PSA Nature Photography Definition

Nature photography is restricted to the use of the photographic process to depict all branches of natural history, except anthropology and archeology, in such a fashion that a well-informed person will be able to identify the subject material and certify its honest presentation. The story telling value of a photograph must be weighed more than the pictorial quality while maintaining high technical quality. Human elements shall not be present, except where those human elements are integral parts of the nature story such as nature subjects, like barn owls or storks, adapted to an environment modified by humans, or where those human elements are in situations depicting natural forces, like hurricanes or tidal waves. Scientific bands, scientific tags or radio collars on wild animals are permissible. Photographs of human created hybrid plants, cultivated plants, feral animals, domestic animals, or mounted specimens are ineligible, as is any form of manipulation that alters the truth of the photographic statement.

No techniques that add, relocate, replace, or remove pictorial elements except by cropping are permitted. Techniques that enhance the presentation of the photograph without changing the nature story or the pictorial content, or without altering the content of the original scene, are permitted including HDR, focus stacking and dodging/burning.Techniques that remove elements added by the camera, such as dust spots, digital noise,and film scratches, are allowed. Stitched images are not permitted. All allowed adjustments must appear natural. Color images can be converted to gray-scale monochrome. Infrared images, either direct-captures or derivations, are not allowed. Images used in Nature Photography competitions may be divided in two classes: Nature and Wildlife. Images entered in Nature sections meeting the Nature Photography Definition above can have landscapes, geologic formations, weather phenomena, and extant organisms as the primary subject matter. This includes images taken with the subjects in controlled conditions, such as zoos, game farms, botanical gardens, aquariums and any enclosure where the subjects are totally dependent on man for food.

Images entered in Wildlife sections meeting the Nature Photography Definition above are further defined as one or more extant zoological or botanical organisms free and unrestrained in a natural or adopted habitat. Landscapes, geologic formations,photographs of zoo or game farm animals, or of any extant zoological or botanical species taken under controlled conditions are not eligible in Wildlife sections. Wildlife is not limited to animals, birds and insects. Marine subjects and botanical subjects (including fungi and algae) taken in the wild are suitable wildlife subjects, as are carcasses of extant species. Wildlife images may be entered in Nature sections of Exhibitions.

A photographer may perform any enhancements and modifications that improve the presentation of the image to make it more closely represent the original scene photographed but that does not change the truth of the original nature story. Cropping and horizontal flipping (equivalent to reversing a slide) are acceptable modifications. Flipping well know scenics can be risky. Removing spots due to dust on your sensors is allowed. Removing rounded slide mount corners on scanned images is allowed. Adding elements to your images, removing pictorial elements from your image other than by cropping, combining pictorial elements from separate images or rearranging and/or cloning and/or copying elements in your image are not acceptable and can lead to disqualification of your image in the competition. HDR techniques and focus stacking techniques such as Helicon Focus techniques are techniques that enhance the presentation without changing the pictorial content and considered allowable techniques. Please note that all adjustments must still look natural. Just because a technique is legitimate does not guarantee the image it was used on will get a good score.

Please note that “pictorial quality” is not the same as technical quality. Technical quality is still an important criteria for evaluation and judging of images.

Images are not required to meet the requirements of the PSA Definition of Wildlife. Zoo shots and Game Farm shots are eligible provided the artificial habitat is not apparent in the image. Since titles will be read, I recommend you do not advertise the fact something was taken at a zoo or other controlled situation as part of the title. For informational purposes only, here is the revised Wildlife Definition:

Authentic wildlife is defined as one or more organisms, living free and unrestrained in a natural or adopted habitat. Therefore landscapes, photographs of zoo animals, game farm animals, or any living subject taken under controlled conditions are not eligible for Wildlife competitions.”

The revisions here were more of a clarification nature and not a change in what was allowed or not allowed in Wildlife categories.