Beware of Fake Photography Contests

Beware of Fake Photography Contests

We shoot and share our photographs. We want our images seen by other people, as a way of expressing ourselves. Entering photography contests leads to a great way of showing our images to more people with a chance of being approved by a selected jury, but what if some contests are just scams?

Photography is much more popular than it was 10 years ago, and so are the photography contests. There are many contests out there run by respected magazines, photography organizations, photography clubs, photo agencies, and also some photographic brands. On the other side, there is an increase in the contests run by websites, e-magazines, and even by some Instagram accounts. But, do they really tend to make a contribution to the photography world or attract notice to a specific problem? Actually, according to entry fees, photography contests may look like an easy way of earning money by the organizations.

First of all, I don’t intend to denigrate the worldwide known contests like Nat Geo Photo Awards, or some other similar big organizations which also require entry fees. It is quite obvious that entry fee is obligatory for limiting down the applications to serious contestants, and most likely to ease the process of elimination as well. Also, it is known that some other foundations provide scholarships to young photographers or they support personal projects with the collected budget via applicants and sponsors. But, how about the other contests? Mostly, they are launched by new digital magazines or online communities that have no legitimate proof of entity. Sometimes you don’t even know who the juries are, yet they want you to pay per image for entering these “contests.” Briefly stated, if the required entry fee is $10-40 per image to enter, and assuming at least 1,000 photographers attend, that makes a huge amount of money in total, but mostly, the prize is just a couple of thousand for the top three winners. So, what’s the purpose of the surplus amount of collected money? Beyond doubt, everyone has their right to earn money in their own ways, but the rapid increase in these kinds of contests lays bare the fact that amateur and enthusiast photographers are considered easy targets to monetize.

These contests mostly accept applications worldwide, and they usually do not have a theme. You can apply for different genres with unlimited photos as long as you pay per image. All the more amazing, some contests make early bird discounts for applications. That just raises doubts about the trustworthiness of these organizations.

Another Ugly Truth About Fake Photo Contests

Some of the fake photo contests do not require money in the first stage. There are lots of fake contests to apply for free, but later on you are asked to pay.

For instance, when you apply for these contests, you usually get an email afterwards stating something like this:

Unfortunately your photo didn’t rank among the top three, but our jury liked your photo so much and we’d like to print your photo in our annual book.

And here it comes again; they want you to pay a fee for getting the printed book. So, if you agree to pay that fee, you will see your photo printed on a compiled photo book with many other randomly selected photos of other applicants who agreed to pay. Well, sad truth is: there is no selection and this is just a humiliating act against photographers.

So, what should you do to avoid these scams? First of all, it is better to do some research about the foundation or magazine that launches the contest. It’s also better to search about the previous winners and how that contest affected their careers. Therefore, you can easily get a clue about that contest, and whether it is a scam or not.


  • Always try to shoot your best and apply for well known photo contests.
  • Always trust in yourself.
  • Always compete with yourself.
  • Don’t rely on every photo contest you see, pick the right contests that have potential to support your career.
  • Always double check the terms and conditions about usage of images and licenses before entering a contest.
  • Don’t pay for being featured in a printed book.

If you have any experiences or thoughts about these kind of photo contests, please share in the comment section below.

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marknie's picture

You mean avoid the fake ones like the ones I have seen posted here on this site multiple times? Those ones?

Burak Erzincanli's picture

if you're talking about giveaways, that's totally a different thing, it is not a contest. And the contests on Fstoppers are free, and Fstoppers doesn't want any money from contestants for posting their images.

Fritz Asuro's picture

I don't remember seeing scam photo contest and giveaways here in Fstoppers.

Lane Shurtleff's picture

Another thing to watch out for is unscrupulous contests that will actually collect thousands of images from contestants and sell them in other forms online like flikr, smugmug, etc. I shoot lots of glamour and adult content, but many years ago I stopped posting anything that could be misused or used to defame a model or client. Granted, I have a 25+ year history of work behind me to support my promotion, but many photographers that are trying to get started in a professional career have a major uphill battle to deal with.

Mary Konchar's picture

Even some of the so-called legitimate contests offer low prize money and include the right to use all of the images submitted. For example:

Photographers retain ownership of all copyrights. However, by submitting an image for entry in this contest, you automatically give the *** permission and rights to store, display, and use the image, its thumbnails, and your name as the photographer, indefinitely in any media without notification or compensation.

Entries selected for inclusion in the *** Image Library will be published online in a searchable image gallery.

A print quality copy of any image submitted to the contest may be used, with appropriate attribution, in publications that promote the mission of the *** (such as newsletters, reports, or when appropriate, postings with the *** without further notification. The *** will not release print quality files for any other use.

Images will remain in the *** Image Library indefinitely.

I've omitted the name of the contest, but most all of the contests I've come across have similar language. A great way to build a free library of images for almost no effort or cost.

Guillermo Fierro's picture

There is a contest that obligate you to pay the fees if you want to read the "Competition Rules". It sounds like a scam. I think that every contest most show you the Rules before pay, and then you decide if you enter or not.

Alexandra Giamanco's picture

Photo contests are nothing more than a right grab stock creating flow for these companies. Ever read NatGeo's terms??? Yeah, no thanks.

How about they ask me money to be featured in their book, they said that they send to agencies worldwide and i will receive a copy too. Thank you

Burak Erzincanli's picture

I'd say; spend a little more, print your own book and then send it to the agencies you want to work with :) At least they will only see "your" work. Otherwise you will pay oneeyeland and your photo will be seen within hundreds of other photographers' work. I'm not even sure how agencies react against oneeyeland books.