The best advice is to read the contest rules carefully. Don't assume that an image will be acceptable without understanding how the contest is structured. These tips are intended to help you understand what images can be entered in the contest. These tips do not supersede the published rules and are intended only for your reference.
It's a nature photography contest
The most important thing to remember is that this is a NATURE photography contest. You may have some beautiful images but if they don't fit the "Nature" genre they won't do well in this contest. Nature Photography refers to a wide range of photography devoted to displaying natural elements such as landscapes, wildlife, plants and close-ups of natural scenes and textures. Human elements should not be included, except in our Shared World category.
What is Shared World?
You'll notice that there is a set of categories called Shared World. These are the only categories in which there can be any evidence of man's influence on the world. For example a broad scenic in which you can see a fence in the distance must be included in a Shared World category. This also applies to images of cultivated plants such as those found in your home gardens, and shots of captive or zoo animals.
In any case, the influence of man, or "hand-of-man", can not be the primary focus or subject of the image. A Vermont barn surrounded by autumn color is not an appropriate image for this contest.
What kind of Post Processing or digital editing can be done?
The instructions state that with the exception of Creative Interpretation, all submitted prints must maintain the integrity of the original captured image. What does this mean?
Essentially your post-processing should be aimed at correcting for undesirable effects and limitations caused by the digital camera or the lens. The following types of post-processing adjustments are permitted:
1) Exposure and brightness adjustments
2) White balance/color correction
3) Adjustment of highlight and shadow detail; contrast; clarity; vibrance; and saturation
4) Dust spot removal
5) Removal of digital noise; and lens distortion and chromatic aberrations
6) Cropping; resizing; and straightening
Except for Category C9 (Creative Interpretation), you should not make any substantive change in the image. Removing or adding subject elements must not be done. For example, it is perfectly fine to use the tools to remove dust spots. It would be inappropriate to remove an airplane, fence, telephone pole or some other substantive item. These rules apply to ALL images, including panoramas, focus stacked, and HDR images.
For example, the image at the right has done well in two different contests. But, it is inappropriate for the Heard contest. It was created using several images stitched together - which is permissible - but it has a silhouette of a photographer which shows the "hand-of-man" making this image ineligible for the contest.
there is no substitute for reading the instructions carefully.