I know this may come as a surprise to some of you, but the simple fact is that most photography contests are nothing but a grab to get your work for nothing! This is something that angers me more than almost anything.
We all love contests and we all love when our work is up for some kind of award. The difference is that there are some contests that are legit and some that are a total scam to get you to give someone all the rights to your photo for nothing more than a pat on the back or $100 gift certificate. If you think this is acceptable than this article is not for you.
So let's look at an example. I read the rules on a contest today locally for a business that has overall profits of $15 million dollars, and spend hundreds of millions on other things, but want you to submit your imagines without any watermark at all. All of this for the chance to win a $100 gift card. Yes you read that right, a whole $100. Why is that such an issue though? Let me show you what you are giving away by agreeing to their "rules".
"Photographers will retain rights to the image, but must grant permission/license to COMPANY NAME for the use of digital images in advertising, promotion as well as hard copy printing. Images may be posted on Facebook or other digital media as well as printed media throughoutas well as after the contest."
Stated as well is that you have to submit a TIFF image from at least a 12mp camera so that they can print them as big as 30"x 108". Now let me ask you something, what would you charge for a print that large? Would it only be $100? I doubt it, and if you are, you are losing money on every sale.
More and more I see these "contests" along with other companies asking you to pretty much just give them your work for free. They will tell you that it's great for potential exposure. Well, the last time I called my mortgage company and told them that I will give them get exposure and that should be just as good as my money. Surprise, it didn't work.
What are you to do then? Well if you are an amateur and want to be taken seriously, you certainly don't give away your work. You don't work for free (with a handful of exceptions). If you are a professional, you already know what to do. Then there is the option of contacting the company holding the contest to voice your concerns in a professional manner.
Furthermore, it is just as important to educate other photographers and content creators about the pitfalls of giving your material away when you enter these contests. Make sure that they really understand the value of their work and how giving work away always sends the wrong impression to companies that should be paying for the work in the first place.
Lastly, if you are interested in entering a contest, read all the rules and fine print. Make sure you understand what you are giving away when it comes to your rights. Make sure to understand what they are going to do or have the ability to do with your image once you submit it.
So there you go fellow content creators. Take control of your work and make sure that you are getting paid for it.