NBP Judging Process

Judging is in progress for the 2024 NBP International Awards competition. See below to learn about this year's Judging Panel and the NBP Judging Process.

We are now requesting hi-res, raws, and full captions and will continue through July. Entrants, please let us know if you will be traveling. Results will be emailed to everyone who entered when announcements are ready by the end of summer.

The 2024 Nature's Best Backyards and National Parks Photo Contests are open!

Get all the details about prizes, how to enter, dates, and ethical photography rules on the Entry Guidelines PDFs:

Meet the 2024 NBP Awards Judging Panel

The distinguished panel of judges for this year's photo competition includes accomplished wildlife photographers, leading conservation photojournalists, highly regarded video specialists, and wildlife photography educators. The panel represents a deep understanding of natural history and progressive conservation strategies, photographic expertise, technical evaluation skills, a shared passion for wildlife and wild lands, and the highest ethics in their respective fields.

In addition to this seasoned judging team, we have added a new group of Nature's Best Ambassadors who are outstanding nature photographers in their 20s and have all won awards for their early talents in nature photography and films. We are looking forward to their perspectives on image selections.

NBP International Awards 2024 Judging Panel, from top left: Steve Freligh, Karine Aigner, Charles Poe, Susan McConnell, Daisy Gilardini, David Rosenzweig. The NBP Ambassadors: Meline Ellwanger, Isaac Spotts, Sadie Hine, Zander Galli, Carolina Fraser.

Stephen Freligh, Contest Chair, Nature’s Best Photography, Cofounder and President. With a background as a wildlife biologist, researcher, and photo journalist, Steve has spent the last 40+ years of his career connecting people with nature through visually-directed and conservation motivated multimedia programs. Beyond assisting in the selection of images published in the award-winning Nature’s Best Photography magazine coming up on its 30-year anniversary, Freligh’s past work includes Director of Photography for the National Wildlife Federation, along with photo research, editing, and publishing projects with the African Wildlife Foundation, Smithsonian Channel, Discovery Channel, National Geographic, Panasonic Lumix, Nikon, Canon, Epson, Sony, and more. Freligh’s work also included a 20-year exhibition alliance with the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. Learn more on About Us. Connect with Steve on Facebook: @SteveFreligh

Karine Aigner, Freelance Photographer, Conservation Photojournalist, Photo Editor. Raised in Saudi Arabia, Karine Aigner’s passion for outdoor adventure led her to focus on visual stories of animals, their relationships to humans, and to their environment. Karine leads tours and workshops around the world, using the camera as a tool to teach awareness and conservation. For 9 years, she was the Senior picture editor for National Geographic Kids magazine. In 2022, she won the Grand Prize in the U.K.-based Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. Learn more at karineaigner.com and follow her on Instagram: @kaigner

Daisy Gilardini, former Nature’s Best Grand Prize Winner, Author, Conservation Photographer. An award-winning conservation photographer who specializes in the Polar Regions, Daisy Gilardini has a particular emphasis on Antarctic wildlife and North American bears. Originally from Switzerland and now based in Vancouver, she fell in love with Antarctica during her first trip there in 1997. Since then, she has joined more than 90 expeditions to Antarctica and the Arctic over the past 25 years. Learn more at daisygilardini.com and follow her on IG: @daisygilardini and FB: @Daisy Gilardini Photography

Charles Poe, Media Exec Parks Channel, Filmmaker, AR/VR Producer. Charles Poe is an Emmy- and Peabody-winning filmmaker whose work has appeared on National Geographic, Smithsonian, and Discovery. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of the Parks Channel, a new destination for content about America's Best Idea. A founding executive of Smithsonian Channel, he oversaw storytelling and production for programming that ranged from history and science to pop culture and natural history – including award-winning AR/VR experiences. Learn more about Charles on linkedin.com/in/charlesapoe and theparkschannel.com

Susan K McConnell, PhD, Stanford University Professor of Biology, Neuroscientist, Wildlife Photographer. In addition to a career in neurobiology research and teaching, McConnell is an accomplished wildlife photographer. Her photos tell stories about animal behavior, especially African elephants and the issues they face, such as poaching and the ivory trade. Since joining Stanford’s faculty in 1989, she has taught Conservation Photography both in the classroom and overseas, and she developed a capstone course in which life-science students use written communication and artistic expression to create projects combining art and science. Learn more: susankcconnell.com and follow her on IG: @susankmcconnell and FB: @susan.mcconnell

David Rosenzweig, Photographer, Conservationist; former Nature’s Best Youth Photographer of the Year; Director of Nature’s Best Ambassador team; Chief of Staff, Impact Investing in Africa. The son of a South African immigrant, Rosenzweig discovered his passion for African wildlife and photography on a trip to Zambia at age 15. His focus on wildlife and conservation photography in sub-Saharan Africa led him to work with rhino and big cat organizations to protect some of Africa's most endangered species. David is also deeply interested in raising the African narrative to the global stage. Now working as a strategist with experience in developing operating models, managing teams, and implementing products to effectively deliver on company-wide objectives. Learn more: davidrphotos.com and follow on IG: @davidrphoto

NBP Ambassadors: Learn more about this team of award-winning photographers including Isaac Spotts, Meline Ellwanger, Sadie Hine, Zander Galli, and Carolina Fraser.

NBP Awards Judging Process

There are three rounds of judging. To ensure fairness, our judges cannot see the photographers’ names in relation to images during the initial review. This is referred to as “blind judging.” In the NBP Judging Lightbox, the Judges will only see the photo and the photographer’s notes (story about the shot, if added). Judges review and rank each image. All Judges' votes are compiled into a report where the Judges' votes are tallied.

Photographers making it through the initial round are called “Semifinalists." The Nature’s Best contest manager will email photographers a "Hi-res Request" letter with instructions on how and when they need to send us their selected images and more detailed captions for the second round of review.

Semifinalists will be asked to supply the following:

  • High resolution TIFF files and un-altered RAWs or original JPEGs
  • Complete caption with title, species, location, and the story behind the shot
  • Camera specifications including lenses, accessories, tripod, and head
  • Confirmation that the subject has NOT been baited, lured, staged, or taken in a controlled situation, and follows all rules as stated in the Ethics portion of the entry guidelines.
  • IMPORTANT NOTE: We may disqualify a photographer’s work if they fail to comply with contest rules and/or fail to supply requested materials on time.

Round One: Preliminary Review

During initial review, images that stand out move to the next round. The Contest Judges are looking for:

  • Good composition
  • Overall Appeal
  • Artistic Merit
  • Originality
  • Good representation of the category
  • Diversity of photo subject

At this time, some images are eliminated due to factors such as:

  • Main subject out of focus
  • Blown-out highlights
  • Poor composition
  • Poor exposure

Round Two: Semifinal Review

Photos moved to this round merit a closer look. The Judges now also consider:

  • Technical excellence
  • The story behind the shot

Images with similar subject matter compete with one another in this round. The Judges will be looking for:

  • Well-balanced compositions
  • Background does not distract from the main subject
  • Primary subject is not cut off at the edge of frame, unless it is a powerful, intentional crop
  • New perspectives of familiar topics
  • Sharp focus or blurred by intention
  • Compared to raw image, image has not been over-processed

Images passed through the second round review are selected for the final round. Each Semifinalist passing the 2nd round, is now under consideration as a category Winner or as a Highly Honored finalist. The images will be reviewed in high resolution by the Nature’s Best photo team of specialists, and the Judges will carefully consider the finalists.

  • Each high resolution file will be examined in great detail and compared to the original file
  • Each "Story Behind the Shot" will be read and considered
  • Each photographer must declare compliance to the Ethics guidelines

Round Three: Final Selection

This is the most difficult round and most time-consuming. With so many images artistically qualified, the winners will be chosen. The Judges will now:

  • Review the finalists determined to be of excellent quality
  • Assess which images will make an outstanding collection together, showing a variety of species, behaviors, and locations
  • Ultimately, the Judges will reach agreement on the finalists
  • All photographers entering the contest will be contacted via email when final decisions are made

GOOD LUCK TO ALL. We look forward to seeing your work!