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Apple’s Shot on iPhone Contest Has a Big Problem


Technically speaking, Apple’s New Shot on iPhone Contest has a minimum entry fee of around $1,000. It’s not a literal fee, but you can only enter if you’re using their latest iPhone 13 Pro or iPhone 13 Pro Max. The Shot on iPhone contest has been around for years, but the prizes haven’t really gotten any better. Photographers as it is are hesitant about entering contests and what the contests actually do for photographers. And in this case, it’s a tone-deaf tech company that cares more about its product than about photographers.

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Let’s compare this to the Sony World Photo Awards for example. When you enter, you don’t need to be using a Sony camera or even a Sony phone. But for Shot on iPhone, you need to be using their latest iPhone. Surely, most folks don’t have seriously great reasons to need to upgrade to the latest iPhone. When I entered the tech world years ago, I even wondered why journalists would upgrade every year. I concluded that there’s a difference between need and want. And that’s precisely the case here.

The contest is being judged with a few big names, and you have the chance to have your image displayed on Apple’s Instagram, their newsroom, and on their website. But that’s it. Is it a prestigious award? Not really. Is it cool that Apple chose you to showcase a fleeting piece of technology? Sure. But again, I doubt it will do anything for you as a photographer.

I say this as someone who’s judged many contests, has our content included in school curriculum (which adds to our accreditation), and as someone who’s hosted a number of contests myself. Further, I’m the former Vice-Chairman of APA NY and helped push the non-profit in many ways. Apple’s contest feels like just an opportunity for them to market their own product more than anything else. 

But let’s not just bash Apple. Instead, let’s discuss how Apple could’ve done better:

  • Teaming up with a camera company to give away a camera kit of some sort.
  • Teaming up with Profoto to give away a lighting kit with LEDs and flash.
  • Offering the user a brand new MacBook Pro so that they can advance their photo career. It would have either the full Adobe Suite or Capture One fully paid for for a year.
  • A cash prize of at least $50,000 because Apple can easily afford it.
  • A full scholarship of some sort of institution that teaches photography and helps photographers become gainfully employed. 
  • Working with the judges on portfolio critiques and private zoom/networking sessions.
  • A commercial featuring the photographer shot by Apple.

These are just a start. The most profitable company in the world could’ve surely found a way to give back to the photography community. But instead, the contest feels like a way to outsource their marketing efforts. If it were a smaller company, I’d probably let it go. But Apple isn’t a small company by any means.

How can Apple make this even better? Find ways to do this for the LGBTQ+ community, women, and minorities. Apple likes to push inclusivity in very subtle ways. But they can lean into it for the good of the future of photography.


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