Corporate tool

The company I work for was running a photo contest. There was even a decent prize for the winner: $1000 and the photograph would be displayed on the building.

Placeholder photo showing where the contest winner would displayed

I didn’t enter.

I didn’t even seriously consider entering.

Yet when the finalists were announced today, my reaction was disappointment followed by incredulity.

“Is that the best we can do?”

“I can totally do better than 60% of those”

But I don’t regret not entering. I’m just trying to articulate why I stayed out. I also suspect that I’m not the only photographer at the company who abstained and I wouldn’t be surprised if the others did so for similar reasons.

  1. Rights grab. Even entering the contest required me to surrender all rights to my photo.
  2. I have not yet drunk enough of the corporate kool aid to do things just for recognition from my coworkers or management.
  3. It was patently obvious what kind of photos the company wanted. This wasn’t truly a “submit your best shot” contest. Everyone knew that bright, colorful, and exciting images were going to win. Especially because we specialize in color printing and want to show off that technology.
  4. Designer integrity. Given the requirements, this amounted to a design-on-spec job. I refuse those on principle.
  5. Artistic integrity. Sure, I could have selected a generic sunrise/sunset photo whose rights I don’t care about and see what happened. But anything worth publishing is something I want to actually care about.

Also, I’m too much of a wise ass. For a corporate contest, I’d be unable to refrain from submitting something taken at work. Granted, I have plenty of nice, colorful, examples from work.
morning in foster city
full moonrise
However, when I saw the contest, one photo immediately came to mind. And it was perfect. Except it was completely not going to win.

So why bother surrendering the rights to it?
misty lot
Yup, a black and white photo of the company parking lot.

And yes, I know that properly printing black and white using full-color inks is as hard (if not harder) than printing nice color. But that’s not what we’re selling.

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at, and the web at

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