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Our annual Photographer’s Guide to Photo Contests ranks a number of well-known contests with a letter grade from A-F based on entry fees, prizes, and exposure. Most of the contests we review are aimed at the professional or aspiring professional photographer, but I can’t help but comment on TimeOut New York’s #TimeOutFoodAwards Instagram Contest because, well, they contacted me.
Thirty-nine weeks ago, I posted this photo on my Instagram feed of a new sushi restaurant in New York and geotagged it. This past weekend, TimeOut commented.
Curious for all the details, I bounced over to the official contest website. Here’s the short of it:
- You submit to the contest by simply hashtagging: “By submitting a photo on Instagram with the hashtag #TimeOutFoodAwards, entrants agree to the terms set forth in these Official Rules.”
- It’s a rights-grab: “GRANT OF LICENSE: By entering the Contest, entrants grant Sponsor, its agents, subsidiaries and affiliates (the “Licensees”) a non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, sub-licensable right to exercise the copyright, publicity, database rights and any other rights entrant has in the Entry, in any media now known or hereafter devised (including without limitation, the internet), without any compensation.”
- There’s no prize except your image will appear on the cover of Time Out New York, and even that isn’t guaranteed. “The winning photo will appear on the cover of the Time Out New York Food & Drink Awards issue on March 27, 2014. There is no retail value of this prize. Prize will be awarded “as is” and no cash alternatives will be given. If any part of the prize package is unable to take place as planned, for any reason, including but not limited to, cancellation, scheduling conflicts or an event of force majeure, the remaining components of the prize will be awarded and Sponsor’s obligation to the winner will be fulfilled, and no other additional compensation will be provided. If for any reason winners are unable to use prizes within the time specified, the participating organizations are not responsible for providing replacement prizes. No makeup goods will be given in the event of a canceled or rescheduled event.”
So the contest will go down something like this: TimeOut will use your images to illustrate the nominated restaurants instead of sending a professional photographer – this in the name of “reader participation.” Then maybe if the image doesn’t suck, they’ll put you on the cover, but not give you anything else.
My photo won’t be winning any contests, least of all because it’s a crappy image. More so because I refuse to subjugate myself to such onerous terms.
I fully understand that consumer-based photo contests are for fun, and the thought of a pro-level prize is an anathema to the sponsors. But here’s an idea to make it palatable (pun intended). Why not offer a $500 gift certificate to the restaurant depicted in the image? This rewards the photographer for going there and taking a photo in the first place, the restaurant for winning, and makes your advertising revenue-generating publication look less like a cheap bastard. How’s about no one enter any images until they offer a decent prize?