Photo Contest Rules and Informatiion

NEW Deadline to Enter—July 15, 2018

Monarchs and Hummingbird

The Wild Ones Annual Photo Contest is the perfect chance for you to show off your creativity and photographic talents while inviting us in for a look at your unique view of native plants and natural landscaping.

You don’t have to be a professional photographer, you don’t have to have a fancy camera, and you don’t even have to be an expert on native plants. All you must do is follow the rules and suggestions listed below, snap some good shots, and send in your entries. 

Contest Rules

Native Plant Definition
A native plant species is one that occurs naturally in a region, ecosystem and/or habitat, and was present prior to European settlement.

Only Wild Ones members and employees of Wild Ones Business members, whose membership is current during this contest, are eligible. Household membership includes everyone who lives within the same household, including children up to the age of 18.

Karner butterfly on butterfly milkweed. Photo by George Sydlowski, 2014

Karner butterfly on butterfly milkweed. Photo by George Sydlowski, 2014

Members of the photo contest committee, Wild Ones staff, photo judges and members of their households may not enter the contest.

Wild Ones must receive your entries no later than 8 p.m. CDT, July 15th of this year. No exceptions. You will receive acknowledgment of your submissions.

Entry Form
Each photo entry must be accompanied by an entry form. Before filling out the entry form, be sure you have read this page in its entirety. It is HIGHLY recommended that you use a Google Chrome browser. Other browsers have caused some entries to not be delivered. 
Photo Contest Entry Form

Submission Format
Upload all entries, in digital format, with the entry form, to Wild Ones using the link provided in the entry form.

  • Acceptable file formats are JPG, JPEG, TIF or TIFF.
  • All digital files must be 10 megabytes or smaller
  • Photos must be sized to 1,600 pixels wide or tall.
  • Please rename your digital file to include the title of the picture and the name you used on the entry form. Example: Monarchs at Play-Doe.jpg

The subject of all entries must be native plant species, native species landscapes, or native plant ecology found in the USA or Canada. Be sure the plants are true natives and native to where the photo was taken. A photo of a nativar, hybrid or cultivar of a native plant as the main subject is not acceptable.


  • Photo entries must have been taken by the contest entrant.
  • Each qualified entrant may enter no more than two entries per category, and no more than four entries in total.
  • Photo entries that do not conform to the contest categories and rules will be disqualified.
  • Photo entries must not have been entered in any previous Wild Ones Photo Contest and must not have been published as a winner in any other photo contest.
  • Photo entries must have been taken within three years of the current year’s contest.
  • A photo montage will be considered a single entry, and all images in the montage must fit into one of the categories and collectively portray a single theme. Before and after images of native plant landscaping could be considered for montage entries.

Questions and Clarifications
E-mail any questions to:

Photo Contest Entry Form

Contest Categories

Subject of the photo must be a plant species native to the United States or Canada and native to the area in which the photo was taken. Plant species include forbs, grasses, vines, ferns, trees and shrubs; any native plant from any ecoregion.

Spyder-wort photographed by Ron Cress.

Spyder-wort photographed by Ron Cress.

Subject of the photo must feature a natural environment such as prairies, woodlands, savannas, or wetlands made up of native plant species. Photo may include landscaping amenities such as stone walls and sculptures, and wildlife as part of the natural landscape, but these objects should not be the central focus of the photo. Emphasis must be on the natural landscape.

Pollinators (Insects, Butterflies, Bats or Birds)
Subject of the photo must be a pollinator and must feature native plants. The pollinator and native plant must be native to the United States or Canada. If the pollinator is on a plant, the plant must be a native species.

Natural Landscapes
Subject of the photo must feature native plants in natural landscapes around commercial buildings and facilities, or in elements of non-residential or residential developments. Examples might include businesses, shopping areas, non-profit facilities, or private residences that are landscaped using native plants. Emphasis must be on the natural landscaping but include some element of a man-made structure.

Child or Children
Subject of the photo must must focus on children, up to 18 years of age, exploring the natural environment such as prairies, woodlands, savannas, or wetlands made up of native plant species. You must have permission from a parent or guardian of the child or children in your photo. You may be required to provide written authorization.

Wild Ones Mission-Related Projects

Students planting a native plant garden.

Subject of the photo must represent a Wild Ones Chapter mission-related project, e.g., community native plant gardens, landscaping assistance for nonprofit organizations,  eradication of invasive species in public spaces, restoring the ecology, providing native plant education, etc. as long as it is part of Wild Ones Chapter sponsored event. The photo must contain native plants.

Photos by Kids
Subject of the photo must fit into one of the listed categories, and be taken by a child  under 18 years of age. Regardless of the contest category, these photos will be judged as part of the kid’s category. Children can enter up to four photos, but no more than two entries from any of the listed contest categories. For example, a child might enter two photos into the Flora category, one photo into the Natural Landscaping category, and one photo into the Scenery category.

Photo Contest Entry Form


Prior to judging, photos will be “rules-validated” by the photo contest committee.

Entries will be judged by two accomplished photographers, Michael R. Jeffords and his wife, Susan L. Post. Jeffords is a retired entomologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey, Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois. He has been studying and photographing the Illinois landscape for 40+ years. He has judged previous Wild Ones photo contests. Post is a retired field biologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey. She has been studying, photographing and writing about the Illinois landscape and his organisms for 30+ years. Together they co-authored, with James R Wiker, the field guide, Butterflies of Illinois.

Judging Criteria

Native to the Area
Are you sure the subject of your photo is a true native to the area where the photo was taken? If a plant is not native to your area, even if you take a photo of it growing in your yard, the photo will not be acceptable.

The goal of the contest is to gather beautiful digital images of native plants, natural landscapes and related subjects in their natural state. Photos that have been altered beyond reasonable optimization, such as cropping, exposure, contrast, and color adjustments, will be disqualified. However, high dynamic range (HDR) images that are made of multiple exposures to increase tonal range or focus stacking where multiple images are combined into a single image to increase depth of field, are acceptable. The judging committee reserves the right to determine if images meet these criteria.

Does your photo entry conform to the category? Considering the category descriptions, does the photo include and emphasize the required subjects?

Be sure that the composition of your photo is interesting enough to attract attention and show off the subject of the photo.

If your entry is a color photo, be sure that the colors look true to life without any distracting color cast. Unless you deliberately shot the photo for a certain effect, it’s best that the photo has a normal color balance.

Creativity Matters
Keep in mind that creativity is important. A straight-ahead, perfectly exposed, and tack-sharp photo of a coneflower may display the flower very well for identification purposes – but another photo of the same coneflower taken from a different angle, with different lighting, and maybe with the background blurred out, may show the flower “in a new light.” And it’s this new light that photo contest judges often look for and reward.

Is your photo appropriately sharp and in focus? It’s not necessary (or even possible or desirable sometimes) for every part of every photo to be sharp and in focus but be sure that the parts of your photos that should be sharp are sharp and in focus.

Is your photo properly exposed? Is there detail in the highlights and the shadow areas? Is it too dark or too light? Unless you deliberately shot the photo for a certain effect, it’s best that the photo has a normal balance of light, dark, and contrast.

Wild Ones Mission
Your entries must represent subject matter that follows the mission of Wild Ones. If the subject of your photo is an insect, be sure that the photo also includes a reasonable amount of emphasis on native plants or natural landscaping. 

Selection of Winners

  • The judges will determine a first-, second-, and third-place winner in each category.
  • The photos will be displayed in the Wild Ones Members-Only website after the judging. Members will be invited to vote for their favorite photo to determine the People’s Choice Award.
  • Winners will receive award ribbons; there may be additional award prizes, depending on sponsors.
  • Winning entries will be displayed as photo contest winners on the Wild Ones website and published in the Wild Ones Journal. Winner’s name and the title of their photo will accompany the photo.
  • Winners will be notified by e-mail, no later than July 31 of the contest year, with a hard-copy mailing of the appropriate ribbon and/or any additional award to follow.

Photo Contest Entry Form

Copyright and Wild Ones’ Rights

By entering the contest, you certify that there are no conflicting claims against your copyright and that nothing related to your entry violates or infringes upon another person’s copyright. By entering the contest, you agree that Wild Ones may use your photos in Wild Ones publications, promotional materials, presentations, and on the Wild Ones websites. Further, you agree that Wild Ones may also use your entries in conjunction with fulfilling its partnership obligations with other environmental organizations. You retain copyright and all other rights related to your photographs.

By entering this contest, you agree to release and hold harmless Wild Ones and its employees, officers, affiliates, agents, and advertising, design and promotional agencies from any and all damages, injuries, claims, causes of actions, or losses of any kind resulting from your participation in this contest, including infringement of intellectual property rights. Wild Ones and its employees, officers, affiliates, agents, and advertising, design and promotional agencies assume no responsibility or liability for any damages, injuries, claims, causes of actions, or losses of any kind arising in whole or in part from this contest.