Photo Guidelines and Terms of Use

California Watchable Wildlife presents a Photo Contest for images that illustrate the diversity of the California wildlife viewing experience. 

The yearlong contest will feature bi-monthly winners beginning with March-April 2024 and ending with September-October, 2024. A grand prize winner will be announced in January, 2025. The final judging period, November-December, 2024, is reserved for selecting the Photo of the Year. 

Images must be taken at either a California Watchable Wildlife viewing site, at a location in the Sierra Nevada, or feature any native California wildlife species. Images may show wildlife in its native habitat, animal behavior, seasonal abundance of wildlife or people viewing wildlife. 

Entries will be judged on technical excellence, composition, overall impact and storytelling and difficulty in getting the shot. A panel of judges is composed of professional photographers from California Department of Fish & Wildlife, Sierra Nevada Conservancy and the Photo of the Year 2023 winner. The judges' decisions will be final. 

Winners will be announced on the California Watchable Wildlife website and across social media platforms including  Facebook and Instagram

All submissions will become a part of Sierra Nevada Conservancy's and California Watchable Wildlife's image libraries. Therefore, even non-winning submissions may be featured in social media, or in promotional materials of California Watchable Wildlife and Sierra Nevada Conservancy. Photographers will be properly credited but not compensated.

Photograph Submission Rules

  • Contest images may be taken at a California Watchable Wildlife viewing site and in the Sierra Nevada, or be of a native California species (or all three). Lists of eligible sites and species are found on the California Watchable Wildlife website page at

  • The image name  MUST  include the name of photographer, the location, and species if applicable, e.g. "James Nelberg_ Graylodge _SnowGeese.jpg." Images submitted with numeric file names will be disqualified.

  • Images may be submitted only once during each annual contest. Winning images from prior Photo Contests in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 or 2023 will not be considered.

  • Images submitted should be the largest size available up to a maximum of 10 inches on the long dimension with a resolution of 300dpi and no larger than 2,400 x 2,400 pixels. Images should not be 'upsized.' They should be saved as a JPEG file with the maximum size of the uploaded file not exceeding 3MB.  Images selected for use on the California Watchable Wildlife website will be downsized as needed. We reserve the right to limit winning photos to those suitable for print.

  • Only digital images will be accepted. Images should be encoded using the JPG compression standard.

  • Photographs taken at any time are eligible, but only the photographer may submit entries. An entry cannot be submitted on behalf of another party.

  • Any photograph captured using an unmanned aerial vehicle, commonly known as a drone is not accepted. Images taken from planes or helicopters are also not accepted. Any photograph captured when the photographer is not physically present using a remote wireless shutter release for cell phones, cameras, or stationary camera traps that are triggered automatically when any wildlife moves into a pre-determined position are not accepted.

  • Please limit digital manipulation to a minimum; images should faithfully represent the scene naturally. Images should not include a watermark or border.

  • Images must be submitted via the electronic submission form at All sections of the submission form should be completed, and we reserve the right to limit entries to those with complete submission data.

  • Submissions will be accepted through October 31, 2024.

Ethical Wildlife Photography Guidelines

The sponsors of the California Wildlife Photo of the Year Contest encourage every photographer to practice responsible wildlife photography. A photograph that appears to the Judges to reflect one of the following situations is not eligible for submission and, if submitted, will be disqualified at the Judge’s discretion. That includes, but is not limited to, the depiction of:


● wildlife that appear to be stressed or harassed by the photographer

● animals in dens or birds at nests taken with a wide-angle or macro lens

● wildlife on artificial perches that has been placed on public/private property, nesting areas or preserves with the intent of allowing better access for photographers

● beach-nesting birds, including but not limited to solitary flightless chicks and adults brooding, feeding, or incubating chicks, where the photographer’s distance appears closer than where the public has been allowed access

● wildlife drawn to an area by bait. Bait is defined as any type of attractant—such as another animal, either live or dead or other material—designed or used to lure an animal or bird to a specific location to be photographed

● nocturnal animals photographed with a flash at night

Contest Terms and Conditions

The contest is open to participants worldwide and is subject to California law. Employees of California Watchable Wildlife, Sierra Nevada Conservancy, California Department of Fish & Wildlife and the judges and their immediate families are excluded.

  • No entry fee is required. Entrants may submit a maximum of two images during each entry period. Duplicate submissions will not be considered.

  • The deadline for entry is midnight on the last day of each entry period, with the last entries being accepted on October 31, 2024.

  • California Watchable Wildlife reserves the right to cancel or modify the rules of the contest at any time.

License Agreement

By submitting your photographs to  California Watchable Wildlife, you hereby grant to  California Watchable Wildlife a royalty-free, non-exclusive, and perpetual right to copy, edit, adapt, distribute, perform, display and/or use these photographic images, including any derivative works created from these materials, in whole or in part, for use in  California Watchable Wildlife promotional materials. In addition, you grant to  California Watchable Wildlife the royalty-free, non-exclusive, perpetual right for the use of your name and biographical information in connection with the use of these materials. 

In addition, you hereby grant to contest sponsor Sierra Nevada Conservancy a royalty-free, non-exclusive, and perpetual right to copy, edit, adapt, distribute, perform, display and/or use these photographic images, including any derivative works created from these materials, in whole or in part, for use in Sierra Nevada Conservancy promotional materials and websites. In addition, you grant to Sierra Nevada Conservancy the royalty-free, non-exclusive, perpetual right for the use of your name and biographical information in connection with the use of these materials. 

You certify that you are at least 18 years old, that you have the right to grant the contest sponsors all the rights granted herein and that these materials are your original work and are not owned by any other person or entity. You represent that the materials, the creation of the materials and the use of the materials do not violate any law or regulation and do not infringe the rights of any person or entity, including copyright or trademark rights or rights of privacy or publicity. You agree to indemnify and hold harmless  California Watchable Wildlife and Sierra Nevada Conservancy from any loss, claim, damage or expense arising from the use of these materials or your breach of this agreement, including the above representations.

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