Why many online photo contests aren’t worth the paper they’re not written on!

They’re everywhere. Online ‘vote for me’ photo contests. Should you bother with them? I firmly believe not!

If you place any value on your images, financial or otherwise, never give them away for free. All too often that’s exactly what you’re doing with these contests. The blogs and Facebook pages that run them have little or no interest in your photographs — and they have little interest in you. What really motivates them to run these contests is access to your friends. They don’t care about quality, they don’t care about talent, what they want from you is to promote them, to generate traffic, and likes and registrations for their websites or pages. Nothing more than that. How many time have you seen posts begging for votes on these things that go something like “Please vote for my picture of a horse on Jenny’s blog about horses’ (which probably gets about three page views a day)?

A while back I saw a contest being run by an insurance company, the subject being food photography. What exactly qualifies an insurance company who probably know very little about either food or photography to judge your work? Pretty much nothing.

I’m not belittling contests as a whole, far from it — they can be a great motivator and learning experience. It’s my hope to stop readers wasting their time on stupid pointless ones. If you must do them apply some good sense as to which are worth the effort in terms of your time and the possible exposure you’ll get. Getting included in, say, The New York Times ‘Top nature photographer of the year’ (if there is such a thing) has huge bragging rights, unlike ‘Jenny’s favourite horse photo of the week on Jenny’s little horse blog’. Bragging about that just makes you look a bit of a dick.

So what!

The New York Times would have a proper selection processes and judgement is ultimately in the hands of people who are experts in their fields — winning that would be an achievement. Any photography contest relying purely on votes on a website or page is nothing more than a popularity contest — winning that only means you’ve been dumb enough to be suckered by the lovely Jenny into bringing traffic to her site, and you probably have more friends than the other suckers entrants. It’s also highly likely you’ve given away your copyright too when you ticked that little box accepting the small print!

Next time you see the phrase ‘Award Winning Photographer’ online, have a look at what the award actually is. More often than not it’s something really, really pathetic (like best weekly horse picture on Jenny’s horse blog).

Personally speaking, the only appreciation of my work I seek is either sales or the honest opinions of people I consider my peers. I couldn’t give rats ass what the mythical Jenny, my Facebook friends, and her three visitors a day think.

Before entering any competitions ask yourself these three questions;

Is the prize worth me spending time on this?

Is the contest being judged by credible judges?

Am I signing away my rights in the small print?

Remember, popularity (like, click and share) contests are no reflection of the quality of an image or indeed you. Nine times out of ten they little more than just marketing tools.

As well as being a photographer and former lecturer in the subject Alan Gandy co-owns SpainBuddy.com. Spain Buddy is currently running an international travel photography competition (closing date of 30th November 2016) with a healthy prize of €500 (or local currency equivalent should the winner be from outside Europe). More details at www.spainbuddy.com/travel-photography-competition-2016

This article was originally published here on 25th March 2015.