I just happened to read this blog post by Jay Patel. He says:
“Never give away your work for free. This could mean that you’ll lose out on some opportunities to gain immediate exposure, but it will help you become established as someone who is providing unique content… whether it is your photographs, article, techniques, or tips.”
Valuable advice here, but it’s important to underline that compensation for your work is not always necessarily monetary. If it were, anyone could simply observe that what Jay is doing here is giving away his valuable advice for free and contradicting himself.
Of course, this isn’t the case, as he adds:
“Your return for exposure does not necessarily have to be an immediate monetary value. It may be to build up your client base for future return or to help you break into new markets.”
Also, many people not only give something away for free in exchange for exposure, but they even pay for it: it’s called ads.
The problem here is deciding what is the right kind of exposure for you and what you are prepared to give away in order to obtain it. My strategy, at the moment, revolves around giving away knowledge in order to establish my reputation as someone who knows about photography and is therefore equipped to create useful work.
What I am not going to do, instead, is giving away my photos for free, in exchange for links or mentions. As many have noted, this kind of exposure rarely works. On the other hand, I just gave an interview to a magazine–soon to be published both online and in print–that will include some of my photos.
The deciding factor here, I think is that the magazine piece will all be about me and that it will be published in what, for me, could be a new market. Just to give an example, If the Krka National Park were to ask me permission to use the photo above, taken there, to promote the park itself, then they would have to pay for it.