ton of great themed subject matter laying around that can be photographed. Holidays aside, if you have an idea for a theme, PLEASE feel free to tell us. You can use the PotW Theme Ideas thread to post ideas for themes. Please keep each theme in its own separate answer. If a theme is picked up for a month, the answer there will be deleted, and its contents copied into a "Picture of the Week Themes Archive" thread for historical purposes (and that thread will be locked so as not to allow any form of tampering.) Removing past theme ideas from the thread will allow new ones to be voted on more appropriately, allowing the best of new theme ideas to float to the top via votes. If we do not have any theme ideas for a given month, the moderators will do what they can to either garner ideas from the membership (most likely through the PhotoSE chat room), or come up with an idea of their own.

Comments, Considerations, Disputes

The idea for Themes is a community-born idea, and just like the rest of StackExchange, should be community managed. If you have any comments to make about themes for the picture of the week, feel free to voice them here, or in the PhotoSE chat room. I am usually there myself, although not always available to chat. I will try my best to respond to comments so long as they are brought to my attention (i.e. use @jrista to highlight a chat message for my attention). Our active core membership may also respond as well, so other members you might bring your comments to attention on are @rfusca and @mattdm, amongst others (pretty much any of the top-rep users on the site will probably be able to offer some assistance, even if that is simply to bring it to one of the moderators attention.) We hope that themes are already pretty open and accessible as ideas for themes are completely open to the community membership to offer and vote on, however were open to officially refining the idea and process if it is necessary.

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    \$\begingroup\$ What’s the rationale behind the no down-vote rule on theme ideas? It seems to me if 5 like an idea but 10 people hate it, then we’d be better off going with an idea that 4 people like and 11 people have no strong feelings about... \$\endgroup\$
    – forsvarir
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 9:06
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ The top line of this question says 'Current Theme: None this week'. Maybe this bit should be removed, since theme's are announced seperately, or updated to reflect the current theme. \$\endgroup\$
    – forsvarir
    Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 8:04
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @forsvarir: actually, I think a controversial idea with more supporters than a bland one should win. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 1:32

3 Answers 3


I’ve been reading through the proposed themes of the week and it seems like quite a lot of them have been stamped with the authors ideas of what would make a good interpretation of the theme (which may be intentional).

For example:

  • Sports Action – ‘must have a dynamic action feel’, some sports aren’t that dynamic (my example in a comment was lawn bowls) does the interpretation of the theme need to be restricted?
  • Back & White – @Stan Rogers made a great comment on this suggesting that perhaps a metaphorical interpretation should also be allowed.
  • Winter – must be a shot of a person, people, or pets/animals. Self portraits are allowed.

For most themes, I’d like to see the themes refined down to just a title for the theme ‘Deep Thought’ with the interpretation left to the photog. If they can tie it in to the theme (even if it’s an abstract link), then I think they should be eligible to answer and let the voters decide.

For some themes, where they’re based on some term (technical or otherwise), such as ‘High Key’, then I think it’s ok to refer to an explanation of what the term traditionally means, but I’d still like to see us open to interpretation (a key photographed hanging from a balcony) as long as where it’s not obvious the interpretation is explained when it is given as an answer.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, I have removed the winter theme. I had unknowingly made it too narrow. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 15:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Anisha Kaul: I'm not trying to get you to remove themes... 'Winter' is a great idea for a theme. But the restrictions on how it can be interpretted seemed unecessary. Some themes 'Portraits by Candlelight', narrow the options by their very nature (must have a person?!?)... Others like winter conjure up a variety of different images that could mean winter to different people. It could be a frostly landscape... person in the snow... of a cup of hot chocolate... I'm just suggesting that unless it really is tied to the theme we try to leave them as open to interpretation as possible... \$\endgroup\$
    – forsvarir
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 15:23
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I like the "let the voters decide" idea. We will get to vote on the options, and if we know the theme when voting, this will take care of itself. Also - Didn't know "lawn bowls" existed, interesting! \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Jan 22, 2012 at 4:14
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ "Portraits by Candlelight" could also be interpreted as a stack of photos laid next to a candle - no person needed. It could also mean a shadow cast by a candle. Or, maybe you could use a pet as a model. \$\endgroup\$
    – Imre
    Commented Jan 22, 2012 at 9:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Imre: Excellent points! \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 5:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there any problem with having tightly defined, restrictive themes some weeks, and broad, open-ended themes other weeks? I imagine that the themes "Winter – must be a shot of a person, people, or pets/animals. Self portraits are allowed" and "Winter" would engender two very different lists of photographs. \$\endgroup\$
    – TRiG
    Commented Dec 19, 2012 at 18:40

I think that there's perhaps different ideas of what makes a theme.

One approach is that a theme is a motif or idea which can be taken metaphorically, allowing a wide range of image types to fulfil it.

Another approach is using a theme literally to restrict the type of photo, making a direct challenge to the photographer to create an image which meets certain criteria.

For example, for a theme of "Black & White" this can be viewed metaphorically, allowing for photos covering contrasting ideas or subjects which are still in colour. Alternatively, it can be any subject but developed in black and white.

Similarly, "Circles" could be used to show an image showing how history appears to repeat itself, or it could contain a literal circle in the composition.

My personal preference is that we allow for restrictive themes which involve literal compositional or processing challenges, as this can push people to try something new and still allow for a massive amount of variety and creativity.

However, as we are not a huge community it may be too much to ask people to do this and allowing for a wider set of metaphorical interpretations may mean we get more / better entries.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I agree, it would be good to challenge our members at times. Perhaps we should actually have photographic "challenges", separate from the Picture of the Week, to do just that. When it comes to PotW, we've already seen themes reduce the amount of submissions, and we don't want that. If challenges were separate, perhaps with their own rewards, that might attract more participants. We could run them longer, giving people a chance to notice the challenge, get time to rise to them, and submit their entry. How does that sound? \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 17:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ That sounds interesting and could possibly work :-) I confess I am influenced in my ideas by dpchallenge.com which is an excellent site for this kind of thing. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 9:56

Are we going to get these themed contests? It would be cool if they also require that the photo is taken FOR the contest (i.e. after the theme is announced). This way there it could be an activating, motivating activity for the community, helping everyone to think about the photo and challenging us to make a photo with a certain meaning.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah: see meta.photo.stackexchange.com/questions/2643/…. It's basically just waiting for someone with free time to set it up. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 13:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ It could be you! \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 13:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ I can work on getting the next theme rolling. We can require that the photos be new...that was really kind of the goal, but people didn't really seem interested in doing that. I can try to make it a requirement, and see how it goes. I'll try to get this rolling this next weekend (first time I think I'll have time) unless someone else steps up to get the ball rolling before then (hint hint). \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 18:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ haha, I'm good with the tech and processing but I'm still a padawan in the art of making meaningful/aesthetic photos, which is why I'd like someone else to set goal for me to try to fulfill :P I got the book "the photographers eye" so I'm studying... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 18:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good Idea, I've been searching around and was pretty disapointed to find out the "week theme contest" was not working anymore :( I'm learning photography and I think this contest would help me learn faster! \$\endgroup\$
    – web-tiki
    Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 14:04

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