Audubon Photography Awards

Audubon Photography Awards Frequently Asked Questions

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

Pyrrhuloxia. Photo: Judylynn Malloch/Audubon Photography Awards

Audubon Photography Awards Frequently Asked Questions

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

1. What are the requirements for submitting photos?

For online entries, each image MUST:
(i) depict “birdlife” and therefore must contain at least one bird;
(ii) be no larger than 35 megabytes; ideally the images should be close to 2400 pixels wide (if a horizontal image) or 2400 pixels tall (if a vertical image) at 72 dpi;
(iii) be saved in RGB mode (not CMYK!); and 
(iv) be saved in the JPG format.

For mailed entries, each print MUST:
(i) depict “birdlife” and therefore must contain at least one bird;
(ii) 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 Photography Awards.

2. How should I name my digital files or mail-in prints?

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

For mailed entries: Place a label on the back of each print with your name, address, the species, place the photo was taken, and camera equipment used. You should also include the same information in the appropriate place on the mail-in entry form (or on additional sheets, if you need more room). Be sure to include the number from the entry sheet (or additional sheets) on the back of your photo so that we can be sure we know which information goes with each print. MAILED PRINTS WILL NOT BE RETURNED.

3. How much does it cost to enter?

In the Professional and Amateur divisions, the online entry fee is $15 per image from January 8 through 11:59:59 AM EST on April 02, 2018; and $20 per image from 12:00:00 PM EST on April 02, 2018 through the end of the contest. There is no fee to enter the Youth division at any time. If you choose to mail prints, there is no entry fee for any of the divisions. The free-entry option is available for the duration of the contest.

4. What are the guidelines for photographing birds responsibly?

The underlying principle for responsible bird photography 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. Read our guidelines for responsible bird photography here.

5. Are there any approaches to bird photography that are against the rules?

The Official Rules explicitly prohibit the five following practices, and violating these practices will lead to disqualification of the image. The judges’ decision to disqualify a photo is final.

  • Photos showing birds that appear to be stressed or harassed by the photographer;
  • Photos showing nocturnal birds (e.g., owls, nightjars) taken with a flash at night;
  • Photos showing birds at nests taken with wide-angle or macro lenses;
  • Photos taken with or by drones;
  • Photos of birds of prey (e.g., hawks, owls) that have been lured with live bait or decoy bait.

6. Can I enter more than one division? 

No, you can enter only one division of the Photography Awards:  Amateur, Professional, or Youth.  

7. What is the Smithsonian exhibition opportunity?

Every year our contest cosponsor, Nature’s Best Photography, hosts the Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards competition in an exhibition alliance with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. In 2018, for the fourth year, Audubon will sponsor the Birds category of the Nature’s Best exhibition at the museum, where winning photos from the Audubon Photography Awards will be displayed. The exhibition will open in the fall of 2018 and run for up to a year.

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

Email us at

9. How do I know that my entry has been successful?

For online entries: You will receive a confirmation email (a few domains block it). You will also be routed to a page indicating that a PDF document confirming your submission has been automatically downloaded to your computer. (Note that pop-up blockers on your browser may prevent this automatic download.) These confirmations will list each of the photos you entered and the amount your credit card was billed. Because the youth category is free, youth confirmations will not include billing information.

For mailed entries: If you include your email address on the entry form, we will email you a receipt of your entry. If you do not provide an email address, we cannot send you a confirmation (but please include a phone number in case we need to contact you).

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 us at

10. Is there a limit on the number of photos I can submit?

No, there is no limit on the number of photos you can enter. Remember, though, that you can enter only one division, even if you enter the contest multiple times.

11. If I enter photos online, can I send additional photos by mail, or vice versa?

You may submit by only ONE total means of entry: online OR by mail. If you submit photos by two different means of entry, only the means of entry through which your photos are first received will be valid. Photos submitted through a second means of entry after photos have already been received through a first means of entry will be void.

12. Can I submit photos 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 Monday April 09, 2018 at 11:59:59 PM 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 09, 2018, and received by Audubon no later than April 16, 2018, and includes a printout of the mail-in entry form (with the same contact information for each mailed submission) and the requested information on the back of each print. Failure to follow these requirements may result in disqualification.

13. Can I review my submissions? 

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

14. Will other entrants be able to see my photos?


15. Who owns the rights to my photos?

You own the rights to your photos. By entering the Photography Awards, you grant Audubon and our contest associate Nature’s Best Photography a non-exclusive license to your photos for uses related to the 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 in support of its mission, you will remain the owner of your photos (see the following question).

16. Could you explain the optional request on the personal information page to allow the National Audubon Society to use my images 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 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 in support of 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 right into other activities that support its mission. Regardless of your choice, you will remain the owner of your images. 

17. What if I have trouble with my digital submissions?

If you are having trouble uploading your photos, first make sure they meet the photograph entry requirements (see question No. 1). Then check that bulleted entry information (for example, entry category) has been ticked. If you are still having trouble, email us at

18. How much can I manipulate my photos? 

Photos may not be digitally altered beyond standard optimization (e.g., minor burning, dodging; limited cropping; the removal of dust). Limited correction of color, contrast, and density is acceptable unless doing so dramatically changes the original color or obscures elements in the photograph. Excessive manipulation—for example, removing branches or pasting a bird into a scene—will cause your photo to be disqualified. Please be prepared to submit your RAW or original file if requested by the judges. 

19. Does it matter when or where my photographs were taken?

Photos taken at any time are eligible for the 2018 Photography Awards. There are no geographic restrictions beyond don't shoot at game farms, where photographers can photograph captive animals in what appear to be wild and natural settings. Audubon does not publish photographs taken at game farms, and you should follow the same policy. Photos 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.

20. Who will judge the contest?

There will be six judges: Kevin Fisher, creative director for Audubon; Steve Freligh, publisher of Nature’s Best Photography magazine; Melissa Groo, wildlife photographer and 2015 Grand Prize winner; Kenn Kaufman, eminent birder, Audubon field editor, and author of the Kaufman Nature Guides series; Sabine Meyer, photography director for Audubon; and Allen Murabayashi, chairman and cofounder of PhotoShelter.

21. 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). The judges will not know the name or professional affiliation of entrants until the judging is completed and the high-resolution photos are requested.

22. 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.

23. What if there’s a tie?

The photograph’s artistic merit, judged on a scale of 1 to 10, will be used as a tiebreaker.

24. How many winners will there be?

There will be a total of four (4) winners: one (1) Grand Prize winner, one (1) winner in the Professional division, one (1) winner in the Amateur division, and one (1) winner in the Youth division.

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

The awards winners will be determined and notified on or about May 21, 2018. Winners will be publicly announced in a 2018 issue of Audubon and simultaneously on the Audubon website ( They will also be published in a 2018 issue of Nature’s Best Photography magazine.

26. Who is eligible to enter the 2018 Awards?

All residents of the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and Canada (except Quebec) are eligible to enter.

27. Are there age restrictions?

Entrants must be at least 13 years old as of January 8, 2018.

28. 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.

29. Are there other restrictions?

Employees, officers, and directors of the National Audubon Society, Inc., Nature’s Best Photography, and their respective parents, subsidiaries, divisions, trustees, franchisees, Photo Awards prize providers and distributors, advertising and promotion agencies associated with the Photography Awards, and any and all entities directly associated with the Photography Awards, including immediate family members and members of the same household, are not eligible to participate.

30. How do I know what division to enter?

There are three 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. All ages are to be determined as of January 8, 2018. (See the Official Rules for more details.)

31. Can I submit a photo I submitted in another photo contest?

Yes, as long as it has not won any previous awards or competitions.

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

Yes, as long as it was not published in Audubon or on any portion of Audubon’s website. Any photo previously published in Audubon or on the Audubon website is not eligible for the 2018 Awards.

33. 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.

34. What if I’ve read the Official Rules and I still have questions?

For questions, send an email to

No purchase necessary. Contest begins 01/08/18 and ends 04/09/18. Must be at least 13 years of age and a legal resident of the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and Canada (excluding Quebec) to enter. Entrants under the age of majority must get permission from their parent or legal guardian to enter the Contest. See Official Rules for complete details and how to enter without paying the entry fee. Void where prohibited.