The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

Snap Happy

I love photo competitions, they prepare you well for the world of paying photography as you have often only one shot at getting a prize and as such you do your research; find out the type of images they like; who and what the judges are and what they might be looking for; you look at past winners if there is a gallery and you edit, edit, edit your “best” pictures to your very best.

One of my favourite competitions is the Wanderlust Travel photography competition because I know the look the judges want and have been a finalist all four times I`ve entered. (Though not as yet a winner annoyingly). having said that however each year I find they are keen to challenge themselves with new types of image and new ideas as to what a winning image should be and I do believe it is getting better as more professional photographers enter and influence the expectations of the result. Harder too.

I have found it difficult to second guess some competitions though, the results from different judges each year make predicting what will win impossible. The World Press Photo competition is notorious for often unwelcome and incomprehensible surprise winners.

There are a lot of competitions out there if you know where to look though be warned, these days many people start competitions as a way to build up a collection of stock images on a theme that they will use for commercial purposes. Some will even charge you an entry fee for the privilege  too, amazing really when it was this sort of work that they USED TO pay photographers or stock agencies for. Though they make a big deal about the photographer keeping copyright if you  agree to a royalty free, unlimited, irrevocable license for whatever they (or often their friends/business partners) want you might as well be handing over copyright. I always read the terms and conditions, true is these financially troubled days no one is just going to give away stuff for free and if they want to use your pictures for promotion for the contest or a spin-off book it seems slightly churlish to refuse especially if you have won a prize. What I never agree to though is any competition-unrelated, unpaid commercial or editorial usage of my images however much it will “raise my profile”. I also hate third party clauses on usage, as they are difficult to track and I am not too happy about sending any images to rules that state even those pictures that are not finalists or winners can be used someway because that just seems greedy and rude to me. And I never ever ever give up copyright because it is MY image after all and if it is good enough for a competition, in my opinion, it is hopefully going to be good enough to sell somewhere, someday and give me some money to make my wife happy, and thus me happy as she lets me out to do more photography in the hopes of earning more money and on and on in the happy circle of the photographic ecosystem.

So good news today from one Simon Smith who has a good site listing all the photographic competitions that aren`t too  greedy and selfish. Check it out he lists contests by subject genre, also by free to enter or fee payable and of course by deadline. There are a few such sites out there, see over to the left in useful resources, but this one seems really well set up, easy to navigate and even has forums and galleries where you can connect and share information with other competition people, including, apparently, sometimes the organizers and judges. So it looks good.

Now I`m off to find some more comps to enter so I can start getting that photo-food-chain working again. It has been an impoverished few months, busy yes but no money of late. Christmas coming up, wife wants happiness, then I will be…..then……then…….then……

The image above is the famous Billiken from Osaka by the way.




One response

  1. Some nice info on the comps. I have been meaning to enter some, just never got round to it . I know a few people who think it’s a great idea to enter the competitions organised by some of the big mags, even if you don’t win, if your snaps are good and catch the editors eye, you can get paid to have your photos in the mag for future stories. Nothing wrong with that.

    November 19, 2009 at 10:44 pm

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