GISHWHES: A Photo Challenge to Rule Them All

The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt The World Has Ever Seen

SellNews’s 2016 Photo Challenge allows our users to strengthen their photography skills by experimenting with different prompts. But we are certainly not the only group who does this. Photo scavenger hunts are popular among professional and amateur photographers alike, and the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen (GISHWHES) strives to be exactly that.

Inspired by the University of Chicago’s famous annual “Scav Hunt,” GISHWHES was started by Supernatural actor Misha Collins in 2011 as a way to connect people all over the world by promoting random acts of kindness and kind acts of randomness. GISHWHES broke the Guinness World Record for Largest Media Scavenger Hunt in 2012 and continues to break records through different annual Hunt items. Collins’ charity of choice, Random Acts, receives monetary sponsorship from the Hunt, and participants are encouraged to assist with their mission to “conquer the world one random act of kindness at a time.”

Item 134

Item: “Hand out craft-made or real roses to people standing in line at a food bank or a homeless person.”

How Does It Work?

Participants form teams of 15 people, often total strangers from entirely different continents, and at the start of the Hunt, they are provided with a list of photo and video prompts to choose from. Players can fill as many or as few prompts as they like, with each completed prompt earning their team a certain number of points. At the end of the week, submissions are judged, points are tallied, and the winning team receives eternal glory as well as an extravagant vacation with Misha himself.

But these are no ordinary photo prompts. Rather than simply naming subjects or concepts, these prompts ask for very specific, rather unusual, and occasionally impossible scenarios. Some are part of Random Acts’ mission to fill the world with random acts of kindness – “Hug a uniformed Veteran,” or “Do the one thing that you think, if everyone did it, would change the world for the better overnight.” Others are running jokes among veteran participants – nearly every year involves crafting an image of a celebrity out of food items, or sculpting an animal out of feminine hygiene products. And some are entirely unique and unheard of – “Get your local weatherhuman to do their weather report dressed as a superhero in drag,” or “Design and wear an elegant gown consisting of only construction paper. You must be posed with an antique or hotrod car/motorcycle.” The more creative and artistic users are with submissions, the more bonus points they are able to receive.

construction paper dress

Four days, three pads of paper, and two dedicated seamstresses later, we’re ready for the Gala!

Destroying Your Comfort Zone One Kale Tutu at a Time

I have participated in GISHWHES for the past four years. Typically, my friends and I will form a small team of about 7 or 8, wait for registration to close, and be matched with another small team to reach the 15 member count. Our co-teams have been from Georgia, Arizona, Nebraska, and even right in our home state. I have met friends from all over the country, grown closer with the ones I have at home, and interacted with strangers in ways I never would have dreamed of. Could I have guessed that one day I would walk into a local Starbucks in an improvised frog costume and ask the barista for permission to play “Leapfrog” in the queue? Or that perhaps I would visit the local church to track down a priest who could turn water into wine? Or maybe that I would take a group of friends on a bus trip to New York City to do cartwheels in Times Square with a bunch of strangers wearing tutus made entirely out of kale?

GISHWHES prides itself on letting people out of their comfort zones and encourages participants to crowdsource anything they need and can’t obtain themselves. While having access to certain resources is certainly an advantage, the organizers of the Hunt stress heavily that if an item calls for a tractor, and you don’t have one, there is still hope. Someone near you will most likely have a tractor, and if you’re just willing to knock on their door and explain yourself, chances are you’ll be able to borrow it just long enough to take a photo of a Stormtrooper riding it. You would be surprised at the number of people willing to help you do things like spell out the word “KALE” with your bodies in a large, open field if you just ask nicely enough. And an experience like that is the perfect way to make a bunch of new friends.


Participants travel from all over the U.S. and beyond to complete an item in Times Square – and have a great time afterwards!

Interested in Joining?

This year’s Hunt takes place from July 30th to August 6th. Registration is open until July 22nd, and there is no need to have a team in order to register – just register as an individual, and you’ll be added to a team with open slots before the Hunt. If you’d like to take some interesting, ridiculous, unique, or just plain weird photos this summer, check out and consider registering!

And, if you do decide to join, don’t forget this important piece of advice from the 2012 Hunt:

art is hard

Happy Hunting!


(P.S. If you’re looking through the past submissions at the bottom of the homepage, look for the girl posing in a gown made out of toilet paper. That’s one of my teammates!)