I have been writing of my concern that the aura of authenticity that photographs have traditionally enjoyed is undergoing serious threat from Photoshopping and socially encouraged photoplay such as Instagram filtering. Thankfully, the problems inherent in heavily edited, even fictitious images have been attracting public attention and discourse (for example the controversy of Gaza Burial, the World Press Photo of the Year 2013). With the growing recognition of these issues, beneficial changes are beginning to appear. One such change is that the window of opportunity for photograph manipulators to submit altered images to photo competitions as ‘real’ photos is closing. It seems that in 2015, photography competitions expect photo entries to contain less fiction and more reality.
Today Canon announced they are running a competition this year, the Canon Light Awards, in which each month photographers are invited to submit one photograph to match the month’s brief, with prize money for winners. Their competition rules insist on the entries being actual photographs, not manipulated images. Specifically, they respond to the question “Will my entry be valid if I use photo editing software (like Photoshop)?” with the following statement:
“Yes, basic editing such as cropping and colour adjustment is permitted. However, entries must be true photographs and not composites or digital manipulations. Keep in mind to confirm you are a winner, you may need to send through the original file …” 
World Press, the premier international photography competition for professional photographers, introduced rules in the World Press Photo Competition after the genuineness of the 2013 winning photograph, Gaza Burial, was questioned. 
“Participants are now required to provide file(s) as recorded by the camera for all images that proceed to the final stages of the contest. These file(s) will be requested and studied confidentially during the judging period (1-11 February 2015). A failure to provide these files before 11 February 2015 will lead to the elimination of the entry.” 
National Geographic is very specific about what types of photo editing is allowed. Before detailing what is allowed using techniques like burning and dodging, compositing, captioning and overall ethics, they expound their philosophy on manipulating photographs:
“Our biggest ask is that the photos stay true to your personal vision and to what you saw. Please avoid heavy-handed processing. We want to see the world through your eyes, not through the excessive use of editing tools. If the photograph is manipulated, please describe your process in the caption.” 
There are many more examples. The International Loupe Awards rules state of their photojournalism competition that “Winning images in this category deemed to be composited images will be stripped of their category placing, prize money and or prizes.”  The International Pano Awards is less convincing, but still notes that manipulation may lessen the photographer’s chances: “Images may be from single capture or stitching software, film or digital capture, but must be 100% photographic in origin. Manipulation is allowed but excessive manipulation may be scored down by judges.”  And the Smithsonian says of their photographic competition that “we do not accept digitally or otherwise enhanced or altered photos, except for those entered in the Altered Images category … If the judges determine that a photographer has altered his or her photo, they reserve the right to move the photo to Altered Images or to disqualify it.” 
I welcome these photo credibility-related terms and conditions in photographic competitions. Even more, I welcome the thinking that seems to be building that gives weight to the connection between the aesthetics and meaning of photographs and the real world they purport to interpret on our behalf.
Kitten head photograph by Sabrina Caldwell; other than re-sizing for webuse, has not been altered in any way.