We accept high-quality digital
photos of plants, animals and other natural subjects
that are accurately identified by scientific name, and that
have some value for scientists, students and others interested
in biology, natural history and biodiversity.
See also: Becoming a Contributing Photographer and
Photographers' Frequently Asked Questions
- Photos must have some value for CalPhotos users
- Photo quality and content must be high
- Plants and animals must be accurately identified
- Photos must be submitted on our website and will be publicly available
- Types of photographs we cannot accept
CalPhotos serves more than 1 million images a day to website visitors,
who include nature enthusiasts, children learning about animals and
plants in their classrooms; graduate students and university
professors using photos for classroom presentations, environmental
educators, parks, museums, zoos, conservation organizations,
publishers, and people simply browsing to see beautiful photos. See Who Uses CalPhotos? for a full description of the
people who use CalPhotos.
In order to have value for CalPhotos users, photographs should depict plants,
animals, habitats, and other subjects of interest to people
who want to learn more about natural history. Photos should be
sharp and clear, and the organism in the photo should not be obscured by
copyright symbols, text, or other watermarks.
See also: Types of photographs we cannot accept
Most people who visit CalPhotos are interested in a particular
species of plant or animal, and want to browse photos by
scientific name. It is useful to view more than one
photo of a species, taken at different times and places, and
showing different characters. However, we ask that photographers
not submit multiple photos of the
same subject, taken from the same angle on the same day. These are
not useful to our users.
We also prefer to receive photos of species that are
not already represented in the database, or
photos showing variations or specific characters not visible in other photos.
Before uploading new photos, please check existing photos to see if your
contribution will add value for CalPhotos users.
Habitat and Location
Many of our users are scientists and
researchers in the natural sciences. Therefore, we encourage
photos of subjects
that were taken in their natural habitat. We also encourage as much
information about the location as possible, though for rare and endangered plants
and animals we suggest you use a broad location description such as the county
or other large region. Habitat photos can be linked by species name to photos
of plants and animals that are found in that habitat.
Photos of Special Interest
Some of the projects and organizations that link to the CalPhotos database
have a special interest in receiving particular types of photos.
For example, AmphibiaWeb
is interested in worldwide amphibian species not yet represented
(see this list for
amphibian photos that we have already). Many of our users are interested in
California flora, so photos of unrepresented plants are especially welcome.
Most of the photographers who have contributed to CalPhotos are not
professional photographers. However, we do try to make sure that the quality of images
submitted to the database is good enough for users to see the detail of plants
and animals in the photograph, and that photos have some value for our scientific
users. Here are the guidelines we use for determining quality and content:
- Photos should be in focus so that detail can be seen
- Photos from a good-quality digital camera or scanned slides are strongly preferred.
Scanned negatives are acceptable. Images from newer, good quality cell phone cameras are acceptable.
Scanned prints or camcorder photos are discouraged.
- Obvious color adjustment or enhancement is discouraged
- Scientific value is preferred over artistic value
In addition to providing the image itself, it is also very important that you provide
descriptive information about the photo,
including the date and location of the photo, scientific names
for the plant or animal, your comments about the photo, and other
You will need at least a scientific name if it is a photo of a plant or animal,
the year the photo was taken, and the location of the photo.
The more information you can provide about your photo, the more
useful it is to digital library visitors.
For a detailed list of all the data fields we use for photos,
see CalPhotos schema .
Because CalPhotos is used by scientists and researchers, we
require that plants and animals in contributed photos be
accurately identified by scientific name.
Unidentified plants and animals should not be posted to CalPhotos.
These photos can be posted to Flickr or to websites that help
people identify organisms such as BugGuide.net.
CalPhotos does not have anyone on staff to make identifications or to
correct mistakes as photos are loaded.
Therefore, CalPhotos contributors must be able to
accurately assign scientific names to the organisms they photograph.
Our policy about identifications is here.
Identifications may be reviewed later by
registered experts, who can
make changes to the taxon assigned to the photo, confirm it, or
make a comment on a photo.
Comments and changes are recorded in the database for any photos
annotated in this way, and the photographer is also notified. In
case of a difference of opinion on the identification, we use the
See Annotations and Corrections
for more information about the CalPhotos annotation system.
Because of the
scale of our collection, currently 579,444 photos,
all photo contributions must be uploaded to the CalPhotos
website using our web form. Photos
are processed automatically using computer programs and added
to our database.
We do not have staff who can manually process
new photos. Therefore, if you wish to contribute photos to CalPhotos,
be able to supply digital photos in JPEG format.
For information about
organizations that can scan your slides for you, see this page.
We can only accept images that you are willing to have
available publicly on the web.
Each online photo includes the photographer's credit and copyright,
contact names & addresses for questions, and
a short bio about the photographer, including a link
to your web page if you like. You may include a watermark on your
photos (copyright symbol, credit) as long as it does not obscure the subject of the photo.
Thumbnail photos may be used for non-profit purposes without permission, per
U.S. copyright law, but you may specify how you want larger versions used
by selecting from one of a number of licensing options.
Images with specific Creative Commons licenses, or a Public Domain license, will
also be shared with the Encyclopedia of Life with which
CalPhotos has partnered.
For more information about how your photos may be used, and
permissions required to use them, see Using the Photos.
See also Who Uses CalPhotos?.
In order to meet the needs of our users, we cannot accept the following types of photos:
- photos of unidentified organisms
- travel or vacation photos
- family photos or other personal photos
- out-of-focus and poor quality photos
- photos where the subject can not be seen well
- photos where the subject is obscured by a copyright, attribution, or other watermark
- multiple photos of the same plant or animal taken at the same
time and place UNLESS they depict characters not already represented in the database
If you have photos of any of the types above, please instead
use the excellent photo database
Photos of the above types loaded into CalPhotos will be deleted.
If you are interested in contributing photos, you should fill out
this form and have ready
two JPEG photos to email us as a sample. We will use your samples to make sure that
the image quality is sufficient and assess
the accuracy of plant & animal identifications.
The photos should be JPEG format and about 500 x 700 pixels (somewhat smaller or larger is OK).
You should include the scientific name and the location of the photo and any other
information you can provide.