This article was originally published on February 22, 2021.
” Submit your photo to a photography competition” – can be both: the best and worse advice you might get. How does it feel to be awarded? Surely, special. Great publicity is always welcome but the process from photo submission to receiving the prize is long and not always that rewarding. We do not want to discourage you from taking part in photo contests but would suggest reading this article before you submit your photo to a photography competition.
competitions might bring recognition. It is nice to have your name listed among some other, famous photographers and see your picture on popular platforms or portals. Once your picture goes viral it automatically brings more attention to your work. Inquiries and proposals for cooperation will start to spring up like mushrooms. Your inbox might notice a sudden increase in emails and your phone might start ringing more often. This is probably exactly what you want as a photographer. In case your photo did not get the expected recognition, make sure the image copyright of the submitted pictures does not get infringed.
Photo contests used to promote photographers, their skills and creativity but over the years they also became a common platform for copyright infringement. Remember that your photography has a value that you do not want to give away!
Do not get pleased just because you get to see your name under your photograph. There is nothing special about having your name put next to your picture in print or online publications. This is obligatory and, in most cases, guaranteed by law. The publisher is obliged to identify you as the creator under the Moral Rights conditions of the Copyright Law Act.
Digging deeper into some photo contests’ terms and conditions, we came across statements that can have severe consequences in the most unexpected moments in the future. For example: ’By submitting your pictures you agree to indemnify the contest organisers against any future legal claims just by entering.’ Read it two or three times, if needed. It is crucial not to agree to the abuse of your photo rights.
Royalty-Free is another term you might come across. What does it stand for? Royalty-Free is related to picture reproduction and implies that a publisher is only compelled to honour you with a reward once. Make sure you do not authorize the organizers to re-sell your picture or give them an option to allow other companies to use your pictures without the credits that you deserve.
Another thing worth considering is whether you support the organisation that holds the competition. If that is the case, it can make a big difference. You may rather take part in those organised by non-profit organisations than support big corporations. Remember that exposure does not pay the bills.
Social media are also tempting because they are designed for sharing and virality. They can be very powerful and spread your photos quickly online. At the same time, some of the regulations, usually written with the smallest font, can be tricky and infringe your image copyright.
Another issue is that Facebook competitions require you to give out more personal data than necessary. Most of the organisers would use a disclaimer that it is not them but Facebook that asks for this extra information. Facebook is famous for being greedy when it comes to data collection. You always have a choice, we can only suggest thinking twice.
We do not want to sound repetitive, but our experience taught us that there are never enough reminders. So, one more time: before you click send, make sure that your photo rights will be respected. Now that you decided that you are okay with the terms of the photo contest, ask yourself a question if the rules are also cool with you?
When submitting pictures to a photo contest you also need to follow a certain set of rules. Make sure you read them carefully to avoid being disqualified before the jury even looks at your photos. Very often, the images need to be submitted in their original version, without any extra edits. You need to stick to guidelines and deadlines. Do not give the judges the chance to discard your photo. Think about the titles, these might be helpful to distinguish your photos among hundreds or thousands of others.
Such things take place and it’s big companies that let such infringements slip through. One of the competitions organised by Samsung was won by an Instagram user with a picture that was never actually taken by this person. The picture was a slightly altered shot by a famous photographer Hengki Koentjoro.
The photographer did not find out about the infringement until his friend discovered it and let him know a month after the results were announced. As soon as he found out, he commented on the Instagram and Facebook posts with the announced results. There was a great wave of support and a lot of criticism for Samsung for their lack of diligence when approving submissions. Curious how the thief reacted? Well, he got annoyed. At the same time, Samsung took down the photos from their social networks and disqualified the dishonest user for image copyright infringement. Koentjoro also received a personal message with an apology and reassurance that the claimed winner will not receive the price. That’s it.
If you do not win, do not get discouraged. Submit your photo to a photography competition organized by another organisation or photographer. Photography is a subjective area. Just because the jury did not award your photo, it does not mean your pictures are bad. Your career does not depend only on photo competitions. It might get you exposure but that is not the only way to get it. Have you heard of photo optimisation for the web? If you run your blog or website, it is a field worth exploring.
Applying for photo competitions can also be time-consuming. It is good to calculate if it is worth your time. We do not discourage you from entering any photo contests at all but advise you to estimate if it is worth the effort. If all it brings is only image copyright infringement, then it does not seem to pay off.
Speaking of photo copyright infringement, it might be also the case that your copyrighted images are being infringed without your knowledge. This is how the story of photo-protection started for a lot of our current clients-photographers. Living in a digital era has a lot of benefits but there are also some new threats and image theft is one of them. Since there are more and more companies abusing photographers’ copyrights, there is also a strong need for a public debate about and effective protection. At PhotoClaim, we take care of photographers’ rights, monitor portfolios for infringements and do our best to regain the money photographers deserve from their stolen photos, you can read more about how we work here.