Saturday, August 22, 2009

Is Capture My Chicago a good deal for photographers?

I'm posing that title as a rhetorical question.  I don't think it is, but I'd love to hear what others have to say?

Capture my Chicago is a photography contest / social networking site / fine art book in the making.  It's a collaboration between CBS 2 Chicago and Pediment Publishing, which has published other books in this model, such as "Capture my Colorado" and "Capture Cincinnati".  In essence it works like this: you submit photos to their web site, the photos get voted on by the other users of the web site, and ultimately some combination of the highest vote getters and the editor's choices make it into the book.  Capture my Chicago isn't paying the photographers anything, although a select few will receive prizes-- all they're really offering is exposure and credit in the book and on the web site.

I found out about this after someone left a comment on my flickr stream.  I have to admit that it's a clever idea, but after some thought I've decided not to participate.  While I've submitted photos to contests before, and been published without payment (ie: the Chicago Reader last year is a good example), I draw a distinction between a local, free publication and a fine art book that will be sold for $39.99 at your local Barnes and Noble.  I think that pushes the boundaries of what can be considered in good faith a contest.  Capture My Chicago intends to publish a book with 100-250 photos.  Let's say that 150 photographers take part-- only 18 of those people are getting paid anything in the form of prizes.  They're not even giving the contributors a free copy of the book-- you have to buy it yourself!

JPEG magazine has been doing a similar, user generated publication for years now, yet they manage to pay each photographer $100 bucks.  That's always seemed fair to me. 

In the end, I guess this boils down to what one expects out of their photography?  For many people, I imagine the exposure of being in the book is enough.  And if that's the case, please don't let this blog post rain on your parade.  To each his own.

17 comments:

JohnAK said...

Yeah, that is kind of lame but welcome to publishing in the year 2009. Nobody wants to pay for photography anymore and most amateur photographers are more interested in seeing their name in print than respecting their art. The whole internet has become one giant popularity contest. Ho hum, at least these guys are being honest about it.

JohnAK said...

p.s. I would also add that this whole scheme is basically pay to play publishing. You get a bunch of people to contribute then sell them copies of their own photos in the book. It's a little sleazy but there's really no harm so long as everyone involved understands what's going on.

Anonymous said...

You're assuming the publisher can afford to pay publishing rights when they probably can't. 150 photos x $100 is a lot of money.

Andy said...

@Anonymous 11:58: I'm not assuming anything about what the publisher can or cannot afford. The intent of this blog was simply to discuss whether this is a good deal for the photographers involved, not if it's a good deal for the publisher.

That said, $39.99 per book is also a lot of money.

JUSTIN said...

Not even a free book? That's straight up bullshit.

phule said...

Andy,

I too was contacted and have decided to not participate pretty much for the same reasons. While they make a big deal out of not doing a rights-grab, at the end of the day, you still have to buy the book yourself. A shinier version of an old trick (some would say scam) that (unfortunately) has a major news organizations name attached.

Andy said...

@Justin: Well said.

@phule: Thanks for commenting, Rob. It's good to know I'm not the only one abstaining from this.

I find their claims about rights misleading. It's not unusual to retain copyright after something's been published, yet they act as though they're doing something special. And regardless, this publisher gets to profit off the photography just the same, for however long this book is in print.

John K said...

"In the end, I guess this boils down to what one expects out of their photography? For many people, I imagine the exposure of being in the book is enough."

You said it best. I do photography because I love to do and I love to show it off, not to get paid. I am not a professional by any means. I feel any sort of large scale exposure like this is very cool. something I can tell my children

Andy said...

Hi John,

That's cool... whatever floats your boat, but have you considered other avenues for exposure? Chicago Public Radio does a daily photo on their website, and there are any number of other web sites and contests you could enter. Honestly, it's not so much the "not getting paid" part that bothers me with this book, so much as the feeling that this publisher would be taking advantage of me and profiting off my work. If the profits for this (or even part of the profits) were going to charity, I would feel differently, but they're not.

Cheers,

Andy

Thee Erin said...

Yeah, I think this is all about Channel #2 making a buck. Here's the catch: Because the submissions are done directly to capturemychicago.com/ rather than via Flickr, the photographer looses the protection of Flickr's community guidelines as well as any associated Creative Commons licenses.

Gotta read the fine print ...

Mickey said...

The fact that they don't give the contributors a copy of the book for free or even a severely reduced price is a load of BS. And with the recent announcement that the list of photos that made it into the book/DVD won't be made public until after the release party is also a load of BS.

These kinds of reasons are why I really don't like entering contests.

Sarah70 said...

i recently posted on the 2010 CMC "contest" simply out of curiosity more than anything else (I like to take photographs, but photography is my mother's thing). I think I get a good shot maybe 45% of the time, but I did find it interesting that there are not catagories for the photographers themselves...clearly there are "professional" photogs with more skill, fancy equipment etc. than those of us who are just novice ones to those that fall somewhere in the midlle. Any kind of other competition has had these sort of catagories. Where is the fairness in that? Then I read this post...and that little voice just got a bit louder...thanks for the perpective!

John P said...

Everyone here has valid points and I do agree for the most part but from my eyes it is great in the aspect of "networking" and getting exposure and link-backs to one's website if you are on a pro level. I don't need the book although it would be cool to have but like you all mentioned... not that great a deal. Just use it to your advantage and as mentioned, always read the fine print.

Anonymous said...

Interesting feed here. I joined the 2010 site based on a friend's recommendation. I won't be back next year. It is much more a popularity contest/social network site than a photography site which I find very disappointing.
Lauri

Andy said...

Thanks for the feedback Lauri... and everyone else who's posted here in the last year. I'm continually surprised and pleased by the traffic this thread generates (mostly via Google search). It's nice to know I'm not the only skeptical person out there.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with the doubts expressed on this blog regarding whether Capture My Chicago is a good deal for photographers, and I'm glad that others share my views. Although CMC asserts that it is not a "rights grab", the fine print (#5 under Copyright Terms) states: "By submitting Materials, you also grant us the right, but not the obligation to use your biographical information including, without limitation, your name in connection with broadcast, print, online, or other use or publication of your Materials."

I would never allow anyone to use my work without attributing it to my name.

Anonymous said...

I was apart of the 2010-2011 CMC "adventure" which now offers folks to sell their CMC entries partnering with FotoMoto. the catch FotoMoto already takes 15% from each sale (free with Blogger being one of the recognized host sites to set up shop) BUT CMC then takes 5% more so 20% total. A bit smelly. Also there has been a report of copyright violation with at least one photo submitted to CMC. Which really made me wonder how honest is everyone's honor when it comes to submission (and that doubt is the straw that broke the camel's back and why I pulled every submission and canceled my account). There is not book this year and probably not next year either (maybe a calendar or 2012), and while only a handful of excellent photographers remain, most are folks reproducing what they see in the name of inpsiration...no room for creative growth, any real crique is viewed as "being mean" (some women really said that), and it's a bit uninpsired as far as "the best of Chicago". Even Flickr is a worthier option than CMC.