April 24, 2017

Barbara Konecny

Photo competitions, worth the risk?

Photo: Barbara Konecny, Head of Case Management at Pixsy, via Flickr

If you’re a photographer looking for a wider audience, what better way than submitting your work to some photo competitions?

Photo competitions often offer the chance to win money or camera gear. Others tempt you with the promise of exposure to creative directors or bragging rights. But before you hit submit, are you sure you know what will happen to your photos?

Photo Competitions

Let’s have a look at the terms of the popular competition site Pixoto:

You retain the copyright in any User Content you post on the Site. Pixoto neither has nor wants any ownership of your Content.

that sounds promising, let’s read on;

However, by uploading and/or posting any User Content to the Site, you grant Pixoto a perpetual, non-exclusive and royalty-free right to use the User Content and the name that is submitted in connection with such User Content, as is reasonably necessary to display the User Content, rank the content using ImageDuels, provide the Services and to facilitate, at Content Owner's direction, the license of Images or the sale of Products on the Site.


Pixoto gets a perpetual right to license your photo. They do ask you when submitting if you want to submit the photo to their stock marketplace but this is ticked by default.

They’re not alone - many other contests have similar rules. Of course, you would expect them to gain a license to display your photo on the contest website but this often extends to licensing to third parties as well. And when they do so you might not even find out who has licensed your photo. From Pixoto’s other terms and conditions for market contributors:


This makes it extremely difficult to pursue cases against third party image users as there’s little hope of finding out if they are using the photo legitimately.

Social media

A similar issue is groups on sites like Flickr and Facebook. As many organizational users of photographs have cut their budget, but not demand, for imagery some have started sourcing it for free on the web. Something to watch out for here is that the terms of these groups can be obscure or subject to change. Publishers act as though social media is governed by different norms to websites.

One example we saw recently was where a photographer had added a photo to a Flickr group run by a local newspaper some years ago. At the time his understanding was this was a chance to be featured in a specific spot in the print edition. The group rules currently say that the submissions can be used multiple times in any of the paper’s web or print properties. His photograph now appears in a web article without attribution.

Does this mean you should never enter your images into photo competitions or Flickr pools? I don’t think it’s as drastic as that. But it does mean you should take care. Make sure you understand the terms and conditions and weigh up if the potential benefits are worth the risk. You might also consider which photos you submit. Do you use your ones from your main collection, or do you create ones specifically for this use?

Keep creating, and keep safe.

Read more photography related articles here.

Barbara Konecny

Having overseen more than 200,000 cases of unauthorized image use in her role as Head Of Case Management, Barbara has been with Pixsy since the beginning and has built a team of in-house IP law and copyright experts as well as a network of legal partners. She is also a photographer.

Start monitoring your images today

Free to sign up

24/7 image monitoring online

Powerful dashboard & tools

Send takedown notices worldwide

Get compensated for stolen images