Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Read the Rules: Photo Contests

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is a large association with relatively deep pockets. As an ex-commercial fisherman, I support what they do to get the fish prices up and to get people to buy fish (always an issue in Burgermerica). But as a professional photographer, I had to object to their policy on copyright for images submitted to their latest photo contest: 


"If you submit an image to the contest, ASMI reserves the right to free reproduction of entered images in all media and the right to provide all entered images to promotional partners around the world. The copyright for all entries will be retained by ASMI. ASMI reserves the right send emails promoting the contest."


So I looked up their Communications Director, a Mr. Tyson Fick, and sent him this letter:

Hello Mr. Fick:

I am a professional photographer and an ex-commercial fisherman (Cook Inlet gillnetter for over 20 years). These days I make a good portion of my living taking and selling photos of the commercial fishing and marine industry. I was excited when I first saw your Photo Contest advertised on Facebook by a friend, and immediately went to the web page and started looking it over, only to be disappointed in your policy of wanting to take all photo copyrights for every submission! I admit that most of your entrants will be amateur photographers who have no intention of selling their work. I would also agree that winning a grand prize worth $500 is a fair enough price for those some of those rights. Allowing you to publish a winner as often as you'd like - as long as I get to sell the image as well - that even seems acceptable to me (but probably would not be acceptable to all pros). But ALL rights to ALL photographs submitted? That is a scam to get as many images for your publication as possible - for free - from an unsuspecting public. I grant you that publishing your conditions in the Rules section is actually a very good thing. And as a former commercial fisherman, I support your efforts in the fish marketing business. But as a professional photographer I have to ask, "Can't you do better than this?" If you want good images to use, at least pay a fair price for them. Even to the amateurs. Or at the very least, don't ask for all rights. that's just greedy - and it's greed at the expense of the very people you serve.

Any chance you'll change your rules on this matter?

I look forward to your reply.
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It might seem like a trivial thing to many amateur photographers, and advertising is worth something for sure, but I subscribe to the belief that you shouldn't give your work away for free. And businesses, non-profits, and institutes shouldn't ask you to. You have invested in your photographs, even if that little image on your monitor doesn't seem like much, it is worth the price of your camera and lens and tripod you used to take it. It is worth all the hours your spent learning how to use it. It is worth all the gallons of gas it took to get to where you were when you took it. And it is worth all the time you spent downloading it, selecting it, editing it and submitting it. 

Still want to give it away? If you do, make sure it's for the right reason. Certainly not to "get more work." That technique doesn't work. Make sure you give your images to organizations you want to help, believe in, and support. The rest of them can offer you a fair price, just like everyone else. 

We'll see what Mr. Fick has to say. I'll post his reply, if I get one. Meanwhile, steer clear of contests like these. They aren't worth it.

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