The Nature photography recognizes a wide range of photography displaying natural elements such as landscapes, wildlife, plants, natural phenomena and close-ups of natural scenes.
All images used in applying NPS Distinctions must meet the definition below, which has been used by the Photographic Society of America (PSA), the International Federation of Photographic Art (FIAP) and the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) for Nature and Wildlife categories in the competitions and exhibitions that they approve from 1 January 2015.
- 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 must 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 greyscale monochrome.
- Infrared images, either direct-captures or derivations, are not allowed.
- The Nature definition allows images of landscapes and geologic formations. Landscapes; rock structures and landforms resulting from natural weathering and erosion; seascapes, icebergs and waves; rivers, lakes and waterfalls; volcanoes, lava, boiling mud pools and geysers; minerals and naturally formed crystals are acceptable.
- 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 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 mammals, 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.