In whatever field we enter, in whatever hobby we take, in any part of the world, our life is a competition everywhere. We are trying to prove ourselves better than others in every step in our life. The hunger to win and be successful is the basic instinct of any person with an aim or ambition. Some will loose their hunger and sleep, work day and nights, use and loose people and will sacrifice anything to achieve what they have decided to. And then there are easy ways to prove yourself - Winning contests which allow you to prove your talent more creative and skillful than others. Contests that are carefully designed to fool us by the well established advertising agencies or PR agencies.
Take any contest in this world related to photography. We surely end up loosing rights to the picture (not exclusive always). The time you sign that contest form and submit that photo, you no longer are the exclusive owner of the picture. Its not just the rights that you loose, but you also loose a lot of money that the contest organizer is going to earn using your picture elsewhere as they have taken your written permission for it. Some might argue that contests also give a great exposure for the photographer and his art. I agree but then in the long-term I feel its not worth it. The winning photo has to be one of the best pictures a photographer has and he gives the rights to the organizer and the co-sponsors to use that picture anywhere they want to and as many times as they want to.
Some contest do give specific terms about the usage of these photographs, but I haven’t seen much of them anywhere. Take for example a contest kept by a photography magazine, co-sponsored by a photo printer company and a camera manufacturer. You will see the winning photograph appearing in too many of their ads with a small negligible mention about the photographer (this is also many times absent in many ads). I had won the 1st prize in my country in a contest organized by a leading newspaper for nature colors category(the picture on the left of the grasshopper) but apart from the prize money I didn’t even receive any certificate, trophy or the credits mention for the photograph. All I got was my name in the news which was easily forgotten.
As a stock photographer we have to be extra careful, especially if you are selling exclusive rights. You wont be able to sell any photograph exclusively if you have submitted the same photograph for different contests. Though not many contests will take exclusive rights for the photograph, they do take permission from you to use that photograph as many times and anywhere (as specified in their terms). So apart from a short-lived fame you don’t get much from the contests. Instead invest your time and money in organizing your own exposition / exhibition and enjoy your glory there. And as far as SR-EL sales are concerned… don’t loose the best of your photographs to a contest organizer and their co-sponsors.