10th BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition Opens

10th BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition Opens


San Francisco, CA—Submission to the California Academy of Sciences’ 2023 BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition is now open until March 1, 2023. Celebrating its tenth anniversary, the competition focuses a visual lens on the extraordinary wonders of the natural world. It also highlights the importance of striving for a healthier planet.

Winners of this year’s BigPicture competition will receive a cash prize. They will also have their photographs featured in an exhibit located on the public floor of the Academy’s iconic museum in Golden Gate Park. The exhibition is open until April 23, 2023.

Paid image submissions will be accepted online until March 1, 2023. Entry fees are $15 for the photo story category (6–8 images) and $25 for up to 10 individual image submissions in any category. However, there is an early bird discount of 20% off (no code needed) until January 16, 2023.

Last year’s BigPicture competition received more than 7,000 submissions from photographers representing 65 countries. The grand prize image, Bee Balling was taken by photographer Karine Aigner from Washington, DC. The photo shows a “mating ball” of male cactus bees. By capturing this rarely seen moment at ground level, Aigner elevates these crucial but often overlooked native pollinators.

© Karine Aigner, Bee Balling

BigPicture has established a reputation within the photography community. In fact, it received one of just a handful of recommendations from the Best Photography Contests and Prizes in 2022 by Format, a magazine for photographers and creatives.

The competition was also named one of the Best 15+ Photography Contests You Should Enter in 2021–2022 by Pixpa, an online portfolio service for photographers. Moreover, it was included in My Modern Met’s list of 30+ Best Photography Competitions to Elevate Your Craft.

BigPicture Natural World Photo Competition Details

Again this year, award-winning wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas will chair the competition’s panel of judges. She is joined by international photo editor Sophie Stafford as well as award-winning nature and conservation photographers and filmmakers Diana Caballero Alvarado, Gunjan Menon, Susan Middleton, Cristina Mittermeier and Ami Vitale.

“Attracting submissions from exceptional photographers from around the world, the competition again seeks stunning nature, wildlife, and conservation images,” stated the organization. “It is open to all photographers with the ability to tell evocative, captivating stories from the natural world through their pictures.”

This year, the competition includes the new A Matter of Time photo story category. This category focuses on images that show changes through time at the variety of scales that humans perceive on this planet.

Contest Prizes & Categories

The academy will honor the grand prize and first place category winners and their works at an awards ceremony. They will announce details at a later date. What’s more, awards include a total of $12,000 in cash prizes. Winning images will also display in the BigPicture photography exhibit at the academy opening in fall 2023.  BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition-California-Academy-Sciences-Logo

 Following are details regarding the contest’s categories.

 Art of Nature

Abstract expressions of nature and/or science. Life photographed out in nature or under the microscope. Images may include unusual close-ups, angles, patterns, motion or perspectives, black-and-white photography as well as images created using scientific imaging tools. Artistic effects should not be the result of digital manipulations.

Aquatic Life

Photos of animals including mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates that spend the majority of their time in water. This category also includes polar bears. 

Landscapes, Waterscapes, & Flora

Captivating images of wild places with a unique perspective. They can range from expansive landscape vistas of forests, deserts and mountains to the microhabitats of plants and other flora. Images may include water environments of oceans, lakes as well as rivers. Images may be taken above or under water, including waves, tide pools and other water scenes.

Winged Life

Birds or flying insects photographed anywhere in the world—in flight, perched or in action. This category also includes flightless birds such as penguins and ostriches.

Terrestrial Wildlife

Animals photographed anywhere in the world. Images may include land-based mammals, reptiles, amphibians as well as non-flying insects, whether they live in trees or on land.


Images that depict the efforts of scientists, conservationists and others working to sustain life on Earth. The images may also focus on the complex relationship between humans and nature. Images should illustrate the impacts of humans on the environment in either positive or negative stories.

2023 Photo Story: A Matter of Time

This category requires a 6–8 image submission with captions.

  • How quickly they grow: The blossoming of plant and animal families.
  • How slowly and steadily we recover: Animal rescues and reintroductions; sanctuary restorations.
  • The discovery of a new species and the reminder of an extinct one.
  • Before and after: The fire, the flood, regeneration.
  • Migrations, seasons and life cycles come and go: what can be captured in photographs?