It is common knowledge that many people wanting to enter the world of photography do so by participating in photography competitions. Perhaps by winning a prize, any prize in a competition, will help gain the recognition that they need to start a photography business?
Disclaimer – This article is based completely on my own personal opinion. It is in no way influenced by any third-party, whether individuals nor groups of individuals.
Flashback To My Younger Days
I remember back in primary school, when I was taught to the workings of a commercial bank. The teacher explained that banks do not keep the money that we deposited with them guarded and safe. Banks also do not give out interests on our savings for nothing.
My bubble was burst when I found out that banks actually used our money to lend out for a higher interest rate. Our savings’ interest was a mere pittance when compared to the money that the bank earned lending out our money to other people.
Lesson learnt – There is no much thing as a free lunch!
How Does A Photography Competition Work?
Just like how commercial banks work, photography competition organisers do not give out attractive prizes for nothing. And it is not in their interest to help you develop your reputation as a photographer either. So what’s the catch?… It’s your entry images, that’s what the catch is.
Competition organisers usually offer attractive photographic equipment, cash vouchers or other packages, as prizes to attract budding photographers to submit their entries into the competitions. So while competitors battle it out by submitting their best images based on the topic, the organisers get to keep all of the images.
Oh yes, they do credit the winners of the competition, and there is also the photo opportunity for the winners to pose alongside their winning entries and their prizes. But at the end of the day, those winning images no longer belong to their creators, at least not legally. By entering the competition, you have already agreed to give up copyright ownership to the organiser.
But I didn’t sign any waiver, or transfer of ownership!…
Read The Fine Print
How many of us actually read fine prints? Well, somewhere inside the fine print of any competition entry form, there usually is a clause that says when you submit your entry into the competition, you are automatically giving up all rights to the image that you enter to the organiser.
What this means is that when you submit your entrance into any competition, the organiser already owns the rights to your images. All your hard work to plan your shoot, the preparation work, and all the money you spent to execute the perfect shot, well, they don’t belong to you anymore. You can’t even put that image that you submitted to the competition on your portfolio too. At least not legally anyway.
If you happen to win any of the prizes, well, congratulations to you then. You will get the due recognition, and the photo opportunity that comes with it in the prize giving ceremony. But wake up and smell the roses, ‘cos the winning image still doesn’t belong to you.
Lesson learnt – Read the damn fine print!
What’s In It For The Organiser?
Ever noticed that the topic of any photography competition is always related to the organiser in one way or another? Like a holiday resort organisation will organise a topic on the best creative image of their premises. Or camera manufacturers insisting that images must be taken using their optics.
What’s in it for them is that they don’t need to hire a real professional photographer to capture commercially usable images for their publicity use. They are already getting a whole bunch of images that they can choose from for their publicity use.
The price that they have to pay for it? Well, it is peanuts compared to the professional fee if they were to hire a real pro to do the shoot for them. And that doesn’t even include the purchase of the copyright for the image at all. Want to own the copyright too? Well, then they will have to cough up an additional 300% to 400% of the quoted price for it.
Sponsoring three 2-days-1-night vouchers for two persons in their hotel literary cost nothing to a hospitality industry. And sponsoring three top-of-the-range camera bodies as prizes also cost nothing to a camera manufacturer. They probably already allocated these products to give away as part of their marketing budget anyway. And the cash voucher prizes? Well, you can only use the cash vouchers to purchase products from the organisers. Again, this is at zero cost to the organisers.
As you can see, the advantage lies squarely within the court of the competition organiser. Regardless whether you win or lose the competition, you would have already lost all your hard work and effort to capture the works of art in the first place. And the worst thing is that you now no longer own the copyright of your own hard work.
Is This A Scam?… Can I Sue Them?…
No, and no… A photography competition is completely legitimate. Maybe not very ethical, but completely legal by all counts. And whether or not you decide to enter the competition, there will already be participants submitting their entries in throngs.
Therefore, it is much more beneficial for you to develop your photographic skills actually shooting images for your own portfolio. At least you still own the copyright to these images, and you can show them to potential clients who just might hire you to do a pro’s job.
Your creative works of art is worth much more than the prizes that you can potentially win in any competition… If you win anything at all…