On many photo contest rules, we find the condition that photos must be unpublished to take part on them. That was quite a simple rule when our only way to show our work on public was trough exhibitons and traditional media, like magazines, newspapers, etc. But now, we constantly upload our photos to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and so on. Does that fit into the traditional meaning of "published", meaning that these photos won't be allowed to take part on such a contest?

In practice: suppose I uploaded a picture to a public instagram account. Some time later, I hear about a contest and think that photograph would be appropiate for it. Rules specify that pictures must be unpublished. Should I:

a - Assume that "unpublished" refers to traditional media, so my picture can take part on the contest?

b - Resign about sendig that photo to the contest, as it would be understood as a "published" one?

c - Delete the picture from my instagram account and then sending it to to the contest, assuming that the rule doesn't apply at previous publications which have been deleted?

I'm aware this might vary from one event to another, and depend on national laws. I'm asking about general tendencies in international contests.

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ Maybe have a look at the fine print. Some contests make you abandon publishing rights of the submitted pictures to the contest sponsors. This can be a good way for them to acquire pictures rather inexpensively, and can explain why the insist on unpublished pictures. \$\endgroup\$
    – xenoid
    Jun 26, 2019 at 20:20

1 Answer 1


You will most probably find some explanation to that in their terms for the competition, as it is a matter of interpretation.

For example, the Kenko Tokina International Filter Photo Contest 2019 stated this in their fine print:

Entries are restricted to unreleased and unpublished original photos for which the copyright is entirely owned by the applicant. Photos that have won prizes or are being screened in other competitions are not eligible. (Photos that have been entered in another competition but have not been awarded a prize are eligible.) Photos that have been published in non-commercial publications such as club exhibitions for which the photography was not remunerated, or websites operated by individuals are eligible.

So according to this particular contest, published only is meant in a commercial way or to rule out that the shot was already awarded a price. I would recommend looking at your contest's terms.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Well, that's a good example of how terms of competition should be shown. I feel surprised to see how many contests lack of these kind of explanations. \$\endgroup\$
    – Lisan
    Feb 18, 2020 at 20:40

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