February 25, 2009

Q&A Contest Legitimacy

This week’s audience question comes from Nick Nieto.

“I had a follow up question to a post recently made about winning contests. Last Fall my college (University of Portland) had a contest send them applications for students in the Photographers Forum College Contest. On the sign-up they had some pretty big name sponsors and I thought it seemed pretty legit considering they took the right step toward me maintaining the copyright and had some pretty legit sponsors. Now I have received a notice that I’m a finalist and if I want a copy of the book my image will be in I can pay $55. I now question how legit the contest is.

I would love a post talking about If you do enter contests how to you decide what is credible and what is not.”

Thanks for your question Nick. I can’t say what’s “legitimate” since people will have differing opinions on what constitutes legitimacy. I can tell you what I think about contest entry fees.

It’s expensive to administer a contest. It takes a lot of time and energy. Many photography contests charge a small entry fee to help offset those costs. I have no problem with that as long as…

1. The fee is small – say $10
2. The fee isn’t part of broader business model

I believe the contest you are speaking of is actually not much more than vanity publishing. You’re paying to get in the book. You may be paying to get in the five copies of the book that they send you. Whereas everyone else pays to get a book with their pictures in it. I can’t speak to the legitimacy of this particular contest. But I wouldn’t enter it. I did years ago as research on this subject and sure enough, even the bad photo I sent in got me the “finalist” notice.

I run several contests, such as the Aperture Nature Photography Workshop Contest. NONE of the contests I administer or operate charges ANY entry fee.

I advise that you concentrate on contests that are free to enter. If you have spare time and money, enter the low-cost contests. Stay away from vanity contests.

Join the conversation! 4 Comments

  1. This sounds like something that was going around when i was a senior in high school! (’94) Called “Who’s Who among american High School Students”. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who's_Who_Among_American_High_School_Students) I thought it was a scam back then, but after reading the wikipedia page, i see i wasn’t the only one!

  2. As a general rule, I don’t enter contests: period. Assuming it is one of the few which do not require you to give up all rights to your photos, the odds of winning are slim, even if you have a great photo. It is ultimately subjective and it is really sort of a crap shoot. Anything with odds in the 1-thousands range really isn’t worth my time.

  3. Thanks so much for posting my question. As soon as I saw the price for the book I figured it was a vanity type situation. Glad you could input your opinions and observations. I definitely don’t want to be recognized for just submitting the image. The one reason I did question it as possibly ok; was that they only chose one of the three images I submitted and it was in my opinion the very best of the bunch and a shot was very proud of.

    Thanks for the insight!


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