Natural History Photography - Updated Guidelines & Criteria

07 November 2016

Region: Headquarters

The Natural History category recognises all branches of natural history, including zoology, botany and meteorology.

All applications for the Associate and Fellowship Distinctions of The Society will be assessed against the criteria set out in the Associate and Fellowship outline document. The following criteria are in addition to, not instead of, those criteria.

Digital manipulation by software such as Photoshop is allowed provided the Natural  History integrity (authenticity)  is not affected, removal of minor distractions or blemishes are allowed. After the assessment applicants may be contacted to verify the authenticity of the original image file.

• Your submission should show clear evidence of a genuine knowledge and understanding of your subject.

• The images should accurately depict the subject.

• Each image in your submission must be correctly identified and listed in addition to your statement of intent.

• The listing should be in order of presentation and include both common and scientific names where appropriate.

• The welfare of the subject must come before photography and any action by the photographer or third party that puts the welfare of the subject at risk is unacceptable

• In general, subjects should be free and unrestricted, in a natural or adopted habitat. Captive specimens or species are generally not acceptable. It is recognised that this will not be the case in all disciplines and should your portfolio contain images taken under controlled conditions you are required to contact the Distinctions department via e-mail

The use of a limited number of images captured by the use of focus stacking will be permissible in a Natural History application. However, if focus stacking is used for images that make up a complete, or substantial part of, an application, it should be submitted in the Applied category.

In case of close-ups and extreme close-ups - macrophotographs and photomicrographs (with focus stacking or without) final image magnification must be listed in addition to your statement of intent and species list The applicant clearly needs to indicate with an arrow to show the right way up for the print presentation.

Assessment of your application will include whether it meets the criteria set out in your statement of intent, and whether the techniques used are appropriate and suitably controlled.

Important information on Commercial or third party set ups

  • Associate applications can have a maximum of four images taken in commercially/ third party set up conditions. These images must be listed on the species list.
  • Fellowship applications must not include any commercially/ third party set up images.

Commercial/ third party set ups are deemed to be those where any wildlife subject is baited, trapped, lured or otherwise encouraged to a specific area by someone other than the photographer.

Field craft is an important element of natural history photography and it is therefore desirable for the images in an application to wholly reflect the photographers own work and effort.

Failing to declare images that are commercial/third party set ups, will result is your application being rejected.

Image by; Ann Healey ARPS

Comments (3)

16 August 2017

Sounds very reasonable. Suprised that Associate panels can include four such images - have seen so many kingfisher et al shots from Scotland!

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10 July 2017

I totally agree Julie, I have witnessed photographers claiming their image was truly natural when in fact you can see the insect with glue marks holding them on the flower or leaf.

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23 January 2017

This is an excellent update, it's realistic and well thought through. I'm absolutely delighted that field craft is being given the merit it deserves above commercial/third party set ups. As a mainly wildlife photographer I was thinking about leaving the RPS because the previous guidelines were unjust to wildlife and the photographer, with these new guidelines I'll remain an RPS member. Thank you to all concerned in drawing up these well considered Natural History Guidelines. Yours truly, Julie Mullings

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