Episode 156: Don’t Give Your Photos Away for Free “Exposure” and Don’t Do “Spec” Work

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One of the things that photographers get asked a lot is “Can I use your photographs for free and give you “exposure”? This is always a bad idea and I understand that as a new photographer starting out, you might think, “Why not, I want to become known”?
The reason you should NOT let people or especially companies use your work for free “exposure” is it hurts the market for every photographer that is out there trying to make a living in this chosen profession. The following image is one of my photos I had a company ask if they could use for free and I told them no.


A lot of times, the client wanting to use your photos will used the excuse that they cannot afford to pay you for your work, which is usually a lie, they just want something for nothing. I remember recently reading an article by David Carson, who is a professional photographer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch where CBS News actually asked him if they could use some of his incredible photos for free.

David, as you can imagine, was insulted. CBS News is a multi-billion dollar company and they didn’t want to pay him for his work, they expected him to let them use his photograph for free for “exposure”.

It’s so funny how people and companies think photographers should work for free, but they would not do the same thing if you asked them to work for free or “spec”. A few months back I watched a great video put out by an ad agency named Zulu Alpha Kilo titled “Say No to Spec”. This morning I saw the same video re-shared by LightStalking so I thought it would make a good subject for this week’s blog post. You can view their video here.

So, remember, next time someone asks you to work for free “exposure” or spec, just tell them No and send them the link to this video.

Speculative work, also known as spec work, is any kind of creative work that has been completed or submitted by volunteer designers to prospective clients, under the circumstances that a fair or reasonable fee has not been agreed upon in writing. Designers are required to invest time and resources to contest with each other to win a contract. This type of practice is common in industries such as arts and architecture.

In design contest, which is an example of speculative work, the client provided participating designers with a brief prize for the eventual winner. They will then submit their work so that the client can select a winning submission. As the winner receives the prize and contract, other entrants receive nothing for their work.


One main attraction of using speculative work is that it can benefit the clients by bringing cheaper cost and more variations and ideas. As for designers, speculative work can provide them with an opportunity to gain experience, build portfolio, and meet people.



The fact that designers spend countless hours working on projects without any forms of payment guaranteed is harmful to them. Designers could have used their resources to build portfolios, improve their skills, or make a contract with actual payment.


Some designers focus on undercharging their products rather than improving the quality of the work. This situation is even more severe when designers try to outbid each other’s to get payment in the contest. It devalues the whole skill-set in the design industry.


The following group is doing their best to discourage “Spec” work as it cheats the creatives involved and rarely ever leads to profits or more work.




Also be sure to join the Liam Photography Podcast Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/liamphotographypodcast/ You can reach the show by call or text @ 470-294-8191 to leave a comment or request a topic or guest for the show. Additionally you can email the show @ liam@liamphotographypodcast.com and find the show notes at http://www.liamphotographypodcast.com.

You can find my work @ https://www.liamphotography.net on and follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @liamphotoatl. If you like abandoned buildings and history, you can find my project @ http://www.forgottenpiecesofgeorgia.com. and http://www.forgottenpiecesofpennsylvania.com.

Please also stop by my Youtube channels Liam Photography

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