Wildlife Competition Miffs Photographers with New Megapixel Requirement

Last year the Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition dealt with controversy when the winning photographer was stripped of his award for staging his photograph.

Now, there’s a new controversial decision by the organizers of the competition: a new rule bans entries from cameras with less than 10 megapixels:

Digital images must have been taken on a sufficiently high resolution camera – at least ten (10) million pixels, on the highest setting.

PhotoRadar notes that a finalist from a few years ago would have been barred from the competition under the new rules:

In 2007, American photographer Kari Post made it to the finals of the Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition at the Natural History Museum with a selection of prints entered in the Eric Hoskins portfolio category.

If she entered this year, she would be disqualified before some of her pictures, taken with a 6.1 megapixel Nikon D70, were even considered. A change to the rules in the competition (now the Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition) disallows photographers from entering photos taken with a camera with a sensor with fewer than 10MP.

“The worst part of it is that it’s discriminating against photographers who don’t have the most recent cameras,” she says.

The new rule bars even the professional Canon EOS 1D Mark II, since it only boasts a “meager” 8 megapixels.

The reason for the new rule was a redesign of the contest’s gallery at the National History museum. The gallery requires larger prints, and therefore the competition now demands higher resolution. What’s interesting is how this print requirement affected past competitions even when there wasn’t a rule. PhotoRadar reports,

[…] Colin Finlay, a spokesperson for the competition office, said, “In previous competition years, several images have had to be dismissed during the late stages of the competition due to their technical quality not being sufficient for the demands of large scale reproduction.”

That means images that could have won the competition based on artistic merit were actually dismissed for not having enough megapixels.

What are your thoughts on this new rule? Keep in mind that every current DSLR model offered has at least 10 megapixels.

(via Photoxels)

  • RT

    In my opinion absurd… So my I should change my beloved D10 (6.1). They don't want the “best” picture… They want the biggest one.

  • nakedlens

    What size are they printing that they need a 10MP+ image to use? I've printed 16x20s from my 6.1 MP D50 that were gorgeous!

    And does this mean that you can't crop? Certainly you're going to lose resolution by doing so, and since “megapixels” aren't a linear number, it won't take much to drop out of the 10MP range, even if you're shooting with a 12-14MP body.

  • jdutta78

    This is a very unfair discrimination. But nothing will prevent someone from upsizing an image to match a 10+ MP DSLR image dimensions, along with necessary modification of IPTC data.

  • kuphotog

    Ridiculous!!! How big are the prints? If the photo is shot full frame on the “fine” setting, and is a good exposure, a 20×30 print is no problem. This is discrimination!!!

  • SusanGlover

    So … does that mean it really IS the camera and NOT the photographer that makes great images?


  • Brien

    Wow, that is an unbelievable restriction based on 1) the lifespan of equipment goes back to when 7-8 megapixel was king of the hill and 2) more pixels doesn't guarantee that it will achieve large scale production quality. I suppose an after thought is that if that lack of quality at 8MP eliminated some contestants photos but not others, it comes back to the image and shooting conditions vs. the pixel count.

    I would guess that the real outcome here is that amateurs and pro-ams will end up being priced out of the competition and that might be fine under their objectives. Other competitions might be more suited to those cameras.

    I say that as a total amateur who loves to see other people's photos from any level photographer shooting on any piece of equipment.

  • jonliebold

    This is an absurd rule. If I still used my original Digital Rebel (300D) I would be disqualified but that camera has served me well. It carried me through my first semester of college as a photo student as well as my brainless amateur days when I did not know what I was doing. I pulled off some shots with it that were spectacular in my opinion. I thought about even submitting some to contests but I would never want them disqualified on the sole basis of the fact they were shot on a 6.3MP camera.

  • Porsupah

    Curious. It's understandable there'd be a minimum resolution requirement, but that does seem to be rather on the high side.

    Even so, such a rule surely ought to be phrased in terms of the submitted image's dimensions, rather than the capabilities of the camera. My D90 exceeds 10MP, but I'll routinely crop images down well below that, for preferable framing; the current wording – which will hopefully be improved upon for next year's competition, as this year's has now closed – would leave me uncertain as to whether such a crop would be acceptable.

  • jonliebold

    I think they are moving that way.

  • christopherschneiter

    This is ridiculous! I've gone 33×54 from a 6mp D1X!

  • Just some guy

    Absurdly high requirement. Completely ignores the variety of highly capable post methods to interpolate to higher rez and that there is a practical limit to the size of any print one would view within 10 feet in a gallery context. Too big a print, you can't be too close and properly appreciate it. The further the viewer from the print, the lower dpi the print can be. You don't print a billboard at 300dpi. Could somebody do a formal study to arrive at the minimum deliverable resolution to be of sufficient quality after post? Sure. I'll take a stab in the dark and be confident with a guess it at 5MP. Anybody have better guess?

  • Patrick Smith

    I'm not sure how big is BIG, but if it is 20×30 and you want a very very modest 150 dpi, that is 3000×4500, which is >13mp. Most printers want 300 DPI which is 54mp! Upsizing a 6mp image will not increase the quality since you can not get something for nothing. So if it is >= 20×30, I agree with the contest owners that an image should be at least a native (non enlarged) 10mp.

  • SusanGlover

    The moment we start applying technological aspects as a means to define ability in a creative endeavour, we begin to limit rather then grow talent. In the genre of wildlife photography there can be technological issues that will prevent us from getting an image, but last I checked, those were shutter, aperture and focal length!

    It appears that this relates specifically to exhibition aspects. Again, understandable from a gallery perspective.

    But ironic as their own literature says:

    “achieving the perfect picture is down to a mixture of skill, vision, originality, knowledge of nature and luck”

    And that's a heck of a lot more words then my original … Ridiculous! ;)

  • Scott Armour

    I've seen small images that have more impact than larger prints, sorry but this is absurd.

  • Stian Green

    And what if you use film when you take pictures. My Rolleiflex or F5 have no megapixels at all. But resolution can be high with the right film. So this rule is absurd. Megapixels have nothing to do with quality. Image is everything.

  • Allan Holmes

    Sounds like something of the sort you expect to find in a photo magazine on “how to frame a photo”, etc. — has about as much to do with art as a pair of shoes.

  • Allan Holmes

    Sounds like something of the sort you expect to find in a photo magazine on “how to frame a photo”, etc. — has about as much to do with art as a pair of shoes.

  • Patrick Smith

    Yes, Scott, I've seen excellent small prints and poor big prints, but that is not the point. The contest owners do not want to choose a great picture (when looking at small previews) only to find out that it looks rough and pixelated when printed big.

    And people do like to stand close to big prints and then back up. They like to see detail and then the quality of the overall composition and light. You need BOTH to have a truly good print.

  • Frederic Gagnon

    I understand your logic but allow me to bring some precision. A picture that is printed “that big”, say poster size, is not made to be viewed at nose distance. So a print at 150 DPI would normaly be already more than enough. I work in the printing since at least 7 years and I would see a difference of sharpness between a print at 300 DPI vs one at 150 but if i look at it past 3 feet, wich normaly is already too close by exibition standard, I wouldn't see the difference.

    I work with picture taken throuhout the years, BW, film, first generation digital, Nikon D1, D1x, D2, D3, D3x. Yes there is some restriction with resolution but i can easily take a 6 MP picture and make it look good at 24×36. Sure if you stick your nose to it, you'll not only see the pixelisation but ill also kick you away for puting a biological greasy nose stain on it ;) lol

    Have a good day.

  • kevjohn

    They probably got swamped with snapshots Grandma Eugenia took of her poodle in the backyard with the new Digital Rebel her kids got her for her birthday. This is like a $10 cover charge at a bar or club. One of the main intents is to keep the riff-raff out. Good thing my dusty old D80 squeeks in over the limit.