GuruShots changes contest terms in favor of photographers, removes rights grab

Screenshot of GuruShots website - 24 Feb. 2015
Screenshot of GuruShots website – 24 Feb. 2015

Kudos to GuruShots.com for changing their terms and conditions to language that supports the rights of photographers. They’ve eliminated a rights grab and should be commended. I remain wary of the site as a whole, but they are now much more limited in what they and their sponsors can do with submitted photos. Read on for more.

We normally don’t highlight contests aimed at photo enthusiasts; our deadline calendar only lists contests aimed at working and student photojournalists, photographers, and artists. But when I heard about GuruShots in a PetaPixel post, I was intrigued enough to look at the terms and conditions of the site. It’s an investor-backed startup whose main business is running free contests. They’ve already had tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of images submitted, making them a serious player in the photo contest realm.

The adage is that if you’re not paying for it, you’re the product being sold. I figured the site was basically a way to monetize rights grabbing contests. The travel industry does this a lot: images submitted to an airline’s photo contests often end up in advertisements.

When I looked at the Terms for submitting to GuruShots, I wasn’t surprised to find a rights grab. Until last week, the language said that the company and its partners and sponsors had unlimited rights to publish and distribute submitted work.

When I encounter terms like this, I usually write an email to the contest organizer and explain why their contest is bad for photographers. Sometimes they respond well (as Filson did last year) and sometimes they say they won’t change (FeatureShoot’s Emerging Photographer contest last year) or don’t respond at all (National Geographic Traveler a few years back). In this case, GuruShots responded and changed their terms positively.

I wrote an email to GuruShots explaining the rights grab and sent a link to the Artists’ Bill of Rights, which provides guidance for contests. GuruShots’ CEO wrote back quickly wanting to know a bit more about the issue, so I gave some examples of how the terms could be changed. He said he’d talk to his legal team and work on a solution. Just a few days later, he wrote back saying that the terms had been changed. Now, the Intellectual Property section of GuruShots’ Terms reads that by submitting to a contest:

"you hereby grant GuruShots, as well as its partners and sponsors, the right to display the Content and the right to use the Content to promote the challenges(s) on social media and other websites." -GuruShots Terms, Intellectual Property section

By adding “to promote the challenge(s),” the company and its sponsors are much more limited in what they can do with submitted images than they were before. That is, they can only use them to promote the contest they were submitted to rather than as collateral for a marketing campaign, etc. This is standard for all good contests, and GuruShots deserves recognition for changing their submission rules to support photographers and their work.

There’s an open question of whether it’s valuable to photographers to participate in these contests. It remains to be seen how sponsors and partners will use images to “promote the challenge(s).” Social media usage of images by brands is still a viable way for photographers to make a living, so perhaps a brand’s post promoting the contest should involve a licensing fee. Imagine a photo on Coca-Cola’s facebook page with a link to go check out the contest. That’s probably not where I want my photo to be used without substantial payment.

I still probably wouldn’t recommend participating in GuruShots contests. Winning has questionable value to working photographers, and there’s still room for photos to be used to promote companies. Nevertheless, the terms are a marked improvement over what they were.

A lot of people look at our deadline calendar, and we strive to only show contests that are good for photographers. This means contests that are valuable to participate in, which have no or reasonable fees, and, importantly, that have submission terms and conditions that respect the rights of photographers. The Artists’ Bill of Rights is our guiding principle on that last point.

Melissa Lyttle reflects on judging POYi

What is this picture saying? Is it truthful? Does the photographer have a voice and a vision, are they moving photography forward with their image? It’s not enough to simply show up (f8 and be there), point, and shoot. When everyone with a camera phone fancies themselves a photographer, we have to set ourselves apart by approaching situations skillfully — photography is, after all, a craft.”Melissa Lyttle

Recently on tumblr, Melissa Lyttle reflected on her experience as a judge for this year’s POYi contest news division. She writes about the overall experience of judging the contest and gives more fine-grained observations about specific categories and trends in submissions. It’s well worth a read.

POYi is remarkable in its transparency. The entire judging process has been available as a livestream for the past few years (though there were some hiccups this year due to technical issues). You can watch and listen to every “in” and “out” and the debates over images, editing, storytelling, etc., as the finalists are determined. While we’re all left wondering which images were disqualified or lost out this year in World Press Photo, POYi lets you see behind the curtain.

Judging for all of the still photo categories has been completed, by the way, and you can see this year’s winning images on the POYi website.

Two sad notes this year, though. Neither POYi Cats nor POYi Chatroom Heroes seem to be active any longer.

Follow dvafoto on tumblr, by the way. It’s a bit different from what we do here.

Kubrick treasure trove: Museum puts thousands of director’s LOOK assignment photos online

kubrick-photo-museumnyc
Screenshot of Stanley Kubrick collection at the Museum of the City of New York

The Museum of the City of New York has unveiled an online collection of ~5000 of Stanley Kubrick’s photos from his time on staff at LOOK magazine between 1945 and 1950. While not quite as easily searchable as Yale’s FSA project, there’s a lot of fun to be had just clicking from page to page. Small collections of Kubrick’s photography have been passed around on blogs over the years (here or here) but this collection includes 129 of the young Kubrick’s assignments. And while only about 5,000 of the images are online now, the collection totals about 15,000 pictures. Oh, and you can order pretty affordable prints from the collection.

Here’s what the museum has to say about the collection:

Between 1945 and 1950, Stanley Kubrick worked as a staff photographer for LOOK magazine. He was not yet Kubrick, the famous film director; he was just Stanley, the kid from the Bronx with an uncanny photographic sensibility. Only 17 years old when he joined the magazine’s ranks, he was by far its youngest photographer. Kubrick often turned his camera on his native city, drawing inspiration from the variety of personalities that populated its spaces. Photographs of nightclubs, street scenes, and sporting events were amongst his first published images, and in these assignments, Kubrick captured the pathos of ordinary life in a way that belied his young age. The Museum’s collection contains 129 of Kubrick’s assignments for the magazine, encompassing more than 15,000 individual images, the vast majority of them never published.

If you want to see the influence of Kubrick’s photography in his films, you’d do well to find a copy of his early noir The Killing. IMDB has a few stills to give an idea of the look of the film.

And while we’re on the subject of Kubrick, here are a couple posts from the past few years on his work: Kubrick’s centered single-point perspective, and Capturing historic light in film.

via reddit