To Enter…Or Not To Enter…PHOTO CONTESTS is the Question!
I am a photographer…and there is nothing I love more than to share my work. Truthfully…I really love to sell my work and my services! It’s my passion. I want people to see what I shoot. I want their feedback, admiration, respect, and approval. Does that sound selfish? It may be, but the truth is, I do love what I do and the shots I take…so much so, that I want the world to see them! And…what better way to show off your work than by entering into a photo contest! You allow a whole new audience to see your work, and your photos have a chance to be judged and juried (and maybe selected) by a group of our peers! BUT…what about the scams that are out there?
Everyone owns a camera today (in one form or another)! iPhone, android, pocket camera, DSLR…you name it! And with the proliferation of photo enthusiasts, there is also a proliferation of photo contests. Don’t get me wrong…not all photo contests are scams, but you must be aware of the possibility (and I want to help you understand what you are up against)!
There are a number of reputable contests out there, that are run by respected magazines, photography organizations, photography clubs, photo agencies, and even some of the photo brands. On the other hand, there are an increasing number of contests run by websites, e-magazines, and lately, even by some Instagram accounts. But, how reputable are they? Do they really make any contribution to the world of photography? The truth is, based on entry fees charged, photo contests look like an easy way to earn some extra cash in some organizations.
There are legitimate contests that do have fees attached to each entry. Those fees allow the contest provider with an opportunity to limit the number of entries, and focus on those who are somewhat more serious about their photography. There are also a number of those contests who use the funds to provide scholarships to up and coming photographers or in support of personal projects with the monies collected from the applicants and sponsors (ie: National Geographic). But, what about those other contests? They are promoted by many new digital magazines or online communities that have no legitimacy. In some instances you don’t even know who the juries are, yet they want you to pay per image for entering these “contests.” What I am saying here is, if the entry fee is $10-40 per image to enter, and we assume that at least 1,000 submissions come in, there is a huge amount of money taken in, but the prize is just a couple of thousand for the top three winners. So, where does the balance of the money collected end up? Everyone has a right to earn money, but the increase in these kinds of contests certainly opens the door for amateur photographers to be used as easy marks to profit from.
The other hook, are the rules and regulations of the contest. There’s the license, which goes something like this: Participant retains ownership of the copyright in any submitted photographs. However, by entering photograph(s) in this Contest, participant grants Sponsor the irrevocable, perpetual right to edit, adapt, use and publish in any media now known or hereafter discovered any or all of the photographs without compensation to the participant, his or her successors or assigns, or any other entity. Entering a submission in this contest constitutes participant’s irrevocable assignment, conveyance, and transference to sponsor of the foregoing rights!
Even if you don’t win, they can still use your photos without any sort of compensation whatsoever! I guess there are some people who don’t care. They aren’t serious photographers and if one of their photos does get used, then it is something they can brag about to their friends. After all, with today’s proliferation of amateur photographers out there, this is a field where even a total amateur can get lucky and get a great photo, even if they did it by accident. When you put tens of millions of cameras in the hands of people, you’ll get some great photos even if the people with the cameras don’t know what they’re doing. And, if all the professional or serious amateur photographers out there avoided their contest, the contest holders probably wouldn’t care. They are working on percentages.
This shouldn’t scare you away from all contests, after all, not every photo contest has rules which are as one sided. Just make sure you read the rules before you enter any contest. Be sure that you know what you are getting yourself into, and what you are giving up. Photography is very subjective and even if you think you have a photo that is sure to win, it probably wont. You might end up giving away the photo and never receiving as much as a “thank you” for your efforts.
I hate to say it, but I have seen it get worse yet! Some of these contests don’t require an entry fee or any money (upfront). There are a lot of contests that allow you to make your entry at no charge, but ask you to pay later. When you submit to these unique contests, you will likely receive an email afterward, that will indicate your photo didn’t rank in the top three, but the jury liked your photo so much and they would like to print your photo in their upcoming annual book. And, in order to do so, they want you to pay a small fee for getting a copy of the printed book. If you agree to pay that fee, you will see your photo printed in a compiled photo book with a number of other randomly selected photos of other photographers who also agreed to pay the requested fee. Unfortunately, there was no selection and this is just a money grab, to take advantage of unwitting photographers.
How can you possibly to avoid all of these scam artists? Truthfully, it is better to do some research about the organization or magazine that is holding the contest. And, it’s better to do some research about the previous contests and the winners. You can easily get some information about that contest, and whether or not it is legitimate, or a scam. It really is up to you!
Do yourself a favour….always try to shoot your best and only submit to well known/ cognized photo contests. Always trust in yourself and your photography! Always compete with yourself first, consistently improving your art and technique! Don’t rely on every photo contest you see to assess your talent! Pick the right contests that have potential to support your photographic career! When you do enter a contest, always double check the terms and conditions about usage of images and licenses before you enter. And…most importantly, never pay for being featured in a printed book.
Good luck and good shooting!
I always welcome any feedback. Feel fee to send your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org