Because scamming for rights is cheaper than paying for them.

Another Commercial Photo Contest

from a site that we might expect to support photography


So. I got this email from, inviting me to enter their contest:

"You don't want to miss this. Calendar Photo Contest Opens Wednesday, April 12th at 9:00 am!" --shootingthewest

The subject line of the email is "Are You In?" With the impression that Shooting the West operates in the interest of photographers, I decided to check it out. Am I in? No.

NO: I am definitely NOT IN.

"You retain your rights to your photograph; however, by entering the contest, you grant Shooting the West (and those authorized by Shooting the West) a royalty-free, world-wide, perpetual, non-exclusive license to publicly display and distribute, reproduce, and create derivative works of the entries, in whole or in part, in any media now existing or later developed, for any Shooting the West purpose, including, but not limited to, advertising and promotion and its website, exhibition, and commercial products, including but not limited to Shooting the West publications. Any photograph reproduced will include a photographer credit. Shooting the West will not be required to pay any additional consideration or seek any additional approval in connection with such uses. Shooting the West will not use any images for monetary gain." --shootingthewest

Really? Just by entering (and paying five bucks per image), Shooting the West claims the right to use my photographs to serve its own interests without any compensation whatsoever. This is a consequence of entering, independent of whether I win or not. Oh, and it's not just Shooting the West that gets this right. It's also those "authorized by Shooting the West." By their rules, Shooting the West can sell that authorization. But they "will not use any images for monetary gain."

"Shooting the West reserves the right to cancel the contest or modify these rules at its discretion. In the event of a dispute regarding the winners, Shooting the West reserves the right to award or not award the prizes at its sole discretion." --shootingthewest

This gives Shooting the West the right to collect your money and then cancel the contest. Worse, Shooting the West can modify the rules, so maybe they WON'T include photographer credit. And maybe they WON'T refrain from using any images for "monetary gain."

"All winners will receive one (1) complimentary commemorative calendar and bragging rights to say that they are one of the select few that is the first calendar of its kind!" --shootingthewest

OMG I can't believe I totally paid to like give my pictures away!

The winners—not all the entrants, just the winners—get one free calendar. Big deal. Oh, plus, if you win, you can say that you are "the first calendar of its kind." Wait...what? Why would you want to be a calendar? Well, if you do, this is your chance.

And on top of all this, they want people to pay for the privilege of giving to Shooting the West images that Shooting the West deems to have marketing value. Whoever thought of and signed off on this scam ought to be embarrassed and shamed. This is NOT the way to support photography.

Shooting the West may not intend to pursue any of the concerns that I've expressed here. Their terms of entry, however, do not support that contention. Why are these matters so explicitly described in the rules? They raise questions about the intent and integrity of the contest sponsor, and give the appearance that there may be unpublicized opportunities that the organization may choose to pursue. If images are truly to be used only for the calendar and contest promotion, then that exclusive use should be explicitly stated in the agreement with the same clarity and conviction accorded the terms of their current description of rights. In that manner, both Shooting the West and participating photographers have fair protection for their respective parts in the project.

Well, anyway, you've still got until June 11, 2017 to pay five bucks to give away your work. I'll pass. I have more respect for my photography—and my subjects!—than that which is accorded with this contest.

Images Copyright © Ed E. Powell
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