A Photographer / Artist's Guide to Doing Things for Exposure

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Received one of those “do this for exposure” emails from a top TV network yesterday. Usually I just trash these things, but I know people who have done the same gigs in the past. And it makes me so angry that clients dare offer a “token fee” for “exposure”, and in the same breath ask for all rights in perpetuity and rights for their sponsors to use the work for commercial purposes. D:

So I made a rant on Insta, and then still raging, expanded my thoughts on Twitter. It became a mini guide on how to approach doing things for exposure. For easy-reading, here it is~    

 

1. Do things because you want to.

Not because of promised exposures or future jobs. It's 99.99% never worth it, and 0.01% most likely still not worth it.

2. If you must do something for exposure, remember that the work is yours.

The client didn’t pay you enough or they wouldn’t throw in exposure in lieu of payment. So make sure you own the rights of the work. This means that:

3. The client cannot ask to own all rights of your work

in perpetuity throughout the universe, and have rights for their sponsors and affiliates to use the work unrestricted, for any and all commercial purposes, without any payments to you.

4. See the words commercial purposes? You should be paid.

5. Contracts are always negotiable.

But if a client can offer you insulting terms right off the bat (like exposure), they're not going to respect you. These kinds of contracts are never worth negotiating.

6. Also, these types of offers usually mean that a company has either culture or financial issues or both.

This means that the work will be a nightmare, getting paid will be a nightmare. So just don't do it.

7. Some clients can be sincere but simply ignorant.

If they lack experience/knowledge about the industry, educate them. You might gain a client or not. But you'll certainly be doing both you and the industry a service in letting them know what should be the norm and value of a creative's time. Don't bother with those who are obviously big and just out to take advantage. See #6. 

8. Companies buy ads and media spaces with (a lot of) money.

If you are engaged to work, you should be paid proportionate to that amount. With money, not exposure.

9. It’s totally ok to create for free.

For personal enjoyment and experimentations, for explorations, collaborations and fun. 

This is different from working for a client. Distinguish between the two and don't let someone take advantage of you! 

 

TLDR—don't do things for exposure. ✨

As a bonus: 

10. Undercutting the market will not help you compete. 

If you position yourself to attract bad clients, you will keep attracting bad clients. Say no and move on. Get really good and learn to respect yourself, your time, and your craft. 

GLHF! 

 

Have other questions or situations you're curious about? Leave a comment below! 

10 Years Since

 Forgotten Fairytales by Jingna Zhang

10 years and some since I first posted this image. It's unbelievable how fast time passes by.

I remember being in art school at that time, I just got my first laptop and was shooting and editing all my images as JPGs, cuz I couldn't afford extra storage space (don't do that!! 🤣).

I remember trying to find wifi spots at school to check on dA, to make sure I submitted on a regular schedule (yes, even back then!) I met so many people and learned so much.

I don't think I ever imagined at that point that I would become a photographer. I was good at air rifle and I believe wholeheartedly that was what I was born to do. I felt that if I quit, I would be squandering my talents, years of hard work, and letting down all the people who invested time and energy in teaching me.

I had no reason to pursue anything else. I hadn't quite given up on my Olympic dream yet.

Well, turns out that quitting rifle was a good thing. Though painful, without it I wouldn't have come this way.

Sometimes I took other long detours on this journey too—like having a StarCraft 2 team, teaching; people in fashion didn't approve of at all. 😂

They turned out to be precious experiences beyond imagination. I met so many amazing people who taught me so much; so many who became good friends.

So what am I really saying?

Don't worry about your equipment, don't worry if you don't know what you want to do, don't worry if things don't seem like they'll ever get better, don't worry if there's pushback.

Forget toxic people. Become the best version of yourself.

Believe in what you love in your heart of hearts. Believe that you will become stronger. Believe that one day the harshest things will feel less harsh. Believe in yourself and never give up. Never give up. ✨

Well, I guess that would've been my encouragement letter to my teenage self, you do you. 😂

Keep fighting.

Jingna

Patreon September Topics Preview ✨

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As some of you know, I've been doing content over on Patreon for a while now. Since this blog's migration from blogger to my homepage, I've been meaning to keep up with updating a little more again. So from here on I will try to post a bit whenever I can, even if it's just letting you know what I'm up to over on Pateron. :D 

With Patreon, I do a monthly rewards pack. It's a bit like Kickstarter, except happening at an ongoing basis. Through the month I share tips, thoughts, and behind-the-scenes of what I'm working on. At the end of each month, I do more lengthy posts and videos with a rewards pack for all backers. 

For September, the rewards are below: 

$5+
+1 Prints store promo code

$10+
+ All Item above
+ 1 photo article/video: How to convey shoot concepts to your team
+ 1 retouching demo: Post-processing tips and tricks in Lightroom

$20+
+ All items above
+ 1 pro article: How I quote and what I charge for jobs
+ 1 session special: Open Q&A

$35/50+
+ All items above
+ 1 fancy mini print, your pick
*$35 tier will receive one print for every 2 months pledged. 

To check out past rewards archives, see here. To become a patron, check out my Patreon

As always, big thank you to my patrons for supporting and making these content possible! ❤️❤️❤️

Working with Limitations

Did you know that most of the Motherland Chronicles was shot in my apartment, including this piece?

Because of the fast turnaround needed and lack of budget while doing this series, I began building sets in my living room.

It turned out great not only for keeping expenses reasonable for personal work, but I also learned some valuable skills that I got to apply to my commercial and fashion work for later.

Limitations are great because they teach you how to maximize when there are no other choices.

Don't be afraid to try what you haven't done before. ❤️

Print available

Motherland Chronicles Postcard Sets

Recently I designed and produced two postcard sets for the Motherland Chronicles project with my friend Tobias Kwan

It started off as promo for our trips in Japan on business meetings. But seeing the good responses we received, I thought, if people liked it this much, wouldn't it be great to offer them to everyone waiting on the Motherland Chronicles artbook? 

So we made some tweaks, selected a fresh set of images, and made a postcard set each available for purchase.

Read More

Articles Index

Over time I found I've started to accumulate a bunch of stuff. If you don't want to navigate the tags, here is a list you can use as an index to access most of my photography-related articles. Links include: 

  • Free tips, guides, and photography-related articles I've written on this blog.
  • In-depth education content I created elsewhere that pay my rent and lets me write more.
Read More

New Blog!

Happy to have finally moved from Blogger to Squarespace! 🎉

Unfortunately most comments from the last few years made via Facebook couldn't be ported over. Sorry guys :< 

In other news, guess I'll try to update more frequently again. If you see anything amiss or links broken, please let me know! Still working out the layouts and checking through stuff. It's a slow process ^^; Welcome to the new blog, I guess!