This is the official thread for submitting theme ideas for the Picture of the Week. Generally speaking, there will be about 11-12 "open" theme weeks a year. Some theme weeks will be predetermined, such as during Christmas time or other key holidays (we WILL try our best to accommodate global holidays wherever possible, not just US holidays.) Whenever a theme week rolls around (or rather, a couple weeks ahead of time) we will take the top-voted idea from this thread, move it to the archive thread, and start a theme announcement thread linked from the PhotoSE header. If, for any reason, a theme week is canceled or a theme idea is determined impractical for that week, it will be returned to the pool here, and the next highest one used.

Rules for Submitting Ideas

  1. ONE idea per answer
  2. Multiple answers per member ARE allowed
  3. Check the Picture of the Week Theme Idea Archive first
    • Don't submit ideas that have already been done
  4. Duplicates will be deleted (so check this thread first, too!)
  5. PhotoSE is an unrestricted public site that the underage can visit
    • Please keep ideas civil and legal!
  6. Vote up for the ones you like!!

As with the PotW contest, please refrain from down votes. If a particularly offensive theme is suggested, that is a time to flag for moderator attention and comment.

  • I've converted this thread to wiki, so it can be freely edited. I think it would be helpful to allow improvements and refinements to any idea to be made by the community as a whole. PLEASE discuss major edits with the originator before making them, however, so you don't dilute their original intent. Minor edits such as to clarify an original concept or expand an original concept with greater detail are acceptable without prior consultation. – jrista Dec 20 '11 at 17:53
  • Could we remove themes once they have been completed so that other themes have more attention. – damned truths Aug 16 '12 at 9:33
  • @damnedtruths -- completed themes are supposed to be moved to another question, and then the remaining top one should be up next. – mattdm Oct 26 '12 at 0:22
  • @mattdm I believe that the science theme has already been completed – damned truths Oct 26 '12 at 7:38
  • Yep. Flagged for a moderator. – mattdm Oct 26 '12 at 10:56
  • After which these comments can be deleted, as it does say that they're supposed to be archived in the text above. :) – mattdm Oct 26 '12 at 10:57

40 Answers 40


Portraits by Candlelight

Inspired by Is it practical to shoot portraits by only candlelight?, but not, I promise, as an excuse to submit the ones I already took. I want to see what everyone else can come up with!

  • @Anisha — I thought you might like this one. :) – mattdm Dec 19 '11 at 17:55
  • 1
    I'd like to keep this one just portraits. If you look at the history, we've run very few (i.e., zero) portraits, and portraits are kind of the point of this exercise. I know there was talk of not limiting the themes in that way, but I'd like to see occasional focus like this. I think "anything by candlelight" might also be a fine theme some other week. – mattdm Dec 20 '11 at 3:19
  • 1
    Maybe expand it to "by Firelight", to expand the range just a bit more, and maybe make it viable for more photographers? – jrista Dec 24 '11 at 6:11
  • @jrista: Aw, that's no fun. – mattdm Dec 24 '11 at 12:35
  • Seriously, I understand the worry about being too specific. I really want to see people try the challenge, though. – mattdm Dec 24 '11 at 16:33
  • 1
    @mattdm: I understand the goal, however the Holiday theme thing didn't go quite as well as I had hoped, and its fairly broad. If we make the scope of these too narrow, my suspicion is that we will get very few, if any, submissions, and likely end up with the only submitter winning by default. – jrista Dec 24 '11 at 21:27
  • I think everyone is really busy with the holidays right now. In fact, since this is near the top of the voting, I was going to request that we run a few "general" weeks first and not do a theme week for a little bit. – mattdm Dec 24 '11 at 21:38
  • 2
    @mattdm: Absolutely. I think we should give it till the last week of January, and announce a week or two before that. – jrista Dec 30 '11 at 3:45
  • Can I request that this one be delayed until the northern hemisphere (where I think most of the site's users are from) is back in the dark of winter? – mattdm Apr 11 '12 at 22:47
  • Conveniently, we've gotten back around to the dark season, at least up north. :) – mattdm Nov 26 '12 at 18:01

Black & White

Photos can have any subject but must be in black, white and any shades of grey between.

  • 7
    I think this topic might be a lot more interesting if it also allowed for a metaphorical interpretation of the phrase "Black & White". As much as I'd like to see the next Karsh, Adams or Weston popping up, I'm just as much ready to see something that makes me think a bit. – user2719 Dec 22 '11 at 20:40
  • 1
    Could @StanRogers idea be used for a different week? So we end up with two weeks with "Black and White" as theme? – Håkon K. Olafsen Jul 8 '12 at 16:30
  • I've created that as a different entry. Let's keep this one "pure". – mattdm Jul 21 '12 at 20:59

All Blur

In the spirit of Why would one shoot a fully blurred picture?, let's see some abstract and semi-abstract works.


In Deep Thought

Capture a photo of a subject that demonstrates "deep thought", contemplation, intense musing, etc. The subject may be a person or animal, even an inanimate object, so long as the key concept of deep thought is the central focus of the photograph.


  1. The subject of the photo must be in, or appear to be in, deep thought
  2. Should be a portrait shot of a person, people, or pets/animals
    • Self portraits are allowed
    • Inanimate objects or trees may qualify, but only if they depict deep thought
      • An example might be the contorted silhouette of a tree that emulates a person in deep thought
      • Another example might be a statue, small, large, even huge, that depicts deep thought
  3. The object of the subject's thought can be anything
    • i.e. Another person
    • i.e. The sky
    • i.e. The relationship between being and time, wherein each reciprocally determines the other, yet the former cannot be addressed temporally, nor can the the latter be expressed as a being.
    • i.e. Chocolate-pecan pie
  • 1
    Can you add some more details about what the restrictions are? It sounds like its a theme of portraits, and the title gives some insight. Try to keep ideas detailed and explicit about what would qualify, as those would become the theme-specific rules. – jrista Dec 17 '11 at 5:22
  • @jrista Is it enough? or should I delete it? – Aquarius_Girl Dec 17 '11 at 5:32
  • 1
    I think that works. I may refine it a bit, if you don't mind. – jrista Dec 17 '11 at 5:40
  • @jrista Please do refine it, and if you think even slightly that this is nonsense, just delete it. :) – Aquarius_Girl Dec 17 '11 at 5:44
  • 2
    I think its great! – jrista Dec 17 '11 at 5:49
  • @jrista That was a great edit. :) – Aquarius_Girl Dec 17 '11 at 5:58
  • Sounds like a fun one to me. Just as an aside, it looks like you mean to say 'e.g.' (example given) rather than i.e. (in effect). – person27 Apr 28 '16 at 1:48

Street Photography

Wikipedia says it quite well:

A type of documentary photography that features subjects in candid situations within public places such as streets, parks, beaches, malls, political conventions and other settings.

I feel that's a fairly broad theme, and basically anyone with any type of camera can take a photograph like this. Also, I think it would help a lot of us, including me, get over the self consciousness of carrying a camera and photographing in public.

  • I'd love to have a street photography week! I've always loved browsing through street photography online. – jrista Mar 28 '12 at 19:42
  • Yeah, me too. I'd love to see what we could get out of the community. – Vian Esterhuizen Mar 28 '12 at 19:44


A photo with a focus on typography. Letters, numbers, words and so on. The shapes of them, the layout or where they're placed. Address numbers on buildings are sometimes quite interesting. Writing on roads, signs and so on.

I imagine the focus being on the presentation of the words, rather than the meaning of them but I can see that latter working too.

We would probably have to avoid trade mark slogans and logos though, but I'm not exactly sure on the legality of that. Aside from legal reasons, SE or the Logo's company may not want to be associated with each other as the photo would be in a prominent place on the site.


Long Exposure

Either a picture containing motion blur (star trails, cars on a road etc.) or a combination of several photos to create a time-lapse in one photo.



The photograph must display some form of symmetry.


Inspired by Photo-SE

Craft a picture that was inspired by a question, answer, comment, or blog post here. Include a link to the inspiration (and a sentence or two about how you got from the original question to your photo?).



Any photo featuring architecture of any kind.



Either literal (instruments, musicians, performance) or figurative (geometric or natural patterns which evoke the patterns of music).



The photograph contains a circle somewhere in the composition or subject.

  • Does it have to contain circles, or is it open to interpretation (i.e. circle of life)? – forsvarir Jan 20 '12 at 8:30
  • My idea is that it is a compositional challenge - get a literal circle somewhere into the frame - rather than opening it up for metaphorical circles. – Maynard Case Jan 20 '12 at 17:21


Capture a photo of an amazing weather event. It could be lightning, clouds, any type of weather phenomenon that makes you say "Wow"



Candidates can be:

  • A mouth watering cooked dish.
  • Raw vegetables.
  • Raw fruits.
  • Desserts.
  • Beverages like tea, juices etc.
  • Would a watering hole count? A bird table? – forsvarir Jan 20 '12 at 8:42
  • @forsvarir I have no clue about what is a watering hole and bird table. Not a native english speaker. – Aquarius_Girl Jan 20 '12 at 11:04
  • A watering hole would be a gathering point for animals where they go to drink. A bird table would be somewhere (typically in a garden) that people would put food out to feed the birds. The point being are you open to more abstract interpretations of the theme 'food', or are you looking specifically for human food. Would a group gathered around, enjoying a meal together count, An individual blowing out candles on a birthday cake... etc... – forsvarir Jan 20 '12 at 11:28
  • @forsvarir since a food is a food, so it doesn't matter who's eating it, provided (in this context) the focus/emphasis is on the food rather than the cow. – Aquarius_Girl Jan 20 '12 at 11:42


A great and amazing macro photograph.


High Key

The image should be high key, using the definition where the overall tone of the photograph is light (above middle grey), while still retaining detail in the highlights. This does not refer to the "high key" artificial lighting scheme.

Also see: What does it mean for a photograph to be "high key"?



A photo which shows a two (or more) people sharing moment. Like Mom-kids, Father-kids, Siblings, Person-pet, Person-Teacher.



This theme would emphasize photos of reflections, and photos taken of something else through reflective material (like the Eiffel Tower reflected in a puddle) such as water, polished metal, mirrors, sunglasses, etc.

It would exclude metaphorical uses of reflection (like thought) unless they were visually reflected in reflective materials.


Macro - No Insects

Insects are a favorite topic for macro, so let's not do that! Instead, time to focus so closely on something other than insects and show an inspiring macro image of something else that we may not have seen in that light before.


New Start

This is intended to be in connection with the New Year celebration.

Photographs with a theme of beginning, or restarting. This is a broad category, including cycles, birth, renewal; out with the old, in with the new.

  • no, this is not clear. What exactly is this all about? – Aquarius_Girl Dec 19 '11 at 17:41
  • is that more clear? – mattdm Dec 19 '11 at 17:54
  • Well. how about giving some examples of beginning and restarting? One is child birth as you mentioned, what else? Please elaborate. – Aquarius_Girl Dec 20 '11 at 3:07
  • 4
    Child birth, tree birth (growing from ruins, say), star birth, beginning a job, trackless snow, (just-past) new moon, ... Hey, if I think of all the ideas, it'll kind of ruin it, don't you think? – mattdm Dec 20 '11 at 3:23
  • 6
    Aye, we don't want to give away all the ideas. We want individuals to explore the theme on their own. – jrista Dec 20 '11 at 17:50
  • 3
    Agreed - I think themes can be quite abstract or vague to allow people to interpret it in different ways – Maynard Case Dec 22 '11 at 10:58


Capture a photo of a scene that demonstrates a "festival celebration", or something which highlights what the festival is about, etc. The subject may be a person or a group of people, or even an inanimate object, so long as the key concept of festive season is the central focus of the photograph.

Festival doesn't have to be necessarily something "official" like Christmas. People may have local customs and hence accordingly local festivals too.

So, any sort of festival pictures are welcomed.



A photograph containing abstract colours, shapes, lines, and so forth. It should not contain a recognizable object.


Motion Blur

A photograph that involves some form of motion blur, with either a sharp or only partially-recognizable subject.

  • How about splitting out the sharp-subject ones from the fully blurred, and then the latter contest could reference that question? – mattdm Dec 22 '11 at 15:41
  • Possible, as long as enough people find interesting fully blurred compositions to shoot :-) – Maynard Case Dec 22 '11 at 15:45
  • I've gone ahead and split these... see All Blur – mattdm Dec 30 '11 at 3:56
  • Note that this one has a downvote, which is not allowed (see rules above), and should be counted as one higher than the displayed total. – mattdm Mar 28 '12 at 16:50


Pictures of your cats. Kittens. Cats in baskets. Cats hanging from stuff. Cats in costumes. Cats with things on their heads. More kittens. Cats making funny expressions. Cats on fire, perhaps from attempts to shoot them by candlelight. Possibly lions. Cats, cats, cats.

  • As a special exception, you may vote this one down. Just sayin'. :) – mattdm Mar 7 '12 at 2:53
  • Voted down before reading the exception :) – dpollitt Mar 7 '12 at 3:28
  • please no lolcats! – fluf Mar 12 '12 at 6:14

Black and White, Metaphorically

A previous theme restricted submissions to grayscale images. In this theme, black and white should be represented conceptually, not literally.


Shot with Film

Kodak Portra, Tri-X, Ilford Delta, Fujicolor Pro.... any film you want, digitized however is convenient — but shot on film, with minimal digital post-production.

Entries should be photographs taken recently, well into the digital era, rather than older works. There's no way to enforce this, of course, but please follow it in the spirit of the theme.


Sports Action

An action shot from any sport. This must include a perfectly captured moment. Depth of field is important and images must have a dynamic action feel.

  • I think 'Sports Action' is a great idea for a theme, however the restrictions you've added in your answer seem more like voting criteria to me (a bowl nestled up against a jack may be somebodies interpretation of 'Sports Action' but probably doesn't project a 'dynamic feel' does that mean it's not allowed?) – forsvarir Jan 20 '12 at 8:38
  • You have interpreted that correctly, I was after something that would really show the heat/drama of a game/match/whatever. Now a bowl nestled up against a jack on its own doesn't have a dynamic action feel, it could well be posed. However change the composition to include a player in the background with a fist in the air, and that brings the feel of the action and drama in the photograph – Graeme Hutchison Jan 20 '12 at 9:14


1. Open wide areas with some point of interest.
2. Mountains/Valleys.

Open wide areas are a must. "Close ups" shots of a tree/hut won't be acceptable.



A photograph containing lines. They can be curved, straight, abstract or part of a recognisable subject, parallel or converging, coloured or black & white.

  • 2
    Could we call this lines rather than stripes? – Graeme Hutchison Jan 3 '12 at 13:34


Shooting subjects in unusual way and from unusual angle. Any everyday subject will do however the photo should show you or make you discover a perspective that you are not used to for this subject. The photo should let you think if it's about an object that you are already familiar with and maybe see it everyday, that's why I called it "Mystery"

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