Workshop Images – My own Work?

Workshop Images – My own Work?

There has been a lot of debate recently both within our Society and the wider photographic community about images taken in tightly controlled workshop environments.

Workshop Images – My own Work?Harvest Mouse
Harvest Mouse workshop image

The key questions that these photographs raise are:

  • To what extent is an image the photographer’s own work where the environment that it has been taken in has been set up for you?
  • Is it fair and reasonable to enter an image into a competition as your own, if someone else played a significant role in its production?

The SCPF Judge’s Forum has produced a paper with observations, analysis and guidance specifically for images taken at workshops.

This is an excellent piece of research and a very good read with a lot of useful information. You can download it from the SCPF New Judging Guidance Sept 2020 page, or read it at the bottom of this page.

The paper goes into some detail with examples of situations of what might or might not constitute a photographer’s “own work”.

In summary, it suggests that the following aspects need to be taken into account:

  • Selection of the setup and staging of the subject and subject matter
  • Choice of framing and composition
  • Choice of, set up and/or response to lighting (which outdoors is uncontrolled)
  • Setting of camera controls – aperture, shutter speed, ISO, focus etc.

Any image made with significant third-party input to two or more of these aspects cannot be considered ‘substantially the work of the photographer’.

Your committee has reviewed the discussions and the evidence and has decided to update the wording pertaining to photographs that are entered into internal competitions and the Annual Print Exhibition (APE).

The committee must point out that they are not trying to stifle creativity, remove valuable learning opportunities or limit the access that photographers have to often rare and unusual situations.

We do however feel that images presented to competitions and the APE should fundamentally be the work of the photographer.

Below is the additional wording to the rules and guidelines for entering our competitions or the APE. This was announced in WPS Newsletter 274, dated 11 October 2020 and will be included in next year’s handbook.

The new guidelines come into effect from Print Round 2 on 10 November.

“The content of an image must fundamentally be the work and copyright of the photographer. Where parties other than the photographer have made a significant creative contribution to the image through staging, framing, lighting or settings (camera controls) we ask the photographer to consider carefully whether their own contribution is sufficient to claim the image as their own work”.

Note however that if a “workshop” image is combined into a more complex image, such as through layering in Photoshop, this can be considered the photographer’s own work.

Gordon Brown, WPS Competition Secretary

Sample images from workshops

These images were taken by members on workshops.

For four of these images, so much of the setup was provided that they could not be considered the author’s own work under these new rules.

For the studio portrait, the author posed the model, chose the composition and set the aperture. So this is a more borderline case.

Workshop Images – My own Work? – SCPF Guidance paper

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