I was sent a link to a travel photo contest over the weekend – the New York Times’ annual Why We Travel competition. Great, thinks I, I am sure I have a photo or two which would fit the bill here. But a couple of things have stopped me in my tracks.
Firstly, the opening paragraph contains this proviso (emphasis mine):
(Please limit your contributions to one or two photos, and do not submit photos that have been altered in any way.)
Really? Not altered in any way?
So this means that all of the RAW photos I’ve taken in the past few years, that I took at capture time with the explicit intention that I was going to crop, rotate, adjust brightness, and saturation, and remove dust spots, are all ineligible? Really? I don’t do kooky thinks like erasing telephone poles, nor do I composite in things that aren’t there. But I do maintain that the alterations I perform are non-destructive, help me ensure that the final image is as I remembered it, and they are an essential part of my photographic toolkit. Disallowing this sort of basic, minor RAW workflow-type correction of photos just seems silly.
Besides which, using their logic, if you are a JPEG shooter, does the fact that you typically override camera defaults for sharpness, saturation, white balance etc, invalidate your photos from contention? And if it doesn’t, what’s to stop you setting the picture style in-camera to Vivid or some other highly stylised setting?
The second thing I have a problem with is the fine print at the bottom:
You are agreeing that we can use your submission in all manner and media of The New York Times and that we shall have the right to authorize third parties to do so.
Ouch. So by submitting, not only are you giving the NYT the rights to make all kinds of money off of your work (with not a penny to you) but you’re giving them the right to then redistribute your work to anyone else they want! That’s just cheeky.
So go ahead, submit your unaltered photo to the NYT. There’s a slim possibility that you may end up in print in their august journal. But there’s 100% chance of you getting ripped off, and every chance you could see your work staring back at you from a motivational calendar in a gift shop. Next to the poster with the kittens.