Wilson: Exposure doesn't pay bills


Some time ago, I and a fellow photographer were at an event where a gentleman presented a business card and said he had a solid Internet presence, and it would be great exposure for me if I sent photos of the event to him.

I made some banter but held my tongue and promised nothing.

It reminded me of when a friend in Albuquerque asked if I knew professional photographers who’d do pro bono work for a business she knew. My response: “I don’t think you’re looking for a professional photographer.”

Turns out my idea isn’t that crazy. A friend who runs a photography studio had a real estate agent offer recommendations to 200 of her clients if she’d do some professional head shots for free. She was tempted to call the agent back and say, “I want to sell my house but instead of you getting commission, I’ll tell everybody what a great job you did.”

It’s not just photography:


• Another friend does magic shows for a living and tours the nation. He volunteers his time at children’s hospitals, because he knows what a blessing it is his son is healthy. But a free show for exposure? He’ll make your phone number disappear.

• Another friend is a political strategist in the Midwest. He said a trial lawyer contacted him to run her campaign, but do it without payment in exchange for the exposure. First, he clearly didn’t need the exposure, because she knew he ran campaigns. Second, he said, she didn’t buy her 11,000-square-foot house in a posh suburb with exposure from pro bono cases.

The same friend who wanted to sell her house? She’s never had a problem shooting photos for non-profits, because she believes in their cause and wants to help. But that real estate agents clients weren’t chipping in at the grocery store that night, so she passed.

There are times I’ve given photos without asking for payment, even when they’re not charities. Just last season, I photographed an incredible one-handed catch by a Texas A&M-Kingsville receiver. I knew there was no way the picture would get a lot of play on a game eastern New Mexico won handily, but I knew the receiver would like that memory. I emailed it to Kelvin Queliz, the school’s sports information director and said he could use it however he wanted as long as he gave me photo credit (so nobody would claim credit for it later). He’s an ethical guy and did just that.

We share photos with other media outlets, but they compensate us with photos when they’ve got an event we want. We also have internships and have run stories written by job applicants, but there are implicit benefits.

We’ve also placed items in our newspapers without paying the submitters. I won’t turn down items that are sent to us, provided they meet guidelines of newsworthiness, and I’m willing to negotiate if the person believes they’re worth compensation.

The bottom line is a for-profit business sometimes has to spend money to make money, and it shouldn’t expect exposure to be a proper substitute.

Kevin Wilson is managing editor for the Clovis News-Journal. He can be contacted at 575-763-3431, ext. 320, or by email:

[email protected]


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