Photo Contest = Sour Grapes

Subtitle: How to do a Photo Contest wrong.

Picture: Fall colors on grape vine leaves in autumn, vineyard in Alexander Valley, near Asti, Sonoma County Wine Growing Region, California

wine grapes

Twice in this last week I saw a request related to a Photo Contest for the Verde Valley Wine Trail in Arizona. The reason it caught my attention was because I’d shot a book called the Backroads of the California Wine Country. So anytime I see something about wine or vineyards, my antennae goes up a notch or three. The second time I came across the mention of this contest, I decided to take a look. (Pause for dramatic effect.) Ugh!

From Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: “Can you smell it? That smell? The smell of Mendacity?” OK, maybe not mendacity, but a blatent attempt by an organization to garner free photos for their own promotional use. The first thing I like to do in a case like this is to see the type of images an organization is currently using to promote itself, since it’s apparent they want either “more” or “better”. See for yourself what images they’re currently using to promote the area as an attraction. Compare those pics to my images of California Vineyards. OK, no comparison. My bad.

That was “ugh # 01” – now look at the rules for “ugh # 02” :

Upon submission all photo entries become the property of the Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce. Contestants grant the Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce unlimited usage and unrestricted rights of any photograph submitted for the contest regardless of whether or not it is a winning entry. They reserve the right to use the photos in printed or on-line materials and for educational, informational, and promotional purposes without paying compensation to the photographers or the subjects.

Oh, the thrill… Translation: it’s the ‘ol “we can use your photos however we want, even if they don’t win, AND we don’t have to pay you one bloody red cent” line.

(Drum roll) Ugh! # 03 – they don’t even have any prizes listed yet. You’ll win something, but that part is “coming soon.”

L-A-M-E-! (eye’s rolling)

Come on, folks. If you want good images to promote your business, attraction, or area, hire a real photographer. Heck, they can even hire me.

Who knows, maybe “looking good” isn’t that important for a Chamber of Commerce trying to promote area tourism?

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Copyright info for using or linking to the pictures.

5 Comments on “Photo Contest = Sour Grapes”

  1. Patrick Smith Says:

    It seems logical to me:

    “Entering and winning” is to ‘getting drunk”
    “losing all rights” is to “getting a hangover”

    It seems as though with this contest, they are trying to simulate the effect that their product has on their customers!

    I’ll stick with beer for now!



  2. Maria Says:

    Does this really surprise you? Aren’t all photo contests by small organizations like this? Aren’t all photos submitted to contests like this pretty crappy?

    Jeez, I can’t believe how many photographer/bloggers are still blogging about stuff like this. Old news with a different name on it.

  3. G Dan Mitchell Says:

    Entered photographs “become the property of” the contest sponsors!?

    Gary, when it comes to “contest” terms, nothing surprises me any more – well, except the folks who will write stuff like “it is OK if it gets you some publicity.” Or, as happened to me when I noted some similar terms – though less blatant language – in another couple of contests earlier this year you may find yourself the recipient of some very nasty and very personal messages from those running the contest. (I won’t name names right now, though in one case the contest organizer sent me a tremendously personal and insulting message… and then changed there terms in more or less the ways I suggested. 😉

    Good luck, and I’ll soon add this to my “hall of shame” at my blog. Again, nothing will change about this stuff until enough people point out this stuff on a consistent basis.


  4. Richard Says:

    Gotta hand it to these marketing people. They know there’s a sucker born every (contest).

  5. Elliott Says:

    Gary your images are great! What a difference from the drab and boring shots the chamber is using.

    Its always good to read the fine print.

    Keep up the great work!


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