Photo competitions – rewarding excellence or a cheap way to harvest quality images……?


Early this morning I was catching up with the latest postings on a couple of sites I like to keep an eye on. I read this article on Digital Photography School that was written by Dale Wilson.
Dale raises some interesting issues on what motivates some photography competition organisers. I found it an interesting read which gave me an awareness of a couple of viewpoints I hadn’t considered before.

Below is a quick slice from Dales article (link to full article below)……….


“Photo contests have been around since the days when chemistry was first introduced to develop light sensitive cellulose – in other words, since before photography became a popular hobby in the 1930’s.
What has changed, however, is the intended flavour of the contest. It wasn’t long ago the photo contest was a vehicle that promoted the pleasurable pursuit of photography as a hobby and rewarded excellence in craft.
However, in the past decade, photo contests have more often than not become a rights grab by preying on unsuspecting entrants who have absolutely no idea what all the legal talk translates too. For example, the following text is copied from a recently announced contest by an internationally recognized environmental NGO that I have supported for years. Its rules read, in part:

By entering (reference to contest deleted) the contest, you retain the rights to your works while granting XXXX (sponsors name deleted) the unrestricted, royalty-free, perpetual right to use, reproduce, communicate, modify and display the works (in whole or in part) for any purpose without any fee or other form of compensation, and without further notification or permission.

By participating in this contest, you release and agree to indemnify and hold harmless XXXXX(reference to contest deleted) and its employees, directors, officers, affiliates, agents, judges and advertising and promotional agencies from any and all damages, injuries, claims, causes of actions, or losses of any kind resulting from your participation in this contest or receipt or use of any prize.

So, what does all this mumbo-jumbo mean and how does it relate to the photographer who wants to have some fun with their pictures?”

The link to the full article is here – photo-contests-–-is-that-a-contest-or-rights-grab?

Have a read and let me know what you think.

Several years ago I entered a few competitions (actually quite a bit longer ago if I’m honest). As you can probably guess I never really heard much back. I seem to remember getting a few acknowledgement slips in the post, literally about 4″ x 3″ saying thanks for entering, and that was pretty much it for feedback.

So, why DO people enter their photos to competitions? Looking back, what made me enter into those competitions?

I guess every budding photographer gets to a point where they think what they are shooting is pretty good. I can also guess most have been in a situation where friends and family are all saying your images are great (lets face it your mum thinks everything you do is great, well most things anyway). But they’re bound to say that, aren’t they? How do you get that independent feedback, the feedback that sometimes ends up being a little more than bargained for?

Well I was at that stage, the logic being if I win all the competitions I enter then I must be pretty good.

I guess some see competitions as validation of reaching that level of ‘excellence’. Others may take satisfaction from the ‘oh yeah, I’m that good I beat everyone else” feeling. But after reading Dales article it seems there might be a darker side to some of these competitions that could be taking advantage of our desire for validation.

Whats your ‘validation factor’ that signals you are improving as a photographer?

For me my personal validation eventually came when people approached me and were prepared to part with their hard earned money. At first it was like ‘what, you actually want to pay me for these images – wow’.

I also did a few ‘jobs’ for people – I did some work that was published on an album CD case for a guitarist (oh yeah, rock ‘n roll baby!). I started submitting stock images to Alamy and had a few sales. From this I decided to set up my website and sell images directly. If you have ever seen Alamy then you will know it is not the sort of outlet for all styles of images. So I sell my images and services directly via my website, stock images via Alamy and still do the odd ‘job’ for friends.

Anyway have a look at the article and let me know if you agree or disagree.

I’d also love to hear your views on what you use as ‘validation factors’ that your photography is improving

And I would love for you to have a look at my site as well………….. well I have to try don’t I !!!!

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