Quick tip #13: Beware of contests


…. or read the fine print!

It is so important when submitting your photos in a contest to read the fine print.  Yes, it’s tedious.  Yes, it’s small.  But knowing where and how your image will be used, what happens with your copyright and so on is so important.

There are many online contests and the allure of winning a $100 certificate, a new camera product, or having your image featured on their website is there.  But do you know what else you are signing away just by submitting?  I’ve read some rules that say if your image wins, the company running the contest can use your image for future contest promotions.  That’s fine.  On the flip side, I’ve seen some where you actually sign away your copyright just by submitting!

I read a story years ago of a guy who submitted an image to a contest and didn’t win.  A few months later, he saw his image on the cover of a magazine.  He didn’t read the fine print that said you allow the company to use / modify your image as they see fit, without compensation (and NO – credit is NOT compensation!!!).

I was actually caught by a contest run many years back.  I found my image being used on the company’s website (a tourism website).  I vowed to never again submit without fully knowing what is happening with my image.

Contests today are often more about image grabs.  They get 2000 entries and each image can be used for promotional purposes, even sold to other websites.  And they give a total of $1000 in prizes.  But they are saving soooo much money as they aren’t paying for those other 2000 images that can be used as they see fit.  Ok, maybe not all 2000 images are usable.  But if just 100 are?  That can easily be tens of thousands of dollars they are saving/making by running this contest.

The big local camera store here in town is running it’s yearly contest and they have the following in their rules.   They are being honest and open, putting it right there for you to read (if you scroll down to the rules section).  Nothing wrong with them putting it there, they are being totally professional.  But we all need to know before we submit what’s happening with the images and make our own decisions.

By entering this contest, entrants consent to the use of their photo on the www.[website name removed].com website for promotional purposes, in all campaigns and platforms, including the website, without payment.

Uhhh… no thanks.  I’ll pass.


So think before you submit:

  • Can they use the image for anything else non-contest related?
  • Can they sell / give the image to another website without consent / payment?
  • Are you keeping your copyright on the image?
  • Have you sold the image before and have an exclusive usage right with that client?  If so, you are in breach of contract if they use the image somewhere else


We all need to be smart about our images.  People need to get off the “they’ll put my name on their website”, thinking credit is payment mentality.  It is NOT.  It never will be.  I don’t know ANY photographer who has had ANY work through having their name in the credit.  Hell, I don’t know many people who actually read who the photographer is.


1 comment

  1. Great read and thanks for the information, but didn’t the fine print mention that the website will have the right to use the image for a duration of 1 year (or did I misunderstood)?

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