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Once upon a time,not so long ago when digital cameras had not taken over photography world,the photographers were happy clicking with film rolls and the final output was in form of prints. During this time,photography competitions had a different meaning altogether. These were mostly organised by the Photography Associations and Societies,some of these competitions were limited to a particular geographical area and some were Internationally known. The calendar of these contests was almost fixed,year after year these happened around the same period of time of the year. For submitting the entries,the photographers worked through out the year and saved the best for submission which was in the form of specific size prints.

A distinguished panel of judges( experienced photographers) would select the winners after a strict evaluation of submitted photographs. The final stage of the competition used to be an exhibition of the winning photographs along with shortlisted photographs which deserved special mention.

From the photographer’s point of view,the whole process was not very simple. Shortlisting photographs according to theme,test prints,final selection & printing,and sending through post( which meant visiting post office). This all required efforts and money because of which only serious photographers confident of their images participated in the Salons ( this is a common term for a photography competitions )
The essence of these competitions was to showcase the skills of photographers to the world. It was not just the prize, recognition in photography circles was another incentive to participate. Even an honorary mention was good enough to start working for next year’s contest.

The scene has changed totally lately and the number of competitions open to both amateur and professional photographers has increased in a big way. With the introduction of digital cameras, Internet and social media ruling our lives, the whole concept has transformed drastically. 

For the organisers it has become very easy to announce and spread the word,for the contestants the submission is even more easier. It is all about a click of button,sitting in the comforts of home, no more prints or visit to the post office. Every thing is digitally managed-from announcing the contest to announcing the winners.

This ease of organising and submitting has increased the frequency of competitions. Some may see it as a positive step towards growing stature and popularity of photography and also the contests becoming more inclusive. But a disturbing trend has also emerged which actually is detrimental to the interests of photography community.

So how does it affect a photographer who is regularly participating in contests?

By looking and analysing the various contests which have been running in recent times,it is easily noticeable that the organisers of these competitions are of two types- Serious and non-serious.

The serious organisers are the various Photography Associations & Societies, photography magazines,Corporates involved in manufacture and marketing of photography goods

The Non-serious are mostly the travel companies,travel magazines and similar lot whose main interests have got nothing to do with photography. 

For a contestant the threat is from the non-serious organisers. Travel companies needs a lot of images for advertisements and promotional purpose. Besides quantity they also need a huge variety of photographs. Same way travel magazines are also constantly looking for photographs to fill the pages.With the increased awareness of intellectual property laws,it has become difficult for them to source the images. Buying photographs is an expensive proposition, hiring professional photographers is even more expensive. The cheapest way is to run a travel photography contest. The prizes may vary from an entry level camera to stay in a resort( 2 nights 3 day,meals not included),subscription of the magazine,discount vouchers etc.At times the travel magazines and travel companies run these contests jointly,a win-win situation for both


The selection of winning photographs is through a very innovative method( evolved in last few years) called ‘Likes’. Maximum likes will determine the winner and in this process of gathering ‘likes’ the contestant shares the details of submission to friends with a request to ‘like’.The friends visit the page and some real friends and well wishers do press the ‘like’ button. This is an absolutely transparent way of judging as far as the organisers are concerned. No need to empanel jury, simple mathematics decide the winner irrespective of quality of photographs.


The organisers benefit in 3 ways:

Huge variety of photographs at disposal

Free publicity of brand 

Large Database of travellers ( who are photographers also)

One has to be very careful of the non-serious organiser category,it is better to avoid such contests where even the judging process is flawed.
Before submitting entry, a few things need to be taken care of:

Organisers: serious or non-serious types. As mentioned before,it is better to avoid the non-serious category. 

Judges: a brief information about the jury on panel must be shared by the organisers. If this information is missing,the chances of a fair judgement process are minimised. Judging on the basis of likes is strict no-no.

The audience– who are people who will see your prize winning or shortlisted photograph. Is it going to be only an online display or will it be displayed in the form of framed print in a proper exhibition space. Will the display give you the kind of exposure you are looking for ?

Terms & conditions ( especially in fine print denoted by asterisk * conditions apply) . What kind of rights are assigned to the organisers for participating in the competition? Most of the times the conditions will beat the stiff conditions put by Shylock ( The Merchant of Venice),these are mostly one sided totally benefitting the organisers.
Many a times,you will come across terms like these, the words and language may be different but ultimately it will mean the same:

“”You agree that all of your entry is your own work. On submission, your entry becomes the property of organiser. You give organiser a worldwide, irrevocable licence to reproduce, publish, adapt, communicate and broadcast all or part of it in any form and media. You also consent to us editing, re-using, storing, reproducing and communicating your entry in any medium. Generally, we will attribute you as the author where possible, but in some circumstances, we may decide not to.”

The copyrights of the photographs should remain with the photographer. In case of winning entry,the organisers may be assigned temporary rights( usage defined clearly in advance and not perpetual) to use the photographs with proper credit to the photographer. No third-party use should be granted without the consent of the photographer .Technically,the non-winning photographs should not be used by the organisers in any possible manner.

You have invested in a good camera and have spent time in clicking good photographs. You definitely do not want the images to lie on the desktop of your computer or in a hard disk . Unless a photograph is shown to the world,it may just be waste. Competitions are good medium to showcase best of your work,but do it with a caution. Your photograph is your hard work,your vision,your effort. Don’t let any one exploit your creativity,safeguard your interests.
Happy clicking..

© All Rights Reserved Ravi Dhingra 

PS: Please press the like button, am also looking to gather likes,just in case there is a blogger competition. I do not want to lose out just because my friends and well wishers didn’t support me. 😜😜😜😜