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


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. 



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

Patreon September Topics Preview ✨

Harpers-Bazaar-Vietnam---Natural-Flair-by-Jingna-Zhang5 Patreon Rewards Preview.jpg

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: 

+1 Prints store promo code

+ 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

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

+ 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

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.
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14 Tips for Photographers Who Want to go Pro

This is the sixth article in my Profoto Blog series

Hi everyone! In my last five articles for this series, I have covered the process of producing photoshoots, my favorite fashion photography lighting equipment, and tips on how to break into fashion photography. In this sixth and final piece, I would like to follow up on breaking into fashion photography and talk about how one develops into a professional photographer.

People arrive at their destinations through different paths, but many also share the same struggles, dilemmas, and pitfalls. I hope my thoughts will shed some light on what the path of going pro often entails. Let me know what you think at the end of the post! ...

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Top 10 Fashion Photography Lighting Tools

This is the fifth article in my Profoto Blog series

In my previous article on how to break into fashion photography, I mentioned a few lighting modifiers frequently used in the industry. In this piece, I would like to provide some examples of those modifiers used in my work and also share with you my thoughts on a range of other equipment that I favor in the studio. I hope you will find this article helpful!




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15 Tips on How to Break into Fashion Photography

In my last three articles, I talked about producing commercial and personal photoshoots, and tips on how to improve one’s photography. In this guide, I want to share my thoughts on how to break into fashion photography.

Fashion photography is a highly exclusive and competitive industry. Getting in requires dedication, commitment, hard work, and often times, a dash of good luck and timing. There is no great secret or shortcut, it is going to be a tough journey, and you must be prepared for the long-haul.

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