National Wildlife's Photographer Guidelines

03-09-2016 // NW Staff

National Wildlife Name Plate

Photographer’s Guidelines
National Wildlife Federation, 11100 Wildlife Center Drive, Reston, VA 20190


National Wildlife® is an award-winning, bimonthly magazine known for high-quality photography and articles covering a broad range of issues related to wildlife and habitat conservation worldwide. It is published by the National Wildlife Federation, one of the oldest and largest non-profit, conservation and education organizations in the United States. Circulation ranges between 450,000 and 500,000.


Wildlife Photography Ethics and Disclosure

The editors of National Wildlife® magazine rely on high-quality images of wildlife from both professional and outstanding amateur photographers. We seek images obtained in the wild under natural conditions and in an ethical manner that places the welfare of wildlife above the photographer’s desire to obtain an image. Photographers should make every effort to avoid any action that might interfere with natural wildlife behavior or habituate wild animals to humans. The editors must know the circumstances of how a photograph was obtained so they can make an informed judgment about publication and disclosure in captioning.

We appreciate and value the time, effort and skill necessary to obtain high-quality wildlife photographs in the field. We are also concerned by the use of wildlife photographs obtained at commercial game farms where captive animals are placed in ‘natural’ settings and enticed to ‘pose’ for photographs. While expedient and often compelling, such photographs devalue the work of photographers who take the time to obtain images of truly wild animals in the wild. Those are the images we wish to publish and celebrate. 

Upon submitting a photograph, photographers must therefore disclose:

  1. Captive or controlled conditions: Disclose whether the photographed animal was captive in any kind of enclosed, fenced or controlled space, no matter how large. Though we prefer images made in the wild, we will occasionally accept images made at reputable wildlife reserves, research facilities, zoos, aquaria, or rehabilitation centers. Such information should be included in the metadata or in an email upon submission.
  2. Baiting: Disclose whether any baiting of any kind was used to attract an animal for purposes of obtaining the photograph, including carcass placement or use of scents or vocal recordings. The editors will not accept images of raptors or predators obtained by baiting with lures such as live or dead mice.
  3. Equipment: Disclose whether any special equipment, such as a camera trap or drone, was used. The use of drones in national parks is currently prohibited.
  4. Alteration: Disclose whether any photo alteration of any kind was made to the original image, including minor retouching or any kind of manipulation.



Photographers may only submit images as digital files via email to We are not able to respond to all emails, but if we see potential for your work as suitable for publication in the magazine, we will get in touch and/or invite you to submit more images. Please note: NWF is not liable for unsolicited slides, prints or disks sent by contributors. Such material will not be returned.

Digital Specifications:

  • We prefer the RAW file or the original, unedited digital file of the image, which gives us the best chance to produce the highest quality image for publication. National Wildlife editors work with our prepress vendor to ensure that images will be of the highest quality when they appear in print.
  • File names should include (in this order): last name + one/two word subject + image number (ex: smith_blackbear_01.jpg).
  • Please include your complete name, address and email address in the metadata (“File Info” in Photoshop). Also include equipment and necessary disclosures as noted above.
  • Please do not send “read only” files or copies.

Email Specifications:

  • All unsolicited submissions should be sent to
  • Submissions should contain no more than 20 images.
  • Accompanying story ideas or manuscripts must be attached as Microsoft Word or compatible documents; the more specific you are in your query, the better we will be able to judge the merits of your idea and material.
  • Include detailed caption information, preferably saved in the metadata of the images (“File Info” in Photoshop). Specify species, location, date, behavior, identity of people and landscapes, animals’ wild or captive status, and any controlled conditions or baiting.

Via Online Lightbox, File-Storage Service or FTP Site:  

  • Please email URL of Lightbox, file-storage service (Google drive or Dropbox) or FTP site, including usernames and passwords if necessary, to

Digital tips:

Optimize images (digital capture or scanned) for brightness, color, sharpness, etc., but be careful not to oversaturate or over-sharpen an image, and always disclose any such alterations.


Publication and Payment

We will contact photographers about images in which we have interest, however, we cannot always respond to those who submit photographs we cannot use. We receive a huge number of images, and while we hope to review all images as quickly as possible, the volume of work to produce the magazine may lead to delays. We appreciate your patience. If images or manuscripts are deemed suitable for publication, we will discuss a potential publication date. In some cases we may hold materials for future consideration. Holding such materials does not automatically constitute an acceptance or agreement to publish.   

Payment for the use of photographs is based on one-time rights with limited promotional use. Rates are based on size and placement and are competitive with other national magazines. We keep a hi-res scan of all published images for consideration by NWF for other uses. Any such uses will only be with the photographers’ permission and payment.

National Wildlife® magazine welcomes ongoing relationships with top-tier, professional wildlife and nature photographers and agencies that represent them and their work. We also welcome submissions from highly skilled amateur photographers. We no longer send out general want lists, but if we are familiar with a photographer’s work, we may contact him or her requesting images for a particular story. We also rely on photographs submitted to our annual photo contest, and do some photo research online at photographers’ and agencies’ websites.

Thank you for your interest in National Wildlife® magazine. We look forward to seeing your work and appreciate your efforts to celebrate and conserve wildlife through photography.

To download a copy of these guidelines please click here.


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