Apple is kicking off 2019 by celebrating the most stunning photographs captured on iPhone, the world’s most popular camera, by inviting iPhone users to submit their best shots.
From January 22 to February 7, Apple is looking for outstanding photographs for a Shot on iPhone Challenge. A panel of judges will review worldwide submissions and select 10 winning photos, to be announced in February. The winning photos will be featured on billboards in select cities, Apple retail stores and online.
This contest sounds very cool: just tag your photos on social media, or email an image to Apple, and have it judged by a pretty spectacular panel for inclusion on billboards and Apple’s advertising campaigns. Wouldn’t you like to see one of your favourite photos on a forty-eight foot wide canvas? I certainly would.
But there is still a whiff of unpaid work about this. To be clear, this isn’t the entirely unethical “spec” work that is so common in creative professions, where a prospective client promises to compensate for commissioned work by crediting the professional or advising them that it’s a portfolio piece. Nevertheless, I think this still conveys the idea that creative work should somehow be valued differently than other forms of work. These photos are being used to advertise Apple’s products; at that point, I think they become as good as professional work and the individuals responsible should be paid.
Even if you feel that this is a contest solely for amateurs, this is a bad look that could have easily been averted. What’s it to Apple to offer the each of the winners an iPhone XS? It could even be more nominal than that — a set of iPhone camera lenses, for instance, or a an Apple Store gift card. I feel like any physical prize would make this contest feel more comfortable than its current incarnation: a request for royalty-free work for use in advertising.
Update: Apple will now pay licensing fees to winners which, I have learned, is more in line with the way they have previously treated “Shot on iPhone” images.