Contributing Photos to CalPhotos   

Form to contribute photos

Form to add a new image


About the Photos

Requirements for Photos Submitted to CalPhotos

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.
  1. Photos must have some value for CalPhotos users
  2. Photo quality and content must be high
  3. Plants and animals must be accurately identified
  4. Photos must be submitted on our website and will be publicly available
  5. Types of photographs we cannot accept
See also: Becoming a Contributing Photographer and Photographers' Frequently Asked Questions

1. Photos must have some value for CalPhotos users

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. Calflora compiles lists of native and non-native California plant species for which photos are wanted; photos uploaded to CalPhotos will also appear on Calflora.

2. Photo quality and content must be high

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 information. 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 .

3. Plants and animals must be accurately identified

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

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 photographer's name. See Annotations and Corrections for more information about the CalPhotos annotation system.

4. Photos must be submitted on our website and will be publicly available

Because of the scale of our collection, currently 807,065 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, you must 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?.

5. Types of photographs we cannot accept

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 Flickr. Photos of the above types loaded into CalPhotos will be deleted.

Becoming a Contributing Photographer

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.

CalPhotos is a project of BNHM   University of California, Berkeley

Questions and Comments
this page last updated: Oct 12, 2020