Photography Contests… they’re fun, and I have won a few, which is even more fun. So why not participate in every photo contest you see?
Sure. Within reason. And that means, in my mind, two things:
First, I never take part in contests where you have to pay to enter. A lot of these exist, and they come in two flavours: vanity contests (“we are so honoured to be allowed to place your work”) and plain scams (“the annual XYZ Great Artists contest and book”). Now, “never say never”, of course: there are a few contests that I would pay something for, sure; but these are by reputable organizations and the cost is minor, and covers actual expenses. Other than that, paid contests are a hard “nope” for me.
Second, there are many contests like this one:
Looks great. Wow, a legit organization and it’s free. The BIA (Business Improvement Area) is real and local. And you can send as many pics as you like. Great!
Now read that last paragraph. Permission, promotional materials: you are giving away the rights to your advertising photo for free. Yes, you are working for them, for free.
Yes, this is the BIA trying to get away with obtaining free work rather than pay a photographer for their advertising photography.
Now, in the spirit of full disclosure: the BIA are not my friends. BIAs were founded to fight malls, and this shows. Last year I applied for a “Digital Main Street” government subsidy, paid for by provincial and federal governments and administered by the BIAs. I qualified on all counts (a long list of requirements – the forms took me a few days to complete).
One of these requirements was “You must be in or near a BIA”. This mall is right next to the BIA, so I was sure I’d get it. But to my astonishment, the BIA decided that even though I met all the requirements (in, as said, a long list), I wasn’t getting any money: the mall is the enemy. So I guess since they want to be my enemy, they’re not in my good books either.
But that’s not why I mention this example. There are many of these efforts to get free work from unsuspecting amateur photographers, and I think it is a shame that amateur photographers do not realize the value of their work.
Bottom line: If anyone is interested in your photo, it is worth money. Don’t give it away. And certainly not to the BIA. 🙂
Instead, find legit contests, like those held by photography magazines and photography clubs, local art organizations, and so on. There’s plenty of them, and you can fill a lot of time submitting. And that is fun.