Giving Away Your Images for “Exposure”

If you’re also a contributor at DepositPhotos I’m sure you also received an “exciting news” email where they encourage contributors to “expose more customers to your artistic works” by giving our work away for free.

In this blog post I’ll examine why this form of 21st exploitation not only hurts the value of your own images…but is generally bad news for the industry.

DepositPhotos’s Call to Action


Let’s break it down from Bullshit-speak to plain English, courtesy of Elijah

“Dear contributor,

Please give away your work for free, in return, we will give you traffic of freeloaders who like free stuff – this is why they come here in the first place – and since they are freeloaders you can bet, they will never ever buy anything from your ‘paid collection’. We can also guarantee that they won’t even click on the link to your portfolio knowing that their stuff is not free.

We hope you enjoy our offer and will share information about it on all your social media channels thus providing us with free advertisement.

Thank you for all your hard work!

Depositphotos Team.”

In this case, it’s even worse since DepositPhotos are asking for you to give away videos which take much longer to produce / post-process / keyword than stills. In addition, often specialist video equipment is more expensive than the same equipment for photography, as discussed by Doug Jensen in his Master Class.

They’re not the only ones asking for free work – Dreamstime

Dreamstime also has a “free public domains” program with more than 180,000 images by clueless contributors.  If an image hasn’t sold on Dreamstime for something like two or three years (can’t recall), you’ll receive a notification email asking if you would like to give away that said image for free. Canstock has a similar program, although I ditched them a while back. If you recall any other agencies encouraging to submit free content, please comment below.

Reputable agencies value their contributors

No reputable agency should suggest to their contributors to act out of generosity! You don’t see Alamy, SS, Robert Harding and even iStock ask this, so in my eyes it puts them above the others that do.

Canva earned the coveted title of Golden Turd for May following their decision to partner up with free-download sites contributing to copyright infringements everywhere: Pixabay and Pexels. Here’s a link to their “exciting news” update.


If you don’t put a value on your work, nobody else will

How much is your work worth? To answer this depends on a million factors, both objective and subjective. Nevertheless, if you’ve been producing stock images for a while as I have, even the worst of my worst images still has SOME value…perhaps as little as $1 over its lifetime.

After, it took you a few seconds to compose the shot, press the shutter, then post-process and keyword. I have 100s of such “useless” works which will still provide me with a few $100s…

One of my recent images of dogs sleeping on the street. Still took me a while to research which breeds they were. Even though this will probably never sell due to the abundance of  images of dogs, I would never even dream of giving it away for free

If you’re just starting out, hone your craft and keep charging for your work!

Fuck off Unsplash, Pexels and Pixabay scum

Which brings to my best point. As soon as reputable agencies go down the route of the free-scum agencies, it’s bad news for the industry. Don’t buy into their bullshit that “it will bring you exposure”. The only exposure you’ll get is the free kind with repeat customers wanting more free work. You’d also be contributing to an unsustainable business where buyers have less incentive to pay for work they are able to source for free.

At the end of the day, many contributors underestimate the value of their work and overestimate the generosity of strangers. There are whole factories out there profiting from others’ works, mainly based in South Asia.

Images licensed for real money at SS courtesy of contributors’ generosity at Unsplash

Giving work for free encourages thieves

Which brings me to my next point…that some sources of free images will actually look to profit from your generosity and re-licensing said images. We’ve seen this first hand over at SS during my recent campaign to wack those moles. Many images that appeared at thieves’ accounts were lifted from “free download sites”.

Rant over. Wishing you all a profitable weekend.


  1. Early days on Fotolia, 2006 or so, I checked the box that said if my photo was rejected, put it in the free pile. A few weeks later, I went back in and deleted those images. Why? Because they were getting 100s of downloads. A picture that wasn’t good enough to earn me a quarter was good enough that 100s of people wanted a copy.

    Never again

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great blog, Alex. I agree completely. There is no way that giving away images for free in this fashion could possibly have any benefit whatsoever for the producer. Everyone should resist these attempts to devalue our assets.


  3. In commerce 10 “bad” products fill the 100pack of better ones or at least they are sold separate at lower price. Never saw a B-class or rare-sold product to be given away for free by a manufacturer! They could offer a simple lowprice “include your files [item1,2,3…etc]?” option of non sold files in “packages” to promote and benefit both the agency and the contributor.


  4. I think everyone will appreciate the sentiment of this photographer’s post to Craig’s list: (humorous & clever but very truthful!)

    Originally posted on Atlanta Craig’s list 10-3-2011 Author Unknown

    “I am a photographer and since people are always looking for free shoots I assume that they must also do their job, or provide their services, for free.
    I am looking to hire all types of people to do all sorts of jobs for me, as long as I do not have to pay anything. Just think, you will gain more experience, and I will put the word out for you and let everyone know what wonderful work you do. This opportunity will bring you a ton of unpaid work, but everyone will love you. So if you have a job or service you provide, and will do it for free, please let me know, because I am sure I have work for you and will hire you in a second.
    Feel free to email me with the service you can provide, when you can start, and please include references.
    I look forward to your free service.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is not original. As a freelancer and video production company owner myself for more than 35 years, I can tell you that different variations of that reply to a potential client (most of them better-written than this one) have been around for decades. But the idea is correct, don’t give away your work. And letting a 3rd party agency give away your work would be even more foolish.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. And yes, I never give away any of my work unless it is a charity I choose to support.


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