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!