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Why And When You Should Work For Exposure: Project “Finding Gary Vee”

11/08/2018 ISO 1200 Magazine 0 Comments

The question about working for free in creative business is probably as old as it gets. I bet there was some douchebag neanderthal not giving the fair share of meat to the cave painter because, after all, the artist would get exposure for his work. However, there is a time and place for “free work”, and this is a story of one of them times.

The story starts a few months back, when my friend Jan Ameri asked me if I want to make an image of Gary Vaynerchuk when he is visiting Finland. Gary is a New York-based entrepreneur, author, speaker and internet personality. Vaynerchuk is best known for his work in digital marketing and social media and leading his companies VaynerMedia and Vayner X. After thinking 0.2 nanoseconds I said a big YES to this proposition, even though I knew that it would be a fully pro bono case -no money in it for me. Why this was an easy call? How do I decide that a project is worth doing? It all comes down to a triangle of Money, Portfolio and Networks. (I remember also Chase Jarvis talking about something similar process)

Money: There is enough budget for creating the best possible image
Portfolio: I know I will be creating an image that will improve my portfolio
Networks: The people I will interact with during the project will be especially good addition to my network, possibly leading to new things.

The ultimate project for me is, of course, a project where all these elements come together, but I’m also willing to take on a project if I get at least TWO of these elements. Only ONE is not enough. So for example, I will take on a project that brings in the money AND strengthens my portfolio OR widens my network. However, I might do a project totally pro bono if I know the image will improve my portfolio AND the people I meet in the project will be an important addition to my networks. If this is the case, then the money is not an issue anymore. This project with Gary was a perfect match for this category: an amazing image to my portfolio and valuable networks for possible future projects.

Back to the story of Finding Gary V. The photoshoot of Gary took place in a hotel in Helsinki (Clarion), where I had something like 10 minutes to make the shot in the gym. Since I had such a clear vision of the image, I only needed 5 minutes for the photo shoot and the rest of the time we talked about concept etc. We finished with high fives and I promised to Gary that he will receive the image in some form, some time, some place.


concept sketch

raw shot


Me and Gary

Lessons of Finding Gary V:

1. When you consider taking on a project, think about the triangle of Money, Portfolio and Networks
2. Be persistent. Be crazy. Take a chance. Go an extra mile (or 4000 miles).
3. Don’t underestimate the power of networks! You never know where the ripple effect takes you.

About Antti Karppinen:

Antti Karppinen is internationally awarded commercial photographer / digital artist and educator from Finland. Antti has won dozens international awards for visual artistry & commercial photography and is now working and educating worldwide. Major merits are World Photographic Cup Gold medal in the illustrative category and FEP photographer of the year Golden camera also in the illustrative category. He has also won the portrait photographer of Finland competition. Let's Get Connected: 

Text, image and video via Antti Karppinen

This article and all the images were originally published on  and shared with his permission

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