Audubon Photography Awards Frequently Asked Questions

Everything you need to know about our rules and submission requirements.

American Dipper. Photo: Marlee Fuller-Morris/Audubon Photography Awards

Audubon Photography Awards Frequently Asked Questions

Everything you need to know about our rules and submission requirements.

Personal Eligibility

  1. Who is eligible to enter the 2021 Awards?
  2. Why are there residential restrictions on who can enter the contest?
  3. Are there other restrictions?

Entry Process

  1. How much does it cost to enter?
  2. What are the requirements for submitting photos?
  3. What are the requirements for submitting videos?
  4. Is there a limit on the number of entries I can submit?
  5. How should I name my digital files?
  6. What should I do if I have problems during the entry or payment process?
  7. How do I know that my entry has been successful?
  8. If I enter photos/videos online, can I send additional entries by mail, or vice versa?
  9. Can I submit entries at different times?
  10. Can I review my submissions?
  11. Will other entrants be able to see my photos/videos?
  12. If I withdraw from the awards, can I get a refund?

Judging

  1. How do I know what division to enter?
  2. Can I enter more than one division?
  3. What is the Plants for Birds division, and why is it only open to the United States and Canada?
  4. What is the Female Bird Prize?
  5. What is the Fisher Prize?
  6. What are the judges looking for in a photo?
  7. What are the judges looking for in a video?
  8. Who will judge the contest?
  9. How will the entries be judged?
  10. After the contest is over, will judges be able to share feedback on a particular photo or video entry?
  11. How many winners will there be?
  12. When will the winners be determined? When will they be notified?

Photo/Video Eligibility

  1. How much can I manipulate my photos?
  2. How much can I manipulate my videos?
  3. Are monochrome (black and white) photos and videos acceptable?
  4. Does it matter when or where my photographs/videos were taken?
  5. Can I submit a photo/video I submitted in another contest?
  6. Can I submit a photo that’s been published in a magazine or book?
  7. Can I submit a picture that was previously disqualified?
  8. What are the guidelines for photographing/filming birds responsibly?
  9. Are there any approaches to bird photography or videography that are against the rules?
  10. How about chumming on pelagic trips?
  11. I don’t feel comfortable disclosing the location of the birds for the safety of the animals as well as respect for the landowner.
  12. Why is sharpening, upscaling, and significant noise reduction not allowed with AI and machine-learning-based software?
  13. What does “significant” mean in the rules stipulating “AI and machine-learning-based software used for upscaling, sharpening and significant noise reduction”?

Others

  1. Who owns the rights to my photos/videos?
  2. Could you explain the optional request on the personal information page to allow the National Audubon Society to use my images/videos in support of its mission?
  3. What if I’ve read the Official Rules and these FAQs and I still have questions?
  4. The Contest Help Desk typeform to submit questions doesn’t work

 

Personal Eligibility

Who is eligible to enter the 2021 Awards?

All residents of the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and Canada (except Quebec) are eligible to enter. Entrants must be at least 13 years old as of the date of the entry’s submission.

Why are there residential restrictions on who can enter the contest?

Audubon does not have the capacity to comply with the contest laws outside of the stipulated eligible locations—for example, those in Quebec.

Are there other restrictions?

Employees of the National Audubon Society, its officers, directors of its national, state, and center boards, judges, and their immediate families, or those living in the same household, are not eligible to participate. Volunteer Audubon chapter leaders are eligible.

Entry Process

How much does it cost to enter?

In the Professional and Amateur divisions, and in the Plants for Birds and Video divisions for entrants age 18 and older, the online entry fee is $15 per photo or video. There is no fee to enter the Youth division, or the Plants for Bird and Video divisions for entrants age 13 to 17. If you choose to mail prints of photographs or a CD or USB key with video files, there is no entry fee for any of the divisions. The free-entry option is available for the duration of the contest.

What are the requirements for submitting photos?

For online entries, each image MUST:

(1) depict “birdlife” and therefore must contain at least one bird;

(2) be no larger than 35 megabytes; ideally the images should be close to 3000 pixels wide (if a horizontal image) or 3000 pixels tall (if a vertical image) at 72 dpi;

(3) be saved in RGB mode (not CMYK!); and 

(4) be saved in the JPG format.

 

For mailed entries, each print MUST:

(1) depict “birdlife” and therefore must contain at least one bird;

(2) be at least 5 by 7 inches and no larger than 8 by 10 inches; do not submit framed prints.

Regardless of how you submit your photos, do not include watermarks or stamps because it’s important that the judges see the photos without knowing who took them. Entrants must not infringe on the rights of any other photographer or person, or submit images that involve the willful harassment of wildlife or damage to the environment by the photographer. Photos that do not conform to these basic requirements will not be eligible for the Audubon Photography Awards.

What are the requirements for submitting videos?

All entries, whether online or mailed, MUST:

(1) depict birdlife (i.e., must contain at least one bird or bird part); 

(2) be no larger than 50 megabytes; 

(3) be 1920 by 1080 or 1280 by 720 pixels

(4) be an .MP4 file (preferred) or .MOV file

(5) have a frame rate of 24 fps or higher; 

(6) be 3 to 30 seconds in length

Regardless of how you submit your videos, do not include watermarks or stamps because it’s important that the judges see the videos without knowing who took them. Entrants must not infringe on the rights of any other videographer or person, or submit videos that involve the willful harassment of wildlife or damage to the environment by the videographer. Videos that do not conform to these basic requirements will not be eligible for the Audubon Photography Awards.

Is there a limit on the number of entries I can submit?

No, there is no limit on the number of photos or videos you may enter.

How should I name my digital files?

For online entries: During the photo/video-upload process, you will be asked to fill in some information boxes. If you do so accurately, your digital images/videos will be correctly named automatically.

For mailed photo entries see the form here.

For mailed video entries see the form here.

What should I do if I have problems during the entry or payment process?

Please review the Entry Platform FAQ (link TK). If these tips don’t resolve your  problem, please contact our Contest Help Desk here. If you don’t receive a response within two business days (you should!)  please email us at contestquestions@audubon.org.

How do I know that my entry has been successful?

For online entries: You will receive a confirmation email and also be routed to a page indicating that a PDF document confirming your submission has been automatically downloaded to your computer. (Note that some domains block the confirmation email and pop-up blockers on your browser may prevent the automatic PDF download.) These confirmations will list each of the photos/videos you entered and the amount your credit card was billed. Because entrants age 13 to 17 may enter the contest for free, youth confirmations (for the Youth, Plants for Birds, and Video divisions) will not include billing information.

For mailed entries: If you include your email address on the entry form, we will email you to confirm we received your entry. If you do not provide an email address, we cannot send confirmation (but please include a phone number in case we need to contact you for another reason). Because of COVID-19 , there might be a delay in confirming mailed entries.

Proof of receipt is not proof of eligibility or an indication of any photo’s chance of winning. If you have questions or concerns, contact our Contest Help Desk here.

If I enter photos/videos online, can I send additional entries by mail, or vice versa?

You may submit entries by only ONE total means of entry: online OR by mail. If you submit photos/videos by two different means of entry, only the means of entry through which your photos/videos are first received will be valid.

Can I submit entries at different times?

For online entries: Yes. If you want to make additional submissions to the contest, you can simply return to the website and go through the entry process again. You will be billed separately and pay the entry fee in effect at the time of that entry. You have this option until Wednesday, April 07, 2021 at 12:00:00 PM (noon) EST, the contest deadline.

For mailed entries: Yes, you may mail submissions more than one time as long as each mailed submission is postmarked by April 07, 2021, and received by Audubon no later than April 14, 2021, and includes the mail-in entry form and the requested information for each entry. Failure to follow these requirements may result in disqualification.

 

Can I review my submissions?

No, you will be unable to review your photos/videos after they have been submitted.

If I withdraw from the awards, can I get a refund?

No, once you have officially entered your information and we have accepted your payment, we cannot offer you a refund.

Judging

How do I know what division to enter?

There are five divisions. The Professional division is for individuals 18 years of age and older who have earned $5,000 or more on their photography (any photography, not just bird photography) in the past year. The Amateur division is for individuals 18 years of age and older who have earned between zero and $4,999 on their photography (any photography, not just bird photography) in the past year. The Youth division is for individuals who are 13 to 17 years old. The Plants for Birds division is open to any entrant 13 years of age or older whose images include bird life and identifiable plants (flowers, trees, bushes, grasses), all of which are native to the area in the United States or Canada in which the image was taken. The Video division is open to any entrant 13 years of age or older. All ages are to be determined as of the date of an entry’s submission. (See the Official Rules for more details.)

Can I enter more than one division?

You may submit entries to one of the first three divisions (Professional, Amateur, or Youth) as well as the Video and Plants for Birds divisions. The same photograph cannot be entered in more than one division.

What is the Plants for Birds division, and why is it only open to the United States and Canada?

The Plants for Birds division celebrates the critical role native habitat plays in supporting bird life. Audubon’s Plants for Birds program provides resources for identifying and finding plants native to zip codes in the United States, and because Canada and the United States share many of the same species of native plants and birds, Audubon has the in-house expertise to verify those in photographs taken in both countries. Unfortunately we don’t have the bandwidth to expand this important vetting step in the judging process to more countries at this time.

What is the Female Bird Prize?

The Female Bird Prize is a special commendation awarded to an image depicting a female bird. More elusive and typically less flashy than their male counterparts, female birds are an often overlooked and underappreciated subject of birding and bird photography—and even bird science. We want to help correct that bias by giving them some special attention! As with the Grand Prize and Fisher Prize, the Female Bird Prize can be awarded to an image submitted to any of the four photography divisions. If you’d like your entry to be considered for this prize, please check the Female Bird Prize box on the entry platform when uploading your photo.

What is the Fisher Prize?

The Fisher Prize honors the legacy of Audubon’s longtime creative director Kevin Fisher. It recognizes the most creative approach in photographing birds—for example, highlighting an unexpected point of view—blended with technical expertise and an original composition. The Fisher prize pushes the traditional canons of bird photography to daring new heights, while never compromising strict ethical guidelines. Like the Grand Prize, it can be awarded to an image submitted to any of the four photography divisions.

What are the judges looking for in a photo?

  • The photo should be either tack sharp or intentionally out of focus (slow the shutter speed to show motion, etc).

  • Proper exposure and good lighting are critical. It doesn’t matter how wonderful the behavior or activity in the photo—if the lighting is poor, we will eliminate the picture.

  • Take time to compose the image. The bird (or birds) doesn’t have to be in the center of the frame. The off-center subject creates more dramatic tension. Also be aware of other elements in the photo, especially the background.

  • Send us something we haven’t seen before. Look for the unusual, the whimsical, the dramatic. Surprise us! We have seen thousands and thousands of bird photos, so show us something new.

What are the judges looking for in a video?

  • Bird behaviors (such as foraging, mating calls, preening, and bathing) makes for more compelling footage. Wait and watch for these to unfold.

  • Hold the camera still and let the scene unfold. Think of video as a moving portrait; don’t try to pan around.

  • Take time to compose the scene. Be aware of other elements in the video, especially the background.

  • Proper exposure and good lighting are critical. Aim for light that really makes a bird’s colors pop.

  • Send us something we haven’t seen before. Look for the unusual, the whimsical, the dramatic. Surprise us!

Who will judge the contest?

The Photography division will be judged by: Sabine Meyer, photography director for Audubon; Kathy Moran, deputy director of photography for National Geographic Partners; Allen Murabayashi, chairman and cofounder of PhotoShelter; John Rowden, senior director for Audubon Bird-Friendly Communities; and Tara Tanaka, wildlife photographer and videographer.

The Video division will be judged by Mike Fernandez, video producer for Audubon; Sean Graesser, biologist and conservation photographer and videographer and Tara Tanaka, wildlife photographer and videographer.

The Female Bird Prize will be judged by the founders of the Galbatross Project: Brooke Bateman, director of climate science, National Audubon Society; Stephanie Beilke, conservation scientist, Audubon Great Lakes; Martha Harbison, senior network content editor, National Audubon Society; Purbita Saha, member, Bergen County Audubon Society and Joanna Wu, avian biologist, National Audubon Society.

Update: After learning about serious allegations against Jason Ward, the National Audubon Society has severed its ties with him and rescinded its invitation to have him judge the 2021 Audubon Photography Awards. 

How will the entries be judged?

Entries will be judged on the basis of technical quality (30 percent), originality (30 percent), and artistic merit (40 percent). For more information on how each prize is awarded see the Official Rules. The judges will not know the name or professional affiliation of entrants until the judging is completed.

After the contest is over, will judges be able to share feedback on a particular photo or video entry?

Due to the volume of entries, we're unable to provide feedback on individual submissions.

How many winners will there be?

There will be a total of eight (8) winners: one (1) Grand Prize winner, one (1) winner in the Professional division, one (1) winner in the Amateur division, one (1) winner in the Youth division, one (1) winner in the Plants for Birds division, one (1) winner in the Video division, one (1) Female Bird Prize winner, and one (1) Fisher Prize winner.

When will the winners be determined? When will they be notified?

The awards winners will be determined and notified on or about May 28, 2021. Winners will be publicly announced in a 2021 issue of Audubon magazine and simultaneously on Audubon's website (audubon.org).

Photo/Video Eligibility

How much can I manipulate my photos?

Photos may not be digitally altered beyond standard optimization. Normal processing of original file is acceptable, including:

  • cropping

  • minor adjustments to color, white balance, tone, lighting levels and curves, shadows and highlights, saturation, contrast, sharpness

  • moderate dodging and burning

  • removal of dust spots and reduction of image noise

Photographs that have been digitally or otherwise altered beyond standard optimization will be disqualified. That includes:

  • HDR frame stacking

  • stitched panoramas

  • images that have been manipulated by the addition, removal, or alteration (painting over, cloning, or blurring) of anything in the original subject and scene that were photographed

  • borders, signatures or watermarks

  • changes in color so significant that the processed colors are widely different from the original colors

  • changes in density, contrast, color and/or saturation levels and dodging and burning that significantly alter content by obscuring or eliminating information in the pictureAI and machine-learning-based software used for upscaling, sharpening and significant noise reduction

Please be prepared to submit your RAW file if requested by the judges. If you don't shoot in RAW, the high-resolution original will suffice (usually a JPG)

How much can I manipulate my videos?

To be eligible to win a prize, all submitted videos must depict birdlife (i.e., contain at least one bird or bird part), and accurately reflect the subject matter as it appeared in the viewfinder (a “Video”). 

Normal processing of the original file is acceptable. That includes:

  • Slow motion is allowed if recorded that way and not in post-production

  • Minimal cropping (cropping works best if shooting in 4k)

  • Minor adjustments to color, white balance, exposure, saturation, contrast, sharpness

  • Removing sound (audio is optional)

Videos that have been digitally or otherwise altered beyond standard optimization will be disqualified. That includes:

  • Editing clips together

  • Watermarks

  • Vignetting 

  • Adding audio from another clip

Does it matter when or where my photographs/videos were taken?

Photos/videos taken at any time are eligible for the 2021 Photography Awards. There are no geographic restrictions beyond a prohibition on game farms, where photographers/videographers can photograph/film captive animals in what appear to be wild and natural settings. Audubon does not publish photographs/videos taken at game farms. Photos/videos taken at zoos, animal-rehabilitation centers, or nature centers are fine as long as you disclose that information in the submission process in the box called Location of Shot. You can read more about the ethics of photographing/filming at zoos and other facilities and truth in captioning here.

Can I submit a photo that’s been published in a magazine or book?

Yes, as long as it was not published in Audubon magazine or on any portion of Audubon’s website. Any photo previously published in Audubon or on the Audubon website (except photos published by you on Audubon’s social media platforms) is not eligible for the 2021 Awards.

Can I submit a picture that was previously disqualified?

No, to maintain anonymity once an image is disqualified you are not able to re-enter it, even if you change the modification that it was disqualified for.

What are the guidelines for photographing/filming birds responsibly?

The underlying principle for responsible bird photography/videography is a sincere respect for the birds and their habitats. When in doubt, the well-being of the birds and their habitats must come before the ambitions of the photographer/videographer. Read our guidelines for responsible bird photography here.

Are there any approaches to bird photography or videography that are against the rules?

The Official Rules explicitly prohibit photographs or videos depicting the following situations. If submitted, such entries will be disqualified. The judges’ decision to disqualify an entry is final. 

·       birds (including chicks) that appear to be stressed or harassed 

·       birds at nests taken with wide-angle or macro lens

·       birds (including but not limited to hawks, owls, eagles, ospreys, roadrunners) lured with bait. “Bait” includes live animals (such as snakes, fish, mice, crickets, worms), dead animals or parts of animals, processed meat, and decoys such as fake mice.

·       nocturnal birds (e.g., owls, nightjars) taken with a flash at night

·       birds photographed or filmed by drones

·       birds photographed or filmed with a remotely triggered camera that uses a direct flash or for which bait or another lure has been supplied to attract the animal. Setting a camera trap around a fresh kill or cache is generally acceptable, as is the use of a flash with a filter that only lets through infrared light

How about chumming on pelagic trips?

Photos/videos taken while chumming, which has been a standard practice on every pelagic birding trip at least since the 1940s, are eligible. It's extremely common for seabirds to follow fishing boats at sea, mainly for the potential food items being tossed overboard. There are thousands of fishing boats around the world being followed by birds daily, and the handful of birding boats doing active chumming are unlikely to change the overall behavior of the seabirds.

I don’t feel comfortable disclosing the location of the birds for the safety of the animals as well as respect for the landowner.

It's fine to be ambiguous about the exact location for the safety of the birds and the landowner.

 

Why is sharpening, upscaling, and significant noise reduction not allowed with AI and machine-learning-based software?

AI and machine-learning-based software use for upscaling and sharpening is not allowed because they tend to create or recreate details where these details were not visible before. During sharpening and upscaling, these software have the ability to move pixels and create details that were not there to begin with.

What does “significant” mean in the rules stipulating “AI and machine-learning-based software used for upscaling, sharpening and significant noise reduction”?

We do allow light noise reduction with AI and machine-learning-based software. It becomes significant (and hence potentially disqualifying) when the image starts creating new details. If you are still not sure if your denoising can be considered “significant” please reach out to contestquestions@audubon.org.

Others

Who owns the rights to my photos/videos?

You own the rights to your photos/videos. By entering the Audubon Photography Awards, you grant Audubon a non-exclusive license to your photos/videos for uses related to the Audubon Photography Awards only. (For the text of the full license, see the Official Rules.) But even if you choose to allow Audubon to use your photos/videos in support of its mission, you will remain the owner of your photos/videos (see the following question).

Could you explain the optional request on the personal information page to allow the National Audubon Society to use my images/videos in support of its mission?

First, it’s important to emphasize that opting in to this request is not a requirement for entry and will have no impact on the judging, which is done anonymously. By checking the opt-in box on the personal information page and agreeing to the request, you will grant Audubon broader, additional rights beyond those stipulated in the Official Rules. (Under the Official Rules, when you enter the Photography Awards, you grant Audubon the right to use your images/videos in ways related to the Photography Awards.) By clicking the opt-in box, you grant Audubon the right to use, and to allow others to use, your images or video in support of the organization's mission—for example, in postal or email campaigns for fundraising or for raising awareness, including via social media. Your permission will help Audubon redirect valuable dollars that would otherwise be spent on acquiring photographic/videographic rights into other activities that support its mission. Regardless of your choice, you will remain the owner of your images/videos and they will be credited appropriately.

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