The Competition is open to all photographers worldwide, except employees, volunteers and Board Members of the California Academy of Sciences (“Academy”) and the immediate families and individuals living in the same household as such employees, volunteers and Board Members. The Academy reserves the right to verify, in its sole judgment, entrant eligibility. The Competition is void where prohibited.


The Competition’s Entry Divisions

Photographers at least 18 years of age on the closing date of the competition. Adults should enter their images into one of the five official competition categories. Each category will have a first place winner, a runner up, and up to 10 honorable mention winners.

This division is open to young photographers who are aged 12 to 17 on the closing date of the competition. Youth will simply enter up to 10 images (of any of the official subjects) into their age division. Youth division entrants under the ages 12 to 17 on the final day of the entry period, who are selected as winners, must provide a release executed by their parent or guardian agreeing to the terms of the Official Rules to qualify as final winners.

This division is open to young photographers who are aged 5 to 11 on the closing date of the competition. Kids will simply enter up to 10 images (of any of the official subjects) into their age division. Kids division entrants under the ages 5 to 11 on the final day of the entry period, who are selected as winners, must provide a release executed by their parent or guardian agreeing to the terms of the Official Rules to qualify as final winners.

Entering, Paying Fees and Preparing for Uploading

To enter, create a competition account, providing your contact information and a password for your personal entry page. Entrants must agree to these Official Rules by checking the appropriate box. Entrants signing up for the Competition through the available openID sources agree to allow Academy to use information from their openID accounts to pre-populate their contest account forms where applicable. Entries will be anonymous; Judges will not know the authors of any entry.

Entrants may enter all images in a single category or select different categories for different images. Images may be color or black and white. All Images must have complete information attached, including their subjects, locations, title for the image, and camera equipment used. The judges use this information to help them select the winners. Not providing full information may hurt your chances of winning.

Only digitally uploaded images can be entered. Mailed or shipped entries will not be accepted. Each image must be entered into the desired category.

Once a competition account is created, an entrant can begin uploading images, selecting a category for each entry during the upload process. Entrants can enter up to ten (10) images per $25 entry fee. To enter more than 10 images, entrants must sign up with a second email address and create a second account. Once the entrant clicks on the button to complete an entry, he or she may not make changes to the entry or add additional images even if they had not uploaded the maximum allowed images per paid entry. Entry fees are non-refundable.

There is an entry fee of $25 for up to ten (10) images. Images are not entered into the competition, eligible for prizes, or made viewable to judges until the contest fee is paid. When you are ready to pay, click the provided button to go to the payment page. Payment is made on a secure web page using a major credit card. If the fee is not paid by the deadline on March 31, 2014, any uploaded images in your account will not be entered into the competition. Entrance fees are used to provide the competition prizes and help Academy in its mission.

Prepare Your Photos:

  • Camera-made digital images or scans of slides or prints must be uploaded as jpg, gif or tiff files.
  • Images should be at least 10 x 15 inches at 72 pixels per inch with a file size of no less than 1 MB (saved at the maximum quality setting). If your photos are larger than that, there is no need to reduce their sizes—larger images are acceptable with a maximum file size of 25mb per image.
  • Original sizes of camera-made digital photos must be 6mb or larger.
  • Images should be uploaded in RGB format. For maximum color rendition online, the preferred color profile is sRGB, but Adobe RGB and similar common profiles are acceptable. Images that do not meet this standard may or may not be judged at the judges’ sole discretion.

Image Criteria, Editing Guidelines and Judging

We are looking for striking digital images that feature and celebrate the natural world. They can be of animals on land, in the air and beneath the water’s surface and from anywhere in the world. We also welcome stunning landscape and waterscape images. Black and white or color image of nature are welcomed. Do not include photographs of pets or domestic animals. Images of captive animals photographed in game farms or roadside zoos, or animals from these facilities photographed elsewhere with handler’s control, will be disqualified. Captive animals photographed in major zoos, wildlife research facilities or rehabilitation centers are acceptable.

Before submitting your entries, please ensure your photographs are in technical compliance with the image editing guidelines below. Entrants are encouraged to think about the ethos of the competition, and to document the natural world in a way that is both creative and truthful. Adjustments should always be compliant to the principles of the competition. Entries must be as digital files uploaded through the competition entry platform. Scans of transparencies or negatives are also accepted. No allowance will be made for poor quality scans.

Image specifications

For judging purposes images must be submitted as JPEGs, saved at the highest quality setting in sRGB and must be at least 1920 pixels on the longest dimension. No borders, watermarks or signatures allowed.

For proof of authenticity, original digital camera RAW files (eg CR2, NEF, ORF etc) will be requested if your image is elected as a winning image. Original transparencies or negatives should be converted to digital format. Digital images captured as JPEG are allowed, providing the original un-retouched JPEG is available for inspection.

For printing in all media and for inclusion in a possible exhibition, a high-res image (preferably TIFF) will be required if your image is selected as a winner. This should be 8-bit, Adobe RGB (1998) at 300ppi. If interpolation of an image is required for printing, it will be undertaken by the selected printer.

Some adjustment or editing is allowed.

The objective is to remain faithful to the original experience, and to never deceive the viewer or misrepresent the reality of the natural world. Localized adjustments should be used appropriately. Allowances will not be made for poorly color-managed, over-saturated, or over-sharpened images.

Adjustments that are allowed:

  • Removal of: sensor dust spots, chromatic aberration, and background noise.
  • Adjustments to: levels, curves, color, saturation, contrast work, shadow and highlights, sharpening, dodging, burning and toning, neutral density gradients an removing of lens vignetting.
  • Cropping is permissible in moderation and as long as a suitable high-res TIFF file can be supplied for printing a large exhibition display if requested.
  • Black and white conversion

Adjustments that are NOT allowed

  • Composites and sandwich shots that add elements
  • Stitching for panoramics
  • Multiple exposures
  • HDR composites
  • The use of artistic digital filters and effects which do not show the scene in its natural way.

All photographs should accurately reflect the subject matter and the scene as it appeared. Photos that have been digitally altered beyond standard optimization will be disqualified.

Photographs will be judged by a nine member Jury of professional photographers and photo professionals according to the criteria below:

Overall Impact: 35% – Evokes the diversity of life and inspires conservation.

Originality: 30% – A unique perspective or a rarely captured moment.

Aesthetic Impact: 20% – Composition, lighting, framing, perspective, use of color, etc.

Technical Expertise: 15% – Sharp, exposure, depth of field, tonal range.

The Jury will be required to agree to terms of conduct consistent with ensuring that the spirit of the Competition is maintained throughout. Judging will consist of at least 2 rounds of critical evaluation, including an authenticity check. Each submitted image will be reviewed by at least two members of the Jury. All entries will be judged anonymously. The Jury of the final round may move individual images between categories as they deem appropriate in their reasonable discretion and with the Jury Chair’s express agreement. Awards will be granted in each category as follows:

One (1) 1st Place Winner

One (1) Runner-up

Up to (10) Honorable Mentions.

The Academy reserves the right not to award a prize in a specific category or remove the category in its entirety if the Academy determines, in its sole discretion, that the category is without an image of sufficient merit. All decisions by the Jury and by the Academy are final and binding.

Winners will be announced on May 29, 2014, and winning photographs may be viewed at www.BigPictureCompetition.org beginning Early June 2014.

Photographer Rights, Rights of Others, Terms & Conditions