Working for Exposure?

Picture this:

You’ve started earning money from photography, your client base is growing, you have a decent number of followers on your social media, people are loving your work!

You get a message from a public figure asking if you’d like to work with them, only to realize they will not be paying you for you services.

What will you do?

This happened to me earlier this year. A very popular stylist wanted me to organize a maternity shoot she’s styling.  After telling her I don’t work of free, she said and I quote:

“It would be a trade for skill shoot. I’ll be purchasing the wardrobe and all that and you’ll be behind the lens”

In other words, “It’ll be a HUGE opportunity for you because I can give you exposure”. I politely told her I only do commissioned work.

Raindrops, I want to explain to you why working for exposure doesn’t work… sometimes.

Know the Difference

You have to separate unpaid work and working for exposure. They may be similar in the sense that either way you don’t get paid, but they are very different. When you work for exposure, there is a mutual benefit for parties. For unpaid work, one of the parties will end up feeling cheated. 

About two years ago, a friend of mine told me he was shooting his friends fashion campaign (she is a popular fashion designer in Toronto). I expressed how cool it was, and asked if she was paying him. He eagerly said he’s doing for free because they’re childhood friends. Confused, I then asked “if you asked her to design and sew a custom piece for you would she do it for free?”  He was speechless.

Know your Worth

Advanced Imaging Solutions

In this digital age where everything is at your fingertips, I feel as if people take our skills as photographers for granted. They don’t see the need in paying for our services because in their minds, they can find someone else who can do it for free. But it’s bigger than that.

Please I want you to know that your time and your talent is valuable!           

Imagine a bride asking a baker to make her a cake for exposure? Sounds ridiculous right?

If you’re faced with a situation like this, educate your potential client about why you are valuable to them. Not in a cry baby – whining way. Don’t beg. Do it confident manner.

As a photographer, the money you make goes towards investing in your career. You need to buy new gadgets and accessories every now and then to enhance your skills. You need money for transportation to the venue and back home. The money you make goes towards promoting your brand through social media ads, and at the end of the day you need to eat!

Know your Brand

When Chanel designs a new bag, do they spend money advertising, trying to convince you why their bag is of more value than a Walmart bag? NO. because there is a perceived brand value already.

The greatest advertisement a photographer can get is through word of mouth and if you do free work for someone, they will refer you to others. You don’t want to be known as someone who is willing to work for free.

Regardless of what level you’re at, it’s key to build a strong valuable brand.

At the end of it all, I’m not saying you should never do free work, but if you see the benefit for your career go for it! You can work for exposure without selling yourself short. It can be a learning experience.

Next time anyone asks you to work for exposure, tell them that the only exposure you know is the degree of lightness of darkness in a picture! *crosses arms*

Talk to me raindrops, has there been time you were contacted to work for free?

Until next time!

Enem Odeh 🌸



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