Guidelines for Photographers

Bird Watcher’s Digest has been publishing beautiful bird photography since 1978. Many of our photos come from freelance photographers. We use images to augment our magazine’s content, and rarely run standalone photos or photo galleries in print. We rarely, if ever, consider unsolicited photos for publication. We heartily welcome, however, submission of photos for inclusion on the BWD and Watching Backyard Birds online galleries. We do not pay for photos posted in our galleries, but the photographer is given credit for each image. Instructions for submitting photos to the galleries are on each website: and If you wish to share your beautiful bird photography with an appreciative audience, our digital galleries are the way to go.

Getting Photos Published in BWD

It is an honor—and very difficult—to have your image/work published in Bird Watcher’s Digest both because of our highly selective vetting process and because of the volume of images we receive. At this time, regrettably, we do not pay for rights to publish photos. We do not make photo assignments; rather we solicit images from a select group of photographers through our bimonthly “want list.”

While preparing each issue of BWD, we compile and email a list of our photographic needs—the “want list”—to the “want-list” pool. For the most part, the want list includes names of bird species, sometimes engaging in certain behaviors, or in certain settings, or of a certain age, sex, or color morph. Photographers must be certain of the species shown in their images.

Our existing pool includes several dozen professional and semi-professional bird photographers who consistently overwhelm us with spectacular photos that more than meet our needs. In response to a typical want list, we receive several hundred ideal photos from which to choose roughly 20 for publication. Upon receipt of the want list, photographers respond, providing us access to photos from their collections according our specifications, and the implicit one-time right to publish their images.

Photo credit is given on the page of images published, and a copy of the issue is sent to each photographer whose work is used therein.

Applying for the BWD Want-List Pool

If you would like to be considered for Bird Watcher’s Digest’s pool of want-list photographers, please prepare a website of 20 of your best bird photos. Ongoing image needs include remarkable portraits of birds—especially uncommon species and those difficult to photograph; bird watchers using binoculars or scopes; groups of birders; birds at feeders, nest boxes, and birdbaths; and landscape photos of requested birding hotspots. Excellent photos of drab birds, or those difficult to photograph are most likely to attract our attention. We are less likely to need or be enticed by images of often-photographed common or photogenic species such as great blue heron, Canada goose, mallards at a park pond, American robin, northern cardinal, pelicans or egrets at fishing piers, etc. We do not use images of birds that are pets, captives, stuffed mounts, or birds that are otherwise restrained, including those that are injured or undergoing rehabilitation (unless to illustrate a specific story).

Email a cover letter requesting want-list pool consideration and providing the URL of the site you have prepared to [email protected]. Include captions with each photo, identifying the species or activity and location. Alternatively, prepare a digital contact sheet of thumbnails of 20 of your best photos with captions and email it to the address above.

If your images meet the high standards required for publication in BWD and offer extraordinary images that would complement and expand the diversity of images available to us from our existing want-list pool, we will notify you via email that you have been added to the want-list pool. We evaluate all requests for consideration to be added to the group, but due to the volume of interested photographers, respectfully decline most such requests.

Within six weeks of receiving your sample photos, we will notify you regarding our decision.

We encourage bird photographers to behave ethically both in the field and at the computer. We encourage all photographers to read and uphold the code of birding ethics set by the American Birding Association:

Information for BWD Want-List Photographers

Bird Watcher’s Digest does not maintain a photo library or inventory of any type. We do not have a photo database, and we do not retain digital photos for future use. Sometimes, back-to-back issues have a common need. Because we do not retain images, we ask that photographers resubmit images that meet our needs, even if they submitted the same files recently. Please do not send photos that have been published previously in BWD or in other birding magazines.

We ask photographers to notify us when there is an image among their submissions that is being simultaneously offered to another wild bird publication.

Image Format

We accept only digital images via email or internet file-sharing services. Images should be in sharp focus; color should be accurate; exposure should be perfect or nearly so, and the subject should be large in the image frame. When selecting images for submission, please be extra selective. Low-resolution .JPG images are preferred for initial consideration. If your photo is selected for publication, we will request a high-resolution (300 dpi) version.

Image Filenames

Each photograph should have a filename containing a terse description of the contents and the photographer’s name. Examples:


Please include credit and caption data for each image. Also include your contact information with each submission.

Preferred formats for digital publication are .JPG or TIFF. Images should be taken using the highest-resolution setting.

DO NOT crop images. Leave the cropping to us.

DO NOT alter photos. Images should not be corrected for color, sharpness, size, or color mode. Again, leave this work to us.

DO NOT send digital images of slides that have been scanned on consumer scanners. These images do not reproduce well in print.

We print images at 300 dots per inch (dpi/resolution) and higher.

Our page size is 5¼ by 8 inches, vertical; occasionally we publish double-trucks: 10½ inches wide by 8 high.

Color and density of the final printed image may differ from the digital original due to a variety of factors, including scanner settings, monitor calibration, paper quality, press settings, etc.

Submitting Digital Images

In response to our bimonthly want list request, photographers may submit photos for our consideration via three methods:

Prepare a gallery on your website for our perusal. The gallery should contain only photos that meet our needs for the current want list. Email the link to the site to [email protected].

Use HighTail, DropBox, Box, Google Docs, or some other file-sharing service to send us low-res versions of photos that meet our needs. Send the link to [email protected].

Archive or zip (in a Mac-compatible format) low-res versions of the photos you think would meet our needs and email the file to [email protected].

If we opt to use one or more of your photos, we will contact you and ask for a high-res version.

Thank you for your interest in sharing your bird and birding photos with Bird Watcher’s Digest magazine. We look forward to reviewing your images, and we wish you great success in your bird photography endeavors.

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