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2024 Showcase competition

Get inspired by our annual juried photo competition featuring some of the best work produced by NANPA members.
The Top 250 images are selected from thousands of entries across six categories: mammals, birds, landscapes, conservation, altered reality, and macro/micro/other wildlife and are featured in our Expressions journal.

The entry period opens August 1, 2023, and will close at 11 p.m. EDT on September 15, 2023.

Cover image by Charles Gangas

2023 Showcase Top 100, Macro/Micro/All Other

Winning a photo contest can elevate a nature photographer’s credibility and visibility. But winning isn’t everything.

Entering photo contests puts your images in front of audiences. Images can influence and affect people, change opinions, or make a difference. It isn’t unusual for participating photographers to be contacted about licensing their images for publication.

Contests also allow you to see how your work measures up to others. They are an opportunity to learn what makes one image unique in a field of thousands, what moves viewers or resonates with them, and—perhaps frustratingly—that no two judges are completely alike. Contests are, in short, one way to publish your work.

Participating in NANPA’s Showcase competition is also a way to use your images to support NANPA and help the organization attract and engage new nature photography enthusiasts.

Macro/Micro/All Other Wildlife Category, 2022 Showcase Top 100: Emerald Glass Frog with Crossed Fingers, Costa Rica, © Rick Beldegreen

Showcase Competition Categories

(Soon to be Updated for 2024)

NANPA’s Showcase recognizes images in six distinct categories

  • Altered Reality: Includes images obviously displaying a change in natural color, form, shape, or any combination of these. Image must be enhanced or transformed beyond the way the subject appears in nature.
  • Birds: Includes all birds.
  • Conservation: Includes images that illustrate a conservation issue, either positive or negative, and the value of conserving a species, a place, an ecosystem, etc., for the benefit of wild and/or human communities.
  • Macro/Micro/All Other Wildlife: Includes images of non-bird, non-mammal wildlife as well as close-ups of any subject. Close-ups are intimate views, tightly framed, or close examinations of subjects in nature.
  • Mammals: Includes both land and sea mammals.
  • Scapes: Includes landscape, plantscape, seascape, atmosphere, weather, etc.

Birds category

BIRDS CATEGORY, 2021 Showcase Top 250
Open Wide, San Luis Obispo County, California
© Alice Cahill

Altered reality category

Coneflower In-camera Double Exposure, Cleveland Metro Parks, Ohio
© Randall Dunn

Conservation category

CONSERVATION CATEGORY, 2021 Showcase Top 250
Inquisitive Nestling Burrowing Owls, Mountain Home, Idaho
© Jim Shane


Goldenrod Crab Spider Shedding Skin, Ayden, North Carolina
© Anne Grimes

Mammals category

MAMMALS CATEGORY, 2021 Showcase Top 250
Southern Elephant Seal Pups Huddle against the Bulk of Their Mothers, Salisbury Plains, South Georgia
© Vicki Santello

Scapes category

SCAPES CATEGORY, 2021 Showcase Top 250
Sturm und Drang of King Tide Waves, Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington
© William Sutton

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Only NANPA members may enter the annual Showcase competition. Please make sure that you renew your membership, if you have not already, or you may not be able to enter. Renewals take place during normal office hours, so do not wait until the last minute to renew. The entry fee is $10 per image or enter 6 images for $50. There is no limit to the number of images a photographer may enter. All images will be judged and $6,000 in prize money will be awarded.

Showcase Submission Rules

(Soon to be Updated for 2024)

  1. Submit entries through the Members’ Area of the NANPA website between August 1, 2023 and September 15, 2023 at 11pm EDT.
  2. Submissions must be finalized before the closing time, meaning you should allow plenty of time for your uploads to be processed. Last minute entries may not make it in. Special Note: If your NANPA membership is not active or expires during the Showcase competition period, renew well before the submission deadline to avoid delays and exclusion from the contest.
  3. The entry fee is $10 per image or 6 images for $50 and can be paid by credit card via the Contest Portal. Images must be submitted and paid in groups of 6 to get the special rate (6 for $50, 12 for $100, etc.). There is no limit to the number of images a NANPA photographer may enter.
  4. Each image must be entirely the work of the NANPA member submitting the image. Entrants under 18 years of age must also submit a release from a parent or guardian. Use this Parental Consent FormNote to Joint NANPA Members: Each member in a Joint Membership must register an individual (free) login account for NANPA’s contest portal and must login using this account to submit entries. Images are credited (and prizes are awarded) to the account submitting the images. NANPA is not responsible for incorrect attribution when photos are submitted under the wrong account.
  5. All judging will be done anonymously via the NANPA website. Entries will be judged on impact, originality, and photographic skill. The quality of the image file is critical, so be careful when using Photoshop or other enhancing tools. Many otherwise outstanding images are scored down because they are over-saturated, over-sharpened, off-color or excessively manipulated.
  6. No names, watermarks, text, logos, borders or other differentiating marks may appear on your images. Images with such marks will be disqualified without refund. Likewise, no photographer names or identifying terms may appear in the “Subject”, “Location”, or “Comments” fields on the entry application.
  7. Photographs of animals in the wild are favored over those in controlled conditions. Images of game farm animals are not accepted. Game farms are defined as private for-profit operations whose primary income is generated from hiring out captive animals for photography, videography and filmmaking. Use of live bait to attract or control subjects is not allowed. Wild species of flora and fauna are preferred over domestic plants and animals. Entries must indicate “captive,” if applicable. See NANPA’s Captioning Guidelines for further details.
  8. Images should represent truthful behavior and natural events. Follow NANPA’s principles of ethical field practices.
  9. No elements may be added to an image except in the Altered Reality category.
  10. Entries not accurately reflecting the subject matter and scene as it appeared when captured with the camera must be designated as photo illustration. Photo illustration is not allowed in the conservation category.
  11. Images appropriate for Showcase entries must include nature subjects. People in nature, indigenous people, and hand of man are acceptable, but nature must be the primary point of interest.
  12. Images submitted in previous Showcase competitions may be entered as long as they were not selected for the Showcase or journal (Top 250). Judging is subjective, so it is possible this year’s judges may score images differently.
  13. NANPA may ask for additional information regarding images or circumstances of creating images before finalizing the results. RAW or original files or original slides or negatives may be required for examination before finalizing an award. If requested, the source image and information must be provided within one week of notification or the contending image may be demoted or disqualified.
  14. Submission is not a guarantee of selection. All entrants will be notified of the reviewers’ decisions by November 1st, whether or not their images are selected.
  15. Images must be in JPEG format, RGB or Grayscale mode, without watermarks, text, logos, borders or other identifying marks. We cannot accept slides or prints.
  16. Image file size must be no larger than 3MB, so adjust your “quality” setting as needed when saving as JPEG while preparing the images for submission. The longer side of your image must be exactly 1280 pixels. The shorter side may be any size up to and including 1280 pixels. Any image submitted larger than 1280 pixels will be automatically resized.
  17. There is no naming convention for the files you upload. Use whatever filename you’d like. Images are stored with a numeric index number so judging can remain anonymous. The original file name is stored for winner notification about the specific image that was submitted.
  18. On the entry page, you will be required to check one or more image attributes and an image category to be used by the NANPA website search engine if your image is selected for the Top 250.
  19. By entering the contest, each applicant accepts the rules as stated and guarantees that all the information provided is correct and truthful and the capture of images complied with local, state, federal and FAA regulations related to photography. Entries not accurately represented or not abiding by contest rules will be disqualified. Refunds will not be given in case of disqualification. It is the entrant’s responsibility to provide accurate information including a correct email address for notification. NANPA is not responsible for emails that are not received.
  20. NANPA assumes no responsibility for submissions. Winning entrants agree that NANPA has the right to use their photographs, without compensation, in Showcase 2024 on the NANPA website as well as in the journal Expressions. NANPA may also use the images for promoting future Showcases, journals and competitions. The photographer also grants permission to NANPA to use the image(s) in other publications and promotions, unless he/she checks off the appropriate box on the online entry form.
  21. NANPA cannot provide technical assistance to help members prepare their images for submission. Not only does this represent a conflict of interest, but we are not familiar with all possible software that members might be using. If you are having problems, be sure to see the Tips section, below.
  22. Pay via credit card online. Sorry, but we cannot accept payment over the telephone or checks by postal mail.
  23. Proper credit will be attributed to images published on the website, in Expressions or in promotional uses.
  24. All NANPA members will have access to the electronic (PDF) version of Expressions.

Prize packages

While it’s not all about winning, winning is admittedly one of the most exciting things we can imagine as photographers!

All images are judged, and $6,000 in prize money will be awarded along with recognition and publicity opportunities at three levels of achievement: Top 24, Top 100, and Top 250.


The Top 24 is comprised of a Best in Show winner for each of the six categories, a First Runner-Up for each category, and two Judges’ Choice winners in each category.

  • Best in Show for each category wins $350.
  • Runner-Up for each category wins $250.
  • Two Judges’ Choice winners for each category win $200.

Additional prizes for images in the Top 24 include:

  • Image published with photographer credit and award ranking on NANPA website
  • Photographer name and winning image included in public announcement of Top 24 winning images and referenced in additional announcements of Top 100 and Top 250 winning images to NANPA mailing list by the end of 2022 calendar year
  • Photographer name, hometown, and winning image included in a press release sent to major photography-related media and organizations
  • Image and photographer credit included in digital Expressions journal
  • Image and photographer credit featured on Top 24 winners page of new NANPA website with bio and optional image portfolio
  • How-I-Got-the-Shot story and photographer featured on NANPA blog during the 2024 calendar year
  • Photographer invited to host a week-long takeover of NANPA Instagram account
  • Image published on one or more NANPA social media channels during the 2024 calendar year
  • Image with photographer credit shared during NANPA Summit
  • Image may potentially be included in NANPA promotional materials with photographer credit
  • Photographer encouraged to participate in online session on how to maximize recognition as a Showcase winner


Images designated as “Top 100” winners placed in the Top 100 photographs in competition but did not receive a Top 24 award.

Prizes for images ranking in Top 100 include:

  • Image published with photographer credit on NANPA blog page announcing the Top 100 winners by end of 2023 calendar year
  • Image and photographer name included in public announcement of Top 100 winning images and referenced in additional announcement of Top 250 winning images to NANPA mailing list by the end of 2023 calendar year
  • Image and photographer credit included in digital Expressions journal
  • Image with photographer credit published on one or more NANPA social media channels during the 2024 calendar year
  • Image with photographer credit shared during NANPA Summit
  • Image with photographer credit may be included in NANPA promotional materials with photographer credit
  • Photographer encouraged to participate in online session on how to maximize recognition as a Showcase winner

Top 250 Winners

Images designated as “Top 250” winners placed in the Top 250 photographs in competition but did not receive a Top 24 or Top 100 award.

Prizes for images ranking in Top 250 include:

  • Image published with photographer credit on NANPA blog page announcing the Top 250 winners by end of 2023 calendar year
  • Image and photographer name included in public announcement of Top 250 winning images to NANPA mailing list by the end of 2023 calendar year
  • Image and photographer credit included in digital Expressions journal
  • Image with photographer credit may be published on one or more NANPA social media channels during the 2024 calendar year
  • Image with photographer credit may be included in NANPA promotional materials with photographer credit
  • Photographer encouraged to participate in online session on how to maximize recognition as a Showcase winner

*Photographers with images ranking in the Top 24, Top 100, or Top 250 may opt-out of giving NANPA permission to use their winning image in future NANPA promotional materials by checking the appropriate box on the Showcase entry form.


Chris Linder, George Lepp and Kathy Adams Clark will judge entries in the traditional five (5) Showcase categories (mammals, birds, scapes, altered reality, and macro/micro/all other wildlife).

A separate panel of three judges with expertise in conservation photography will judge the conservation category entries: Clay Bolt, Jeff Foott and Rosamund (Roz) Kidman Cox.

Photo of Chris Linder in arctic region holding a camera. Photo by Mike Carlowicz

Photo by Mike Carlowicz

Chris Linder

Chris Linder specializes in photographing scientific fieldwork, wildlife, and landscapes in extreme environments. A former naval officer and oceanographic researcher, Linder has photographed more than 50 scientific expeditions and has spent over two years exploring the polar regions. His goals are to use photography to educate the public about environmental science and communicate the urgent need to protect our planet’s wild places and species.

Linder’s images have appeared in museums, books, calendars, and international magazines. He has published three books, including The Big Thaw: Ancient Carbon, Modern Science, and a Race to Save the World (Mountaineers/ Braided River 2019) and Science on Ice: Four Polar Expeditions (University of Chicago Press, 2011).  He was the lead cinematographer and co-producer of the 2015 feature-length documentary film Antarctic Edge: 70 Degrees South.  In addition to his assignment work, Linder also teaches photography workshops and presents lectures to audiences of all ages. He is a Senior Fellow in the International League of Conservation Photographers and a Fellow National in the Explorers Club. Earlier this year, he was honored with NANPA’s 2023 Trailblazer Award.

Headshot of George Lepp holding camera

George Lepp

Nature photographer, teacher, author, and inventor George Lepp became one of Canon’s first Explorers of Light in 1995 and is now a member of the Canon Legends program. His passions for beauty, precision, cutting-edge technology, and environmental responsibility are revealed in his compelling images, which are widely published and exhibited. Lepp’s university studies in wildlife and wildlands management were interrupted in the 1960s by service in the U.S. Marine Corps. He then earned a BA and honorary MSc from Brooks Institute of Photography and began his career working with scientists at UC Davis and for Car & Driver. Lepp is Field Editor of Outdoor Photographer magazine and has shared his knowledge of all aspects of photography through hundreds of publications and lectures. A founder of the North American Nature Photography Association, he has been honored by many awards, including Photo Media Photography Person of the Year, the Photographic Society of America’s Progress Award, and NANPA’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Photo of Kathy Adams Clark crouching in a field holding a camera.

Kathy Adams Clark

Kathy Adams Clark has been a professional nature photographer since 1995.

Kathy’s photos have been published in hundreds of places including Family Fun,, Nature’s Best, New York Times, Birder’s World, and Ranger Rick.  AAA Journey, Texas Parks & Wildlife and Texas Highways magazines have used Kathy’s photos on their cover.  Her photos have also appeared in a numerous books and calendars including the Barnes & Noble Ireland Countryside Calendar, the cover of the Arbor Foundation Rainforest Calendar, and the Sierra Engagement Calendar.   Kathy’s photos of Houston were compiled into a calendar offered in Costco in 2016.

Her photos appear every week in the “Nature” column in the Houston Chronicle written by her husband, Gary Clark.  Kathy and Gary have worked with national publishing houses to produce ten books that combine their photography and writing skills.  Their latest books are Book of Texas Birds published by Texas A&M University Press and Backroads of Texas published by Voyageur Press.

Kathy’s photography is featured in Portrait of Houston published in 2012 by Farcountry Press.  Photographing Big Bend National Park, published in 2013 by Texas A&M Press, is written by Kathy and uses her photography throughout.

Kathy is Past-president of the North American Nature Photography Association.  She teaches photography and is a popular speaker at local and national events.  She leads photo tours through Strabo Tours to countries including Costa Rica, Brazil, Spain, Africa, Italy, Peru, Morocco, and Norway.

Conservation judges

Photo of Clay Bolt outside a mountain cabin

Clay Bolt

Clay Bolt is a natural history and conservation photographer specializing in the world’s smaller creatures. Clay’s work appears in publications such as National Geographic Magazine, the New York Times, and National Wildlife. He is a Senior Fellow in the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) and past president of the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA). His current major focus is on North America’s native bees and the important roles that they play in our lives. He was a leading voice in the fight to protect the rusty-patched bumble bee as a federally protected species under the Endangered Species Act, which became North America’s first federally protected native bee in 2017. In 2019, Bolt became the first photographer to document a living Wallace’s Giant Bee—the world’s largest bee—as a part of a four person exploration team to rediscover the species in the Indonesian islands known as North Maluku.

Photo of Jeff Foott on a mountain with a camera, tripod, and telephoto lens.

Jeff Foott

Jeff has worked for over 25 years, documenting nature and environment in both film and still pictures. Having worked in over 35 countries, he has produced over 40 films, shown in over 100 countries. His last film on Patagonia for the Living Edens Series was a finalist for an Emmy. His films for National Geographic, Discovery Channel, BBC have won numerous awards.

His pictures have appeared in National Geographic, Geo, Natures Best, Smithsonian and many others. As a marine biologist he worked extensively on sea otters and manatee, resulting in several films and a book on​ each. Jeff is a past professional advisor to Outdoor Photographer magazine. He is proud to be an iLCP Fellow and Senior Fellow in NANPA.

Headshot of Rox Kidman Cox

Photo by Steve Taylor

Rosamund Kidman Cox

Roz is an editor, photo editor and writer specializing in wildlife and environmental issues. Previously editor of BBC Wildlife magazine for more than 20 years, she project manages, edits and writes photography-led books. She has been involved in the judging of Wildlife Photographer of the Year for the past four decades and edits the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Portfolio books. Books she has authored include 55 Years of Wildlife Photographer of the Year and The Masters of Nature Photography titles for the Natural History Museum, as well as the Unforgettable Photography series. Titles she has project managed for BBC Books include Planet Earth, Frozen Planet, The Hunt and Planet Earth II. Roz is an affiliate of the International League of Conservation Photographers.


Tips from the judges

Tips From the Judges

In past Showcase competitions, we have asked the judges for some insights and tips on image selection and preparation to help future participants produce winning photos. Here are some of those comments:

  • Study the photos that made it into previous Showcases.
    Try not to duplicate the images, but go a step beyond them. Never think that because something has won before, it will win again if copied. “There is a lot of talent out there,” said one judge. “It ain’t easy judging this!”
  • If you know an animal or landscape intimately, you can create an intimate picture.
    Shoot what you know.
  • Make descriptions and titles relevant.
    The “descriptive text” you enter benefits your entry by anticipating and providing answers to judges’ questions. More information helps judges evaluate an image. Information in this field will also be used as your image’s caption if chosen as a Top 250 winner.
  • Bring to mind the pictures that have moved you and try to work out what it is about them that makes you respond.
    Then use it.
  • The submission of an image that isn’t sized properly is unacceptable.
    Follow the competition rules exactly.
  • As a rule of thumb: Keep your subject sharp.
    It’s not always easy, but submitting photos that are in focus and tack-sharp shows a command of your equipment.
  • The best composition is crucial.
    Crop as needed, but not so extremely that image quality is compromised. 
  • Be sure your file does not include an embedded photo credit or border that would require an immediate disqualification.
  • Know when to stop with your image management software.
    Advances in image management software have enabled photographers to do nearly anything with their images. Excessive or unskilled sharpening, dodging and burning can easily ruin an image. Over-saturated images can become garish. “The art of the natural is far more difficult to achieve,” said one judge.
  • When you specify Photo Illustration, briefly describe what warranted that designation in the comments field.
    Judges understand the cosmetic retouch of a shiny rock or a stick at the edge of a frame. Without mentioning it, however, they may guess at more extreme methods. Photo Illustration is quite acceptable in Showcase. If you use that designation, explain why.
  • Photo contest judges look at thousands of photos and it takes a lot to stop them in their tracks.
    They are stirred by a fresh and surprising composition, creative use of color or a new way of seeing an old subject, if not a new one.
  • Catch a moment of interesting behavior to breathe life into common subjects.
    It takes persistence and talent to catch that moment in just the right way. For example, flying birds make a nice image, but an image of birds interacting in flight is exciting.
  • Look at what other people aren’t shooting and consider those subjects.
    If everyone else is shooting canyons and sand dunes, choose a landscape close to home and make a study of it until something new emerges. Think about new ways of interpreting a river scene rather than just blurring the running water. Use your technical skills and your creativity to set yourself apart. Originality is the real art of competing.

The entry period opens August 1 and closes at 11 pm EDT on September 15, 2023.

Captive and photo illustration explained

NANPA believes in photographers’ creative freedom to make images as they wish. Yet, it also recognizes that images presented in educational and other documentary contexts are assumed by the public to be straightforward records of what the photographer captured with a camera. Communicating clearly, efficiently and fully about the making of nature images is thus linked to public trust and acceptance.

Creators of images entered into the Showcase competition must be truthful in representing their work. NANPA’s Truth in Captioning statement provides guidelines used by the Showcase competition. Label your images with the following tags when applicable:

The term captive, abbreviated CAPT, applies to any animal living under human care and control in a restricted environment. This includes, but is not limited to zoos, game farms, falconry birds, rescue facilities, sanctuaries and research facilities. Garden flora should be designated as captive. (Photographs taken at game farms are not accepted into the Showcase competition.)

Normal processing and capture that’s acceptable without designating an image as Photo Illustration includes:

  • cropping
  • minor adjustments to color, white balance, tone, lighting levels and curves, shadows and highlights, saturation, contrast, sharpness
  • moderate toning, vignetting, dodging and burning
  • removal of dust or scratches or reduction of image noise
  • HDR, focus stacking and stitched panoramas
  • in-camera multiple exposures

Photographs that have been digitally or otherwise altered beyond standard optimization should be designated Photo Illustration. These include:

  • addition, removal or alteration that changes the material content of the original scene
  • significant color adjustments and other treatments that differ widely from the original image
  • extreme toning, dodging or burning that fundamentally alters the actual scene by obscuring parts of it
  • no elements may be added to any images except in the Altered Reality category.

If using the Photo Illustration designation, it’s in your best interest to state (explain) in the description field on the entry form what was done to warrant it. Judges can only go on what they see in the image or read in the supporting information provided by the photographer. Anticipate judges’ questions such as:

  • If Photo Illustration is marked, why?
  • Explain the circumstances of an unexpected/uncommon element.
  • Include background information if an element may be questioned from an ethical perspective, e.g., a defensive posture of the subject or a situation often created by baiting.

Include information in the “descriptive subject” field that can preemptively address judges’ likely questions about photo illustration, unexpected elements, or ethics concerns.

What constitutes altered reality?

This unconventional category may be confusing to some. NANPA’s definition of altered reality is: Images that display a change in natural color, form, shape or any combination of these that deny the photographic process. The image would be enhanced or transformed beyond the way the subject appears in nature.

Since we know you are visually oriented, we did a Google search on “altered reality,” clicked on the “images” tab, and up came a gallery of images that covered a wide spectrum. So, if you are confused, give that a try.

Meanwhile, in words, a sample of possible Altered Reality nature photos might be:

  • An elephant walking down the traffic-congested streets of New York City
  • An insect made to appear larger than any mammals
  • A kaleidoscope effect of a forest
  • A photo of an animal or plant that is made up of hundreds of photos pieced together
  • A reflection in mirrored sunglasses of a nature scene that is much different from the reality surrounding the person wearing the sunglasses
  • Combining a photo of natural patterns to water and/or sky to give more texture to your scapes image

All images entered into the Altered Reality category should be designated as Photo Illustrated (PHIL). Any image that removes or changes the contents must be designated with PHIL, regardless of category.

7 most frequent mistakes made in entering the Showcase competition

  1. Watermark, credit, border or other extra treatment on the image or identifying information in the caption. These require immediate disqualification. If you often include watermarks when exporting images from Lightroom, be sure to uncheck that option.
  2. Images come in after the deadline, which is September 15th at 11:00pm EDT. The “shut off” is automatic. Give yourself enough time to complete the process before the deadline. FINALIZE must be clicked before the deadline.
  3. Images are not sized properly (and other software errors). Learn your software. Know how to reach target specs for image dimensions and file size limit. Image preparation tips can be found below for Lightroom and Photoshop.
  4. Scans are pixelated, soft, overcropped or otherwise poorly made. The judges may love the composition and content of an image, but be unable to get past quality that is compromised.
  5. Overprocessed images. A breathtaking shot that is diminished by heavy-handed Photoshop work does not elicit high scores. When it comes to processing, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
  6. Entrant forgets to renew membership or renews too late. It’s best to renew well before the deadline in case of any technical difficulties. Renewal help is only available during normal office hours. Renewal delays may prevent you from entering the contest if you wait until the last minute.
  7. Images are muddy. All images are viewed via web browser. Check each entry after uploading to be sure the color quality is what you want the judges to see.

Image preparation tips

We tend to get a lot of very similar questions about preparing images for submission. While we can’t cover all the details for all possible software and platforms, there are lots of resources on the internet that will guide you through the steps to prepare your images. Many photographers will be using either Adobe’s Lightroom or Photoshop. Here are two excellent tutorials on using those programs to prepare your images for submission:

If you are using some other software, search for “resizing photo using XXX” with XXX being your program and you will probably find lots of resources to help you.

Most popular Showcase subjects

  1. A unique subject will stand out to the judges. Here’s a list of the most popular subjects during previous Showcase competitions:
    2021 – Bird behavior, night landscapes
    2020 – Bears, night scenes, birds in flight/with food
    2019 – Bears, night scenes, birds in flight/with food
    2018 – Bears, gorillas, birds in flight
    2017 – Alaskan bears, waterfalls, star trails
    2016 – Bears, auroras, birds in flight
    2015 – Predation, mating behavior, bears, abstracts, trees
    2014 – Bears (black, brown and polar), gorillas
    2013 – Bears, terns and other shorebirds
    2012 – Water-related, e.g., underwater, above water, seascapes, shorebirds


As we add new features and rules to the annual Showcase competition, questions are bound to arise that we did not address directly elsewhere. Below are a few examples, and we’ll be adding more as we learn more. If your question is not covered here, please contact the Showcase Coordinator at

Q: When do the images need to have been taken? Is there a limit?

A: There is no time limit as to when photos were taken.

Q: What category do underwater photos belong in?

A: Underwater seascape images go in the Scapes category unless the subject is wildlife (fish, invertebrates, etc.) or tiny animals underwater. Put fish, invertebrates and tiny underwater animals in Macro/Micro/All Other Wildlife.

Include information in the “descriptive subject” field that can preemptively address judges’ likely questions about photo illustration, unexpected elements, or ethics concerns.

Q: Can I enter my photo illustrated image in the conservation category?

A: No. Photo illustrated images are not allowed in the conservation category.

Q: I have a photo of an insect, close up, within its rainforest habitat shot at ground level. I can see this going in Macro/Micro/All Other Wildlife, but it could just as easily go in Scapes since it shows the insect’s habitat. Do you have a preference?

A: Consider entering it in Scapes when habitat is a strong element of primary interest of the image. It wouldn’t be wrong in either category, so you must use your judgment.

Q: I have a photo of my daughter fishing in the Firehole River in Yellowstone. What category should I put that in?

A: Entries in any category can include people interacting with or in the vicinity of the category subject as long as the people are not the primary interest. The larger view of these images would go into Scapes…provided they show the landscape and the people and their activity are not the primary point of interest (people images are not otherwise accepted into the competition). For your particular image, if the river is prominent and the setting is wild, then you could put the image in Scapes. Other image examples: a foggy morning and a loon pair on a lake with a man looking out on the scene from a chair on the dock with his feet in the water (this image could go in Scapes or Birds if either is prominent); mountain climbers ascending Mt. Rainier (also, Scapes); a photographer on the hood of a moving vehicle filming running cheetahs (Mammals if the cheetahs are prominent).

Q: I have abstract images that I’d like to submit but they are often blurs with no indication that they are animals, plants or minerals. What category should I submit these in?

A: If the actual subject is a scape, submit the image in Scapes; if it is a mammal, bird or other wildlife, submit in Mammals, Birds or Macro/Micro/All Other Wildlife. The blurred style might also fit the Altered Reality category if the image is also transformed or enhanced. Many successful entries in that category make use of more than a single technique or filter.

Q: What happens if I submit on two occasions? Can I get 6 for the price of 5 at $50 each time?

A: You receive that bonus 6th image with every purchase of 5 images, no matter how many images you submit—as long as you enter them all at the same time. You only get the discounted price (6 for the price of 5) when groups of 6 are entered at the same time. You cannot enter 2 images and come back the next day and enter 4 images and get the 6 for the price of 5 discount.

Q: Where should I put my photograph of a bear in its Alaskan habitat?

A: If the bear is a small part of the image and the landscape is outstanding, put it in Scapes. Here’s why: The landscape sounds like it is important to the feel of the image, and since this competition receives a lot of bear images—lots and lots—you might do better in Scapes. Who could resist a spectacular landscape with the surprise of a bear in the image?

By the way, the judges have the option of moving an image from one category to another if it is clear to them that it does not belong in the category in which it was submitted. That doesn’t happen often, and re-assigning categories is not the responsibility of the judges; an improperly categorized image could just as easily be disqualified.

Q: Is it permissible to remove an offending leaf or piece of grass?

A: Since the rules state that “entries that do not accurately reflect the subject matter and scene as it appeared when captured with the camera must be designated as Photo Illustration,” when content is removed from an image, it must be designated as a photo illustration when you enter it. It’s okay to touch up dust spots or scratches (from film). It may or may not be possible for you to crop out the leaf or piece of grass, but that’s another option.

Q: As there are to be no identifying marks or embedded IDs, do I need to eliminate the IPTC info?

A: No need to eliminate IPTC info. Our only concern is that when judges view images there are not embedded photo credits or other identifying info. You’d be surprised how often that happens!

Q: How do I enter a photo that does not meet the minimum file size requirement, even at maximum quality?

In a small number of cases (black & white images, flat color images, etc) an image may compress to less than our minimum size requirement by nature of the image and the JPEG process.

For those special cases – save your image at the maximum quality and then rename it to include the phrase “allowsize”. For example, if your JPG file was named grand-canyon-np.jpg, rename it to grand-canyon-np-allowsize.jpg. This will bypass the minimum size check and allow the entry.

Conservation category

Get your conservation images ready to enter into the 2023 NANPA Showcase competition! NANPA added a sixth category to its annual members-only photo competition in 2020: conservation. Each entry in this category should illustrate a conservation issue—positive or negative—and the value of conserving a species, a place, an ecosystem, etc. for the benefit of wild and/or human communities.

A winning conservation photo could be taken by anyone in the right place at the right time who recognized the impact of the situation or someone who has worked a long time on a conservation story. A winning image will be a combination of a single image and the context of that image.

A Best in Show, First Runner-Up and two Judges’ Choice winners will be awarded from this category, the same as other Showcase categories. Because of its specific nature, a separate panel of judges will choose the winning images for this category. Cash prizes (in addition to other elements of the prize packages) are awarded for this category just as other categories in Showcase.

What is a conservation image?

A conservation image tells a story with an issue behind it. For the Showcase category, the story can be told by the image/caption combination.

The difference between a nature photograph and a conservation photograph is that a nature photograph is a lovely photo of a lovely flower. A conservation photograph is the same flower with a bulldozer in the background approaching it.

This category is just for single image entries. Each entry should be a single image with a caption of up to 500 characters, adding context to the conservation story it represents.

Ideally, there will be an element of impact beyond a typical beautiful photo. One shouldn’t have to read the caption to know there’s something different about the image, but the words can add a full understanding about what’s going on.

Entries in the conservation category cannot be altered or designated Photo Illustration.

Entries in the conservation category should have an additional dimension beyond images entered in other Showcase categories. The category is not for pretty pictures and captions that force a story.

In creating a conservation photo, elements cannot be altered, added or removed to affect the meaning or integrity of the scene.

Review the winning conservation images from the 2022 Showcase competition to help you form a vision of what constitutes a conservation photo.

Black-capped chickadee

Black-Capped Chickadee Stuck in Burdock, Bozeman, Montana, 2021 Showcase Judges' Choice, Conservation © Kyle Moon


Pelican Not "Living the High Life," Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 2021 Showcase Judges' Choice, Conservation © Jeremy Burnham


Processed Legs of a Bison Sit in a Cart after Being Slaughtered, Gardiner, Montana, 2021 Showcase Runner-Up, Conservation © Dawn Wilson Photography

Stump field

Still a Stump Field after 130 Years, Kingston Plains near Munising, Michigan, 2021 Showcase Top 100, Conservation © Tom Haxby

Western Snowy Plover

Threatened Western Snowy Plover Settles down Her Eggs, Monterey, California, 2021 Showcase Top 100, Conservation © Joshua Asel

Sea lion pup

Girls Petting a Frightened Newborn California Sea Lion Pup as It Tries to Escape, La Jolla, California, 2021 Showcase Top 100, Conservation © Jennifer Warner


Inquisitive Nestling Burrowing Owls, Mountain Home, Idaho, 2021 Showcase Top 250, Conservation © Jim Shane

Domestic cat

California Thrasher in the Mouth of a Domestic Cat, San Luis Obispo County, California, 2021 Showcase Best in Category, Conservation © Alice Cahill

Adjutant storks

Endangered Greater Adjutant Storks Atop Boragaon Landfill, Guwahati, India, 2021 Showcase Top 100, Conservation © Carla Rhodes

Manta ray

Condominiums Loom over Juvenile Manta Ray, Jupiter, Florida, 2021 Showcase Top 100, Conservation © Bryant Turffs

Lilac-breasted roller

Lilac-Breasted Roller Taking Flight, Ndutu Conservation Area, Tanzania © Christopher Ciccone


There's a Message in the Trash, Rio Salado Audubon Center, Phoenix, Arizona, 2021 Showcase Top 250, Conservation © Shane Morrison

natural area

The Last Preserve: Tiny Natural Area in the Midst of Warehouses and Industrial Development, London, England, 2021 Showcase Top 250, Conservation© Thomas Simpson


The Loss of Two Bushbuck, Maasai Mara, Kenya, 2021 Showcase Top 250, Conservation © Alison M. Jones


Tibetan Macaque at a Poor-Quality 'Rescue' Facility, China, 2021 Showcase Top 250, Conservation © Scott Trageser


Too Young to Drink: Tule Elk with Litter, Elk Meadow, Redwood National Park, California, 2021 Showcase Top 250, Conservation © Jane Scott Norris

blue whale fetus

Victim of a Shipstrike: Blue Whale Fetus Expelled from Mother, Bean Hollow State Beach, Pescadero, California, 2021 Showcase Top 250, Conservation © Jodi Frediani


Free-Roaming Domestic Cats Kill Billions of Birds and Mammals Each Year, Oceanside, California, 2021 Showcase Top 250, Conservation © Nicollet Overby


Wild Pelican Unable to Eat a Pleco, Jurong, Singapore, 2021 Showcase Top 250, Conservation © Robert Ferguson


Archenemies: The Manatee and the Motorboat, Crystal River, Florida, 2021 Showcase Top 250, Conservation © James Beissel

shark fins

A Shark Finning camp with Hundreds of Fins Laying out to Dry, Punta Hughes, Isla Magdalena, Mexico, 2021 Showcase Top 250, Conservation © Bill Klipp

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Black-capped chickadee
Stump field
Western Snowy Plover
Sea lion pup
Domestic cat
Adjutant storks
Manta ray
Lilac-breasted roller
natural area
blue whale fetus
shark fins
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Tips for Conservation entries

  1. Write a caption that has impact and draws attention, whether it’s a positive or negative conservation story.
  2. An image shouldn’t be forced into the category with a word-smithed caption. Caption thoughtfully, with respect for the visible content of the photo.
  3. An image should be well-captured for the strongest impact.
  4. Judges would like to see a layered shot with immediate impact. A conservation story is usually a series of images, but for a single image to be effective, it is layered and invites the viewer into the story.
  5. Conservation images can be hard photos that make the viewer upset, but they can also be positive, constructive or simply informative. The most important criterion is impact.
  6. Consider subjects big and small that reflect issues of concern. They can be subtle and still have impact illustrating a scene before, during or after a conservation issue.
  7. Conservation images aren’t just the gut-punch stories. Sometimes we become desensitized to those and simply turn away.
  8. A technically lacking image of an impactful situation may not score well enough to win. All of the Showcase criteria will be considered in judging: creativity, originality, impact and photographic skill.
  9. People can be represented in the photo as both humans and wildlife are affected by conservation stories either directly or indirectly.

For additional information about Showcase, contact the Showcase Coordinator at

Contest Secrets

Get more tips and contest insights—that apply to NANPA’s Showcase as well as other photo competitions—in our free handbook, Contest Secrets: What to know before you enter a photo.