By Mark Loundy
"The difference between burlesque and the newspapers is that the former never pretended to be performing a public service by exposure."
- I. F. Stone, 1952
A recent E-mail from a magazine invited photographers to submit fashion photo stories for submission. "Unfortunately," said the E-mail, "we are not paying, but it is a good way for more exposure."
Exposure to a photographer is like hammering is to a carpenter. Exposing film or a sensor to light is an ordinary part of how we do our job. The problem is that more and more clients think that a tearsheet or a photo credit is an acceptable substitute for cash payment.
On the surface, working for photo credits-only might actually make sense for a rookie shooter who is trying to establish himself in the business. The idea being that future jobs will come as a result of the exposure — along with fat fees. But with the number of neophyte photographers in the industry, photo buyers are hoping that there is always going to be somebody around who is willing to shoot for "exposure." If that happens, the paying jobs will disappear along with our profession.
Unless you're shooting for a huge national publication like Vanity Fair or Esquire, the average photo buyer probably won't even see your "exposure." So not only will you have not been paid for your work, you won't even get any promotional value from it. In short, a savvy client will have taken you for a fool.
Your portfolio of excellent images and your professional demeanor will do just as well as a tearsheet from a client that won't pay for its own content. There is simply no reason for a photographer — no matter how inexperienced — to work for free.