Photographer Dies of Exposure by Mimika Cooney
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Monday, December 02, 2013
By Sandy Puc'
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The Internet is the 21st century version of the atom bomb. For all it’s benefits and advantages, there is some overlooked carnage that us, as photographers in a digital society, have had to survive.

In his October 26th article in the New York Times (, Tim Kreider ( author of “We Learn Nothing”) vented about his irritation with the sheer number of requests he receives from sources offering him “exposure” in exchange for his writing.  

“People who would consider it a bizarre breach of conduct to expect anyone to give them a haircut or a can of soda at no cost will ask you, with a straight face and a clear conscience, whether you wouldn’t be willing to write an essay or draw an illustration for them for nothing.”  says Tim Kreider.

Why is it then that general society thinks it’s okay to ask a photographer, writer or artist, with a straight face and clear conscious, to give them their work for free? As if the number of website hits promised or eyeballs who will see our work should be enough compensation because “It’s great exposure!”  

Exposure to what? The chance “exposure” is to be like a brush with fame mixed in with empty promises. Usually this kind of “offer” is a sugar coated way of telling me that the offer comes from someone who is struggling or broke.  

“Exposure” doesn’t pay my bills.  In Tim’s words, its like “paying for things” is a quaint, discredited old 20th-century custom.

As a photographer, how do you feel when someone asks you, or worse expects, that you give them your images with no payment in exchange for “exposure”? It seems like a catch 22 situation: if I don’t give my images I come across as stingy and risk losing referrals; yet if I do openly give them it will be hard to charge what I’m really worth and they will expect them every time.  

Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again.”  Tim Kreider  

I have to agree with Tim in that because they aren't artists, they probably think we just do photography for the fun of it. They think we must be flattered when someone asks us to “do our little thing we already do” as if we are wannabe pop stars just waiting for a chance to “perform”.  

There are exceptions of course, when sharing your work with a source will indeed provide you with access to thousands of eyeballs, or better yet, immediate access to potential customers.  This only works when you are given full credit for your work and your potential audience have a direct way of making contact with you.  

If we actively educate the general public that time is indeed money, then maybe we can attach an intrinsic value to our photography?

The trick to making “exposure” work for you is to show what you are truly worth. This can be achieved with a friendly note along with a “paid in full” invoice showing the real dollar value of your services when submitting your work.  

Here are my Tips for dealing with “Exposure” requests...

  1. Thank the source for the opportunity.
  2. Ask what their number of subscribers or potential clients they have to assess if they are a good fit for your brand.
  3. Make it clear that your services are $XYZ and the usage of the digital files are $XYZ.
  4. Let them know that you would be happy to help them out in exchange for full credit AND a link back to your website.
  5. Always watermark your images with your logo.
  6. Be confident but kind and stand by your prices.

  So believe in yourself, you are worth it. Don’t doubt your dreams. You can do what you love and be paid for living it!   {Big hugs}



What is your opinion about free “exposure”? Share your comments below...   Freebies... Download a free chapter of Mimika’s book and other Marketing goodies here

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