10 Years After – Photo Contest Phobia

10 Years After series – #2) Photo Contest Phobia

After 10 years of doing cosplay photography, there is a question that makes my stomach knot up:

Can I submit this photo of me to a contest?

Usually a cosplay-related webpage, social media group, or even a retailer or publisher would put out a call for cosplay photo submissions for a chance for prizes.  This ranges from either feature on their main traffic feeds or advertisements to cash or physical goods. Sometimes, though more rarely today, there could be a book or other printed media involved.   In many outcomes, the cosplayer is very likely to come out ahead depending on the brand name of the contest holder. However, the question both groups forget to factor in is “What do the photographers get?”

Since the judges are not onsite to inspect the cosplay submission, it is mostly dependent on the photographer to capture and then edit the shot.  A poor quality photo will make or break a submission so having a great photographer is a requirement. Granted, getting the right pose and being ready at the right time of day or for when the lighting is just right in general is difficult, but at the end, the photographer also has to invest money, time, and practice in order to get that perfect shot.  However, when it comes down to collecting, unless there is an upfront payment, the photographer usually gets nothing from the contest.

I’ve either directly or through a cosplayer’s request participated in several contests where my work was a finalist.  Even when my work was selected as a winner or runner up and ends up in print material, I was not given any sort of increased traffic, mention, or a free copy of the published photo book.  I realize there was always a chance in losing, but I never thought that being one of the top contests could also mean that I would lose more until I participated in a few of these.

The biggest reason a photographer would agree to any photo contest is for increased traffic and fame that should come with it.  The cosplayer who is in the photo is obvious since they are the person in the photo while the photographer is obviously being the camera lens.  The problem is that when a photo is submitted, the contest holders should have some sort of agreement form that is filled out and attested by the submitter.  When you look closely at these forms, they commonly allow them to do the following:

  • Edit your photography submission, cropping or additional photo manipulation to alter composition or to place it in advertising banner.
  • Typically 0 mention of the photographer, just the cosplayer.
  • Reserve the right to publish your submission in various media, including online advertisements and printed promotional materials and/or in products they sell.

Those already take out the most obvious ways to identify the photographer from the submission.  As for any sort of caption, the typical reasoning is that there is only so much space so they reserve that for the character’s and cosplayer’s name.  Internet viewers either explicitly or subliminally only cares about where to find the cosplayer for more images like these so there is little demand to keep photography credits.  After the contests ends, win or lose, the photographer comes up right where they started.

I understand those just starting out as they also need increased traffic in order to do the work they do.  With sites like YouTube and Facebook making it harder and harder to organically reach people online, I understand the difficulty in growing one’s clientele and workload. For some, the competition itself is worth the price, but considering the amount of work and pain I have to go through for my hobby’s sake, I have to say that cosplay photography contests are not worth it.

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~ by BlizzardTerrak on May 1, 2018.

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