Photo Contests and Copyright

by Photo Life

© Mark Margerison, Green Anole, The World We Live In VI, Environment 5th prize.

The World We Live In VI Environment 5th-prize winner Mark Margerison said, “I find it important in a competition that the photographer retain the rights to the image they have created, and you get that with Photo Life.

His comment reminded me that a reader had recently asked a smart question about our policy on copyright. Jane Thomas brought up the important issue in response to Alan McCord’s article “Do It. And…Keep Doing It.” Thomas asked:

“What happens to the photos, once submitted? Will you allow them to be used by other sources? Sell them? Let them be used for free? I am sure a lot of potential submitters will be very concerned with these questions too and don’t submit for fear of what will be done with them.”

This is an excellent and extremely important question, so I wanted to share the response since it’s an issue we should always consider before submitting to any photo contest.

Dear Jane Thomas,

You bring up an excellent question and issue. We do not share them with other sources ever, nor do we sell them or allow them to be used for free by others. We only use the winning photos in relationship to our The World We Live In photo contest (in announcing the winners and in promoting the contest, like with this post). Photographers keep their copyright, and we always credit the photographers. Please read our rules and regulations here:

We always encourage photographers to read the fine print before entering any photo contest, including ours! There are a lot of contests out there that use photo contests as a way to get a bank of images, and we don’t think that’s right. You can check out some of our past advice on this issue in the following posts, which has appeared in previous years on our blog:

Thanks for bringing up this important issue!

Always Read the Fine Print!
So, when you are thinking of entering a photo contest, please read the fine print and make sure you understand what the implications are, especially in regards to how your image will be used and any potential loss of copyright!

And if you are considering entering a future edition of The World We Live (or any photo contest), Mark Margerison offered this advice:

“There are any number of photography competitions out there, and I have entered various ones over the years, but the only one that I have stuck with is Photo Life’s The World We Live In—I think almost 20 years now. I find it important in a competition that the photographer retain the rights to the image they have created, and you get that with Photo Life. The categories are broad enough that they cover all my photographic interests and when the winners are announced, they truly are winning images. What I like about the competition is that each year when I get the issue announcing this year’s TWWLI, it gives me something to actively go out and shoot for, something that gets me out shooting for my own pleasure and reminds me why I first picked up a camera when I was 9 years old. Of course the prizes are great, but I find seeing your image published in a magazine like Photo Life gives a deeper feeling of satisfaction than winning a new tripod or camera bag—but they are great too! I’m 43 and the sparkle in my mom’s eyes when I drop off the issue of Photo Life with my image in it is the best part! The thing about photography is you have to keep shooting, you have to keep trying new things and you have to keep learning—and the annual challenge of The World We Live In helps me do that!”

—Mark Margerison, Highlight Studio

UPDATED (January 3, 2018): This year’s contest, TWWLI VII, is now closed. For future editions, you may check out the contest information and guidelines at

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