Can You Estimate The Value Of Exposure?

- - The Future

I was reading some commentary around the story in the NYTimes (here) about illustrators turning down an offer from google to provide free artwork for their new web browser in exchange for exposure (I also posted it on the sidebar yesterday). The commentary follows the usual lines where the tech side argues the value of exposure (links) and the artists argue that you can’t pay the rent with links. Of course it’s much more complicated than that, so when I ran into this very intelligent comment on Tech Dirt I couldn’t resist posting it here:

by Jerry Leichter
Anyone who sells his work – as an artist, writer, consultant – has to face the tradeoff between getting paid what the market will bear, and accepting little or no monetary compensation in trade for visibility. This isn’t new to the Internet era. People starting out in any such business rarely have a good feel for what their own effort is worth. A few think too much of themselves; most undervalue themselves and will all too readily buy into this kind of deal.

The tradeoff is complicated. For one thing, like many tradeoffs in business, it’s about current versus future expense or income. These are always hard, because future expenses/incomes are inherently uncertain, while current expenses/income are certain – and sometimes you just have to pay the rent.

If you look at the actual Times article, the clear impression is that all the artists approached have a significant audience and business already, and certainly the ones who are refusing to let their work be used for free appear to be doing quite well. To stand on the outside and tell them how they should run their businesses – with no knowledge of where they actually stand – is incredibly presumptuous. Some of the artists who are refusing to participate are likely making a mistake. Others who are *agreeing* to participate may well be making a mistake, if the publicity they get ends up garnering only requests for more free work, rather than paying contracts.

Frankly, it seems to me that the biggest mistake here was Google’s. I’m reading between the lines here – I don’t know what Google actually said – but they appear to have been insensitive to how these artists see their businesses. It was only after the fact that they appear to have made it clear that they would be happy with existing work – most artists at the level they were approaching probably assumed they, like most customers, wanted something unique done just for them. Rather than casting this as an honor – a kind of on-the-web art show – they let it look like commerce. Well, if it’s commerce – why shouldn’t the artists expect payment? Perception and setting are essential in determining how people view a request.

More (here).

The bottom line is this, you can’t estimate the value of exposure, especially for things that haven’t been tried before. We all do stuff for free in hopes of generating future income but when a billionaire comes knocking sometimes it feels good to tell them to take a hike. I would argue that for your everyday consumer most browsers work just fine and choosing one comes down to, if it was bundled with the computer you bought and possibly how it looks. Covering a browser with artwork probably adds more value than people think.

There Are 71 Comments On This Article.

  1. Great post Rob.
    I suppose advertisers in print magazines do not know the value of exposure but they try and estimate the likely returns on investing in placed adverts. Maybe some marketing guru might be able to come back with a more systematic calculation on likely returns to doing work for free?

  2. Thanks for this post – whenever something like this happens, generalizations are thrown around when the actual details of each artist’s situation are different. I’m definitely guilty of that, as its always hard to comment without simplifying. Each artist involved in this probably had a hard enough time deciding on their own whether to say yes or no, and they chose not out of idealism but out of what they believed was practical for them.

    Google definitely went about it the wrong way – last year when artists donated art for iGoogle, the company donated to a charity of the artist’s choosing. A skin for a new browser seems like a much bigger deal.

    Over time and with experience I do think you can estimate the value of exposure – otherwise advertisers everywhere would be blindly shooting in the dark. I always ask new clients ‘how did you hear about us?’ And the thing about measuring how clicks on your site correlate with actual business – its never an exact science. The only thing you can know for sure is that no clicks = no business.

  3. The “Exposure” topic is one that has fascinated me for years.

    To convey the message in a succinct and good-natured manner,

    I tell folks : “Hey, I’m from Wyoming were you can DIE from exposure”.



  4. Besides the exposure issue, why can’t Google pay? Are they going through financial hardship?

  5. – Crowdsourcing for exposure.
    – Contests. (Hi, PDN ;-^)
    – Editorial jobs @ cheap/zero/negative returns.

    Does it work?
    Not occasionally.
    Not through some magical thought process.
    Not for a 1 in a million shot.
    Are these good business models?

    Paying the rent isn’t enough. One needs far more to maintain a healthy life/business.

    Examine 20-30 years of a -prime of- life invested in this business. Take all the energy, resources, capital, and opportunity costs. Average out and compare to another business, choice, opportunity, endeavor, career path, risk, etc..
    What is the comparative ROI?

  6. I’m inclined to agree with Shane: Why shouldn’t/wouldn’t Google pay for the artwork? I’m sure they can afford it.

    And if they can’t afford it, why not…? What’s wrong with their business model? If a huge and hugely successful company like Google can’t come up with a business model whereby they can afford to pay artists for their artwork, then what hope is there for individual artists to come up with a reasonably successful business model?

    Sure, the illustrators who’ve agree to let Google use their artwork for free might get a lot of “exposure,” but what kind of exposure…? Will it be relevant exposure that might actually lead to more/paid work for the participating illustrators? (Is Google going to make it abundantly clear who the artist is and how to contact them?) My guess is that their artwork will be exposed to a lot of people who would never have any reason –be it need or desire– to hire an illustrator…

    • @cynthia wood, Google can afford it – just look at their revenues for this year. Maybe they asked for ‘free’, because they knew people would take it.

      And who can blame them. As a business if you can ask for something for free and get it, then heck, why not?

      Sure beats paying!

      (And no, I do not agree with what Google has done).

      • @Thomas Pickard, I was being somewhat facetious by questioning Google’s business model and whether or not could afford to pay for artwork… OF COURSE they can! Question is, why didn’t they…? Unfortunately, the answer is the same: because they can [get away with it].

        But in no way does that make it right, and I am in no way suggesting that it does.

        I’m sure everyone working down at the snazzy Google campus is getting a paycheck. Apparently they’re simply being one or all of the following: stupid, lazy, sleazy, greedy.

        • @cynthia wood,
          The 5th option is – they’re very good at running their business.

          If you could purchase a camera for $0, would you instead purchase the same one for $3000 just to support the camera store?

          The amount of money they have has absolutely nothing to do with it.

          • @Mason, so what is it about then — if money has nothing to do with it? As I see it, it then comes down to ethics and integrity, in which case “sleazy” and “greedy” weren’t far off the mark…

            But I know I’m terribly old-fashioned in thinking that ethics and moral integrity still have a place in this world, especially in business.

            I’m just curious: how do you run your business (if you have one)…? Are you operating a “gift economy” enterprise? (If so, I would love to know how it works!)

            I have yet to convince PG&E or AT&T to trade their services for the exposure I might give them by photographing their telephone poles and transmission towers.

            • @cynthia wood,
              So what you’re saying is, if AT+T would trade their service for exposure from your photographs, you would take them up on it.

              Last week one of my artists shot for a high-profile, prestigious gig, and the kind we would say yes to every single time. This week the artist was called to shoot for a weekly magazine at a similar rate as ‘a favor,’ and we had to say no, and they then cancelled another shoot they had on hold.

              I really don’t have anything to say on moral integrity – every situation is different.

              • @Mason, so what, exactly, is the point you are trying to make…? (And how is it different from, or how does it relate to, the things I’ve said?) It’s becoming increasingly unclear to me what we’re talking about here, or what you think we’re talking about…

                If your point is that every situation is different, OK fine, then how do YOU think Google should have behaved? Or how do you think the illustrators who were approached by Google asking for free artwork should have responded? (Every situation may be different, but I thought we were all trying to discuss this one — i.e., the Google/illustrator/free artwork in exchange for exposure situation.)

                If you want to discuss whether or not I would accept a lifetime’s worth –or even a year’s worth!– of free landline, cell phone and DSL service from AT&T in exchange for the mere fact that some of my photographs feature telephone poles and power lines via which AT&T’s service(s) are delivered, my answer is: you bet! I might even let AT&T use an image or two of mine on their website for that kind of a trade. But free phone and DSL service for a year/life is a very tangible benefit…as opposed to Google’s offer of “exposure.”

                • @cynthia wood,
                  Cynthia why are you pointing the finger at Google? Why not point the finger at the artists that agreed to this? I am so tired of all of us whining about how no one respects us. We don’t respect ourselves or each other. I have clients asking for more and more for less every job. I don’t blame them one bit. Because I know there is a line of 10 photographers behind me ready to say yes to anything the client asks for. Is it frustrating? Absolutely, but at the moment it is the reality of the marketplace. There are a lot of incredibly talented people going after a smaller amount of work. Unfortunately most artists are willing to play this game and compete strictly on price. When you set yourself up to compete on price alone you are in big trouble because there will always be someone cheaper then you.

  7. Often what’s left out is the quality of exposure. Not all exposure is created equal. To actually make money off of exposure it needs to be seen by the right people at the right time.

    I’ve had work that I chose to give away for free, and it has gone all over the place, which was quite cool, but I wasn’t expecting paying exposure from it, and guess what I haven’t got any yet.

    I keep going back to the Harlan Ellison documentary where they suggested he would get exposure from an interview on an extras portion of a DVD.

    I bet the people sending out the e-mails for free work got paid, and the person that brought them their coffee, and the person that let them into the building etc. What makes those jobs worth paying for, but not art?

    “Cross my palm with silver.”

  8. So I read yesterday’s story on this – and an hour later opened an email offer of credit and a link to my work in exchange for use of one of my photos (found by my flickr stream) in a web-only video piece in an iconic New England-y magazine. The big one.

    I ended up giving permission, but they ended up finding a pic that fit better with the rest of the photos they’d put together (mine was a little too fine-arts).

    Alas. But the point is that as a beginning photographer (at the money side of it), I needed the exposure more than the $xx that may or may not have been offered.

    • @Dan, But Dan, this is the rub – your image has value, that is why they came to you to use it.

      If your image has value, why would you – the creator – just let someone use it for free?

      • @Thomas Pickard, You’re right that it has value, but as someone who has never sold to (and wasn’t really marketing for) commercial publications, then I saw this as a chance to get my name, link, and an example of the fine art landscape work that I do (and sell) out there. I don’t need $50. I need 10,000 people to see my work so I can sell more.

        As it was, I think because I hemmed and hawed a little bit, they went looking for another image (of that particular area).

        I do see the other side of it though. As a book indexer, I had to make decisions on setting my rates when I first started freelancing 11 years ago. I had the luxury of being able to not accept lower than “going” rates but not everyone is in that position. Happens in nearly every “independent” type profession. It’s bad for the profession when people don’t stand up for the highest remuneration possible. But everyone’s got to do what’s right for themselves.

        • @Dan, Though I still don’t agree with giving work away for free, at least this was exposure in an area where you were more likely to get payed work as a result, rather than the google deal, which is highly unlilkely.

          • @Christine Blackburne,
            Is it unlikely? If I know Marissa Mayer, they’re going to do a big press release when these skins come out. People who are in the illustration industry will take note.

            Also, illustrators who participated can also do their own emailer, announcing to their clients that they have a new browser skin to download, and oh here’s the link to my portfolio.

            Everyone assumes that exposure (and by extension advertising) is worthless because money won’t just come rolling in. Of course it won’t. You have to put in the extra effort to get that money out. It is just one arrow in your quiver.

  9. Here we go again! Who else isn’t getting paid? Any one single person at Google? Thought not.

  10. In light if this, I feel it is appropriate to post this again. I first saw it a year or so ago and Harlan Ellison says every single thing that I was thinking about Google again yesterday.

    One of our illustrators, Mark Ulriksen, was approached for this project a month ago and said NO. Not for free.

  11. In my humble opinion there are 3 reasons to do a job. You can do it for money, for fun or for your reputation. But we try to work on our reputation to get well paying jobs with big, wealthy companies like Google. If artists stop making money on that level then who exactly are we trying to impress?

  12. Great opportunities can arise from very odd sources. You never really know what might come from any sort of exposure.

    But is Google the place influential people go to find new talent? No. Do influential people sometimes visit Google? Probably. Could some paying gig fall your way as a result of a Google feature? Maybe, but it feels like a long shot.

    I can understand why some artists concluded Google was more a case of working for free than an a good promotional opportunity. It also feels like Google might have overestimated its value in this particular venture. A high volume of hits doesn’t always mean a site has a high level of influence.

    I have to agree with others in wondering why Google couldn’t find some cash to support this venture. There are always opportunities to work for free. The trick is picking the opportunities that are most likely to yield the best results.


  13. Timely post for many folks I think. Only take jobs that advance your career [similar thought to Dirk@12]. If Google will help you advance your career and the sacrifice /reward strikes a good balance: go for it. Milton Glaser would be ill advised to design for free but a Jr. Designer should probably jump on it – where do you fit?

  14. I bet that Harlan Ellison has actually sold quite a few books because of that “Pay the Writer” video that’s been all over the internet (for free) for months.

  15. On the internet you can estimate the value of exposure. If google offered $10,000 worth in adwords, you could track who visited your site, with the right software you can also measure if any of those visit leads to actually request for work. Google is at the forefront of quantifying exposure, which is why their adwords programs brings in billions of dollars, people know it can work. But google did not offer the artist that, they offered them web 2.0 kool aid.

    • Sergey Molotov

      @David O.,

      and by the way, the same could apply for Mozilla and Firefox as they’re making millions now but paying zero for browser skins and plugins.

      it’s unthinkable that nowadays the only business-friendly company left is Apple and anybody else is trying to ripoff people with these lousy sort of comptetition promising exposure.

    • @David O.,
      Why couldn’t you quantify the exposure? Its easy to do, the problem is estimating the effect beforehand.

      If you have a halfway decent setup (you should try aPhotoFolio) then you have free access to Google Analytics. Its easy to do, its free, and you can see how many people (and where they came from) looked at your site. Spend a day to lookup the IP addresses of those people, see if any are potential clients, and send them a portfolio to follow up since you know they’re interested.

      • @Mason,
        Yes you are correct, but this is a business, you have to be able to estimate the value of a business transaction. With adwords credit you can estimate the value beforehand, you know what you’re getting. Moreover adwords can be used to target people who are actively searching for illustrators which is better than passive hits exposure will generate.

  16. The exposure may be worthwhile or it may not be. And yes, everyone has the choice to participate or not. Whatever the case, in asking artists to work for free, Google shows a lack of respect for the profession. Yes, there are lots of talented designers and other creative professionals who will line up in the midday sun to work for free, but this is because they are hungry and desperate. Taking advantage of that, particularly when you have the means to pay, as Google obviously does, is exploitation, pure and simple.

  17. Sergey Molotov

    The issue is this :

    Google should have asked free work from STUDENTS or AMATEUR designers, not from professionals !

    Professionals do NOT work for free, and Google is not a charity or a no-profit.

    Screw Google.

  18. Isn’t Google essentially a free service? I know I’ve never paid to use it or Gmail or Google Maps or Google image search or even YouTube.

    I think if the “donated” artwork were to link to the artist’s site or something in that vein, it would work for both parties. Can anyone here imagine what it would be like if everyone who visited saw your work and had a link to your site? Even if .01% of the people clicked through…

    • @TP, Google is in the business of selling advertising to all those people who use Google for free.

      • @ericF., True. What is interesting though, is when Google started out they didn’t have a business model. Nada. Zippo. It was only later that they went ‘we need to generate some revenue, how are we going to do it?’. And then they came up with Adwords.

        (Side note: A great read on Google – how it came about; how search evolved etc.. – is a book called ‘Search’. Well worth a read).

  19. Photographers have enough trouble in these time with people thinking exsisting work that they have should be free for others to use.

    If a for-profit company asks for your work, they should be paying you. They have the money, they are gaining something of value, there is no reason why a photographer should not be paid.

    • Debra Weiss

      @Christine Blackburne,

      Non-profits should be paying also. Non-profit means is a tax status – they don’t pay taxes. However, they are most likely paying the designer, printer and anyone else connected to any project for which they would need a photographer.

      • @Debra Weiss,

        As I’m starting my nonprofit from pure vapors, I’m beginning to understand how the structure of a nonprofit actually works and you’re absolutely right: the average nonprofit is a corporation that cannot distribute profits to any shareholders and doesn’t pay most (not all) taxes.

        But, I can (and do) tap photographers to swap usage for a tax deduction. While no cash is trading hands, at least I can do my part to lower a photographer’s taxable base…

        Also, let me take this opportunity to also say, from a client POV, that if a shooter decides to decline my offer, I should (and do) always understand and not let that get in the way of any future work. I’ve been turned down before because I don’t have any actual cash to pay, but I’ve also gotten an earful in addition. There’s always a deal to be made, especially in this economic climate and while I understand that noone has a sense of humor right now, there are ways to work together when cash really isn’t available. Google, on the other hand? They’ve got cash, brother.

        • @STONER,
          I didn’t mean to insinuate that non-profits should never pay, just that for-profits always should. I’ve worked for non-profits NGOs before probono and I’ve gained amazing experiences and great portfolio pieces out of it. The shoot has always been on my terms, insuring that I get portfolio pieces even if the exposure doesn’t pan out. I have even aproached non-profits with a shoot ideas and offered pictures for thier use in return for the kind of access I need. In the end, there needs to be something of value the photographer is sure to get out of the work. But even with that said, I don’t see why a company making money for themselves can’t pay for the services they ask of others.

          • @Christine Blackburne,

            I guess for non profits we now include GM, Ford, Chrysler, AIG, Eddie Bauer, American Airlines, Saks, The New York Times . . .

        • Debra Weiss


          There is no tax deduction for the photographer for donating his services – this is a myth.

          • @Debra Weiss,
            Is this correct? I mean, if the photographer makes a donation in the form of usage or a shoot that would normally be purchased, I can’t legally treat it as such?

            • Debra Weiss


              Yes – this is correct. One cannot donate usage. Only hard costs can be deducted and they would have already been deducted as business expenses. You cannot double deduct.
              Think about it – if photographers could write their services and usage off, they would only be working for non-profits.

              • @Debra Weiss,

                Thanks, Debra – I appreciate the clarification on this. And sorry for the derail, folks…

  20. I’m VP of a local photography club and our members are wanting info on how to market their photography. Although I have some ideas, and some books that address this subject, I would really appreciate any information you can provide. Thanks.

  21. I had a call from one of the world’s largest software makers (you know, the one owned by one of the world’s wealthiest people) asking permission to use an image, for 25 magazine insertions world wide.

    I asked the budget and they said “that’s confidential” so I gave them a price.

    Of course we know the bottom line of this story is the bottom line as they wanted the image use for “free” stating it would be good “shared” publicity.

    I said shared publicity is good, so I will agree as long as my credit line is the same size as the headline.

    I think we all know the result.

    I could elaborate further, because the story is much funnier than I care to admit in public and I’m well aware that my credit line on an image that goes to a world wide audience has value. I am also aware that the “advertiser” is investing a large sum of money on the media buy.

    The truth, or the real bottom line for my studio is the photograph takes up 80% of the page, The “client’s” headline, body copy and logo 18.8% of the page and the photographer’s credit line .2% of the page.

    It may be shared publicity but it’s far from equal.


  22. This makes me think of the U2 – Hiroshi Sugimoto “artist to artist” barter they did for album cover art awhile back. Curious how that has worked out thus far for Sugimoto?
    Setting aside the fact that Google should indeed be paying for artist services, (they should!!), perhaps artists could barter services with Google, ie. top search rankings for life, a flush Adword account, or a click on the artwork directs user to the artist website etc.

  23. This is all very interesting coming from a company who have the famous motto.’ Don’t Be Evil’!

    OK they give away their searches and products, Gmail, Blogger etc and now their NEW Chrome browser.

    But they are a business and they want their new browser to rule the same way their search does (so they bring in even more advertising revenue).

    Its marketing and its marketing from what is becoming one of the worlds marketing heavyweights.

    They are not GIVING away adwords. I would humbly suggest that googles marketing department realise they are not part of the FREE side of Google and Pay-Up for the use of illustrations and art work that gives them a unique selling point. Come on guys, how hard can it be to pay for work you need and can afford to pay for?

    • @Kent Johnson, Google doesn’t really give away use of search and it’s products, Gmail and Blogger. Sure, you don’t pay, but let’s not all forget, that Google collects all that information about searching habits and the like, which it uses to fine tune its Adword and Adsense products. I assume, that without all that ”search and click” information, their products would be a lot less useful.

  24. I recently got a mailer the other day from REI – a 5×7 postcard-style mailer, and the image was of REI members in action. And it had the REI member’s name with the photo, and on the back was a website to visit if you’d like to submit YOUR member photos.

    So basically, you submit photos to them, sign all of your rights away, and they use it in a national mailer.

    I know Chase Jarvis is getting paid to shoot for REI – why do they feel they can take advantage of everyone else? Fuck digital, give me film back.

  25. Years ago, before I had a website, I was asked by a very popular NPR, show to use images from a series of photographs I had been working on for about a decade, as recurring images throughout their site. Of course they had no budget to pay anything and, not having much of a web presence to link to at the time, I did not see how the exposure could really benefit me. This was an error which I regret. It did spur me on to get up a website asap.

    The thing preventing me from taking advantage of what would have probably been very good for me and my project was that I was (and am) sensitive to the number of times someone is suggesting to me that “this will be great exposure” or some similar promise of future benefit. The artist/photographer/writer is always, it seems, the first person to be asked to donate. Printers and ad space usually have to be paid for. Same for other trades/services involved in PR. Yes agencies and design firms do pro bono work. But unless they are pretty small shops, all of the employees working on the pro bono work are paid their salaries.

    For a revenue machine like Google to attempt to avoid paying for creative services which would add value to their product – as if they were a charity or a cash strapped public service – shows how lowly they value a content provider’s role. This attitude bodes poorly for artists, writers, and performers as Google accumulates control of information.

    • @John Sundlof,
      Well said and the real warning for the future of this attitude is the fact that it is the major player in the digital landscape.

  26. The real message here is that no one needs to be working for free once they’ve gone “professional” (no matter what career you’re in, even corporate).

    If these artists were “building their portfolios” then maybe this Google thing makes sense. However, it sounds like they approached well established artists. If so, shame on Google, they’re old enough to know better.

    • @Chris Schultz, Not to single your post out Chris but as an artist who is still developing my portfolio I have always disliked that suggestion.

      I would understand it if I went to company X and asked to do work for them with no portfolio, or put my abilities out to group Y for no charge this makes sense. However if company X finds my image or talents and wants to use them enough to track me down, I would expect some compensation. If they are willing to pay the person sending the e-mail I expect they should be willing to pay the artist.

      • @Ari, You’re absolutely right. Unfortunately though, that’s how this industry does things. Most photographers must be constantly shooting out of pocket (aka “for free”) in order to push their careers and build their portfolio. Just because a job has a budget/profit doesn’t automatically give it a place in the portfolio.

        At any rate, if you find a way to get paid for your photographic talent without a portfolio as you’re just starting out, I’ll be willing to pay you for the blueprints to that secret so I can write and sell a million books to all these new photo students that graduate every year looking to be the next millionaire photographer. :)

        • Debra Weiss

          @Chris Schultz,
          “Unfortunately though, that’s how this industry does things.”
          Only when photographers give their permission.

  27. Things like this piss me off to no end.

    It’s one thing if a struggling organization with zero money comes to an artist, hoping to find a common ground that benefits them both. I do my fair share of charity in a year and have gotten plenty of good work from it that has in turn led to more business.

    But when a money-making entity – google, or even your small local publications – comes to an artist, established or not – and asks for free work, it is bullshit.

    It’s up there with Nike sweatshops making $200 shoes while paying kids 50 cents an hour. To those kids, that 50 cents an hour is something, but it is still inhumane.

    “We don’t feel comfortable releasing the names of artists who are participating in the project before it launches,” stated the company, which also declined to give a date when artwork from the program would appear on Google Chrome. “However, we are currently working with dozens of artists who are excited about the opportunity to be involved in this project.”

    I bet. Content creators should e-mail each one of those illustrators once this comes out and ask them “Why? Why do you feel that a multi-billion dollar corporation shouldn’t give you a decent day’s pay for a decent day’s work?”

    I hope there is some follow-up to this.

  28. Once again, Google does it. All wrong. Epic fail. This is such a big PR mess I wonder how they thought it would fly. To their defence they say that they’ve done it before, and it worked fine. But the thing is, the artists who agreed to do it before, Bob Dylan and Gucci for example, make their living selling other stuff than. So there might be a case (just might, I still don’t like the smell of it) for the value of exposure. But for illustrators whose whole job is just doing what they are asked to do for free?

    I doubt this would work for photographers either. Sure exposure is great but how low are you willing to go before you realize you are all battling each other in rapidly dwindling pool of actual paying work?

    I say, put ten artists in a dark room with a pen knife and I don’t think even one would make it out alive.

  29. I had this exact same convo with an interactive designer. We both agree that free exposure, especially from Google is worth more than gold..

    • @Chris Sembrot,

      How? How is it worth more than Gold? Who is going to give you gold when a company with a shitload of gold (billions of dollars of it) doesn’t think you’re worth it?

      “Exposure”, generally done for charity, is so you can attract the attention of companies with large coffers who will actually pay you. When they decide to stop doing that (because, apparently, some people are dumb enough to fall for this), what do you have left? Is your wife going to pay all your bills? Mom and Dad? What’s next – Cocacola having artists design sodacan labels that they can put 3 pt credit line on? Is it still worth more than gold?

      Christ alamighty. Short sighted thinking once again. Dumb dumb dumb.

      You are worth what you charge. These artists who hurt the rest of us just trying to make a decent living – worthless.

      • @craig,

        I can see how some people would view this as complete bull, especially by a company like Google who seemingly print money, however with the “exposure” that this can produce is, once again in my opinion, extreamly valuable.

        Also to touch on your Coca Cola bit, if they offered me the oppertuinity to slap my photo (and you even suggested there be a byline, which by the way would never happen) on every 1/3 can that rolls off their assembly line, I would do it for FREE in a second. Don’t you understand that’s like shooting for a magazine that has a circulation of about a billion. Do you shoot editorial? If so you could see the value in this, as I’ve been called numerous times for assignments I’ve shot for magazines.

        Never underestimate the value of free press, especially when you’re work is being seen by millions a DAY. The internet is a pretty powerful tool that we as photographers must embrase and use to our advantage.

        So, once again I would say yes to Google as long as there was a byline or if my name were slapped on the header with my work. To be called DUMB for this view is pretty ignorant and short sighted, also in my humble opinion.

        ps I’m curious to see your work, for no other reason but to see what you shoot and how “established” you are. This is in no way confrontational, but want to put a visual to the strong worded reply and strongly opinionated Craig.

        Best of luck to you,

        • @Chris Sembrot,

          My work and “establishment” should have no bearing on the words I write. Hence my preferred anonymity. I am widely published and have shot numerous campaigns for corporations that make as much, and sometimes more, than Google does. And they’ve all paid me. Don’t get me wrong though, I have my charity cases. Multibillion dollar corporations are not them.

          I strongly disagree. Google has a responsibility to treat others fairly. “Don’t Be Evil” right? A wealthy person who hordes their money is morally poor. I reiterate my above comparison of Nike paying 3rd world children a few cents an hour. In their country, that seems like a deal better than nothing, but it is still reprehensible.

          My problem with this is, it sets a terrible, greedy and shortsighted precedent. If you want to make a living as an artist – who is going to pay you, if the most well off entities decided that since they are so public, they should not have to pay? Who is going to pay you?

          What’s the point of being seen by millions a day when you can’t support your family? Does this fleeting pseudo-fame make you a successful person?

          Again – who is going to pay you?

          Who is going to feed your kids?

          Have I said that enough yet?

  30. I’ve done work for free for a for profit gov sub contractor. It went into an AR which I’ll get some exposure from, not a lot but some. I thought about it and decided it would be beneficial in the long run. This is especially true if I get contracted. It’s all a gamble and there is no such thing as a safe gamble. Google could have gone in house or stock.

  31. These are all good considerations.

    For me, I will consider an assignment that pay less than my standard rate as a marketing decision/opportunity. When deciding any kind of marketing I’m going to do I look at the audience, the cost, the exposure, the creative control and the potential ROI. There are no guarantees in any marketing efforts. Does the cost (time and/or $) justify the gamble? It’s the risk/reward evaluation.

    Are companies responsible for paying reasonable rates? If a company (regardless of its size) is only willing to pay a certain fee, then the free capitalistic market will either accept or reject the offer. It’s supply/demand. If the company isn’t satisfied with the quality they get for the price they offer then they will likely either live with it or increase their offer/budget. They have to evaluate their risk/reward as well.

    Can I complete on price? I’m pretty much of the mindset that there is always someone out there willing to work for free. That’s why price is not a selling point for me in how I promote my services. I can’t compete with “free”. But, I can provide reliable service and quality product. The true test is whether there is demand in the market place for reliability and quality. So far in my career the answer is “yes”.

    So, how much revenue am I willing to sacrifice (either directly or indirectly) for exposure? Honestly, it varies. There are days when a low budget editorial assignment is a fantastic marketing opportunity. And, there are days when the best advertising assignment is one that simply pays the bills.

    There’s really no formula or standard for all to follow. There are too many variables. I am happy just doing what works for me … which is often a moving target in and of itself. :)

  32. I, too, think any exposure helps people, especially from Google. And actually, the Web is filled with free, cheap, and easy ways to increase your exposure. You just have to work on it, and use as many available tools as possible, like AdWido, for one.