We as independents (whether you are a model or a photographer) are often approached with the concept (sometimes the illusion) of “exposure” which will drastically benefit our careers. Basically free work.

Do this project for us and you will get so much exposure. Shoot this assignment and there is so much exposure. Be in this advertisement and you will get a tremendous amount of exposure.

But after doing a bunch of these projects – your “exposure” level is about the same as it always has been. But is being paid in exposure always a bad thing?

If it seems like a project you want to do – or benefit from – what are some ways you can leverage this exposure to benefit yourself?

1) Share the project on your social media channels. Perhaps develop a social media campaign around the project. For example – I saw a model doing a personally signed cover contest for a magazine feature they were a part of.

2) Blog about the project; what was it like behind the scenes? Create some online chatter about the work to generate additional interest in it.

3) Send out the results of the project to your target clients. Perhaps a magazine you want to work with would be interested in seeing your latest work. Either send in print copies or digital copies to a handful of people you hope to work with – keeping them informed on what you’ve been doing.

4) Try something different that you normally don’t do to extend the style and range of your portfolio.

5) Have fun with it and use it as an opportunity to grow your network and connections. You never know who you might meet on set. Perhaps it is the stylist who has another project coming up – or the art director who has work in their other job – and so on.

An example I like to give is a shoot I was offered several years ago. It was from a magazine wanting me to photograph a first round draft pick for an NFL team. The pay on the project was really bad – so I was going to lose money from travel and hiring my assistant. But I had full creative control on the photo shoot to make the photos I wanted to make. So I looked at it and financially I was going to lose – but I had the opportunity to photograph an NFL rookie for several hours and make some fun pictures – that was a pretty good opportunity for exposure. But only if I leveraged it. So I took those images and marketed the heck out of them to clients I wanted to work with and received multiple bigger magazine features out of the project. Even had a national magazine pick up one of the photos which more than covered all my expenses for the shoot itself. That was leveraging the exposure.

Lastly, only you can set the value of the “exposure” a client offers you. No one else can set that for you.

James Patrick
instagram @jpatrickphoto