Visiting Washington D.C. was an incredible experience and something that will have a long lasting effect on me. I met lots of amazing photographers, editors, producers and everything in between. Everyone spoke candidly and openly about their work and made it clear that we could contact them in the future.
They also told us that photojournalism was something you truly had to love or you would be out of work. There are just too many photographers with too few jobs available. You have to work hard to rise above the rest and make work that counts.
So work hard, network, never burn any bridges and shoot, shoot, shoot. I definitely loved this trip and all the people I met along the way. And I’m more motivated than ever. Let’s get working!
This morning we visited McClatchy D.C., the second largest newspaper company in the U.S. It operates 30 daily newspapers in 15 states and has a circulation of approximately 2.2 million.
It was here we had the pleasure of meeting Linda Epstein, Senior Picture Editor. She spoke candidly about the business of newspapers and showed us a powerpoint that listed the essentials to being a good photojournalist. Here are just some of the key points that I took from the presentation.
1) Follow up with the people you meet along the way (this is called networking) but do it tactfully by emailing/calling every few months or so). This will keep your name familiar with those in the photo business and make it more likely that they might contact you for work or know someone who might be looking to hire for work. And if they know you and what you’re doing they’re more likely to put in the good word for you.
2) Be a self-starter. You have got to really want to be a photographer to get any work. So assign yourself work and follow through. It is only by doing a lot of work that you’re going to get any better. So why not start now.
3) Find a mentor. Someone to show your the ropes of being a good photojournalist. This is incredibly valuable for it’s like a gateway to the real world of photography.
4) It’s ok if you can’t do an assignment but if called upon know someone who can. I thought this was great advice because it was real. You shouldn’t pretend like you know how to do something because if you don’t come back with the goods then that could result in your reputation being tarnished. It’s much better to just be honest.
What an awesome experience it was to visit National Geographic. To learn about the history of the magazine, see work from world-renowned photojournalists and learn just how much work it takes to publish a magazine. With speakers Bill Douthitt, Senior Editor and Ken Guiger, Deputy Director as our guides we talked openly about the process of pitching, researching and deciding who gets to shoot a story.
We also met Spencer Millsap, multimedia/producer and superstar for Nat Geo’s interactive department. He was young, full of ideas and and incredibly hard worker. What spencer brought to Nat Geo was video and web skills for their web and iPad issues. He started out as an intern and pitched to the magazine that they needed him for this new position. The magazine bought it and hired him. He’s now going to go around the world with another writer to cover more amazing Nat Geo stories. What a life…
Larry Downing, and Jason Reed gave an awesome presentation on their multimedia work at Reuters. See their stories here: http://blogs.reuters.com/larry-downing/
Located at the Gannett headquarters in McLean, Virginia was one of the most incredible buildings and newspaper staffs that I’ve ever seen. Once pass the security and manicured landscape we traveled to a conference room full of large windows and light to meet the staff.
Once inside we talked as we have been with most of the staff, candidly and frankly about the world of photojournalism for the widest circulated paper in the United States.
One of the first things mentioned was the importance of writing.”You must be a writer because if you can’t/you can’t tell a story.” And it also allows you to be more understood and respected by your photo editor and reporter.
When discussing video the importance of sound was brought up again (as it has for every discussion). It was said,”90% of video is good audio.” That pretty staggering to think about it. That people can tolerate crummy video but if the sounds not great people are just going to not watch it.
Knowing your story inside and out before you pitch it to your editor was huge. That and knowing all the logistics that are entail to be successful in telling that story are what will increase the odds that your pitch will be successful.
Show your work and get feedback from all the people you meet here. And stay connected by following up with people via email, social media or even a phone call. You may not be the best photographer but you will be remembered. And if you’re willing to bust your butt for any and all jobs then you will stand out and get hired.
We spoke with Michael Wichita, director of photography for AARP about the business of hiring photographers for the two publications, ARRP Bulletin, similar to a traditional newspaper and the ARRP Magazine, which according to Wichita is like the Vanity Fair of the 50+ community.
And unlike a lot of print publications AARP is doing very well with two circulations of 22 million subscribers. This number is likely to increase even more as this demographic grows in population.
The company averages about 300 still assignment a year with a day rate of $650 for the Bulletin and $750 for the Magazine. This rate is much higher than the national average of around $175/250 for a half day and $375/400 for a full day.
A great quote from the Q & A with Wichita was when he said, “photography is a privilege not a job.” This is something that all photographers must always remember. That the world is saturated with other visual makers and we must work hard, network and take really good images on a regular basis to make it out in this competitive world.
At the Associated Press we heard the most candid lecture yet from photographers: David Ake, Evan Vucci and Jacquelyn Martin. One of the first things that Mr. Ake mentioned was, “whoever works the hardest wins.” Nothing is easy. You have to live and breath photography and then bust your butt if you have any chance at all of succeeding in this visual world. And “it’ll take at least five years to break-in this business so you better get used to living off macaroni and tomato soup.”
If you’re a photo editor it’s important to consider the concept, which is the hardest part. Thinking deeper on an issue more than just picking the best looking picture is what will separate yourself from the rest of the editors.
Two very important things that if you do won’t get you hired are: breaking journalism rules and setting up an image. If you’re caught doing such a think it’s the end of work for AP and you’ll most likely have a very hard time finding work in the future with other wire services.
United States Institute of Peace
The photo editor/archiver, Carol McKay shared her extensive knowledge and experience to our class today. She explained that there are opportunities for those who would consider working for short-term contracts but not many opportunities for freelancers at the organization.
While McKay talked about her past (including being the photo editor at Washington Post) she expressed the importance of making friends with the newspaper’s Copy Editor. “They can rewrite quickly and write excellent headlines.” And she also expressed the importance of captions, the photos are useless without good captions.
Colburn Dukehart is the Multimedia Editor at NPR. Dukehart gave us plenty of advice and real world details about what goes on in the business – especially having to do with hiring interns. The thing she stressed the most was how relationships are paramount to your success as a photographer. Staying and touch and being reachable are very important for a photo editor and anyone in the business.
Kainaz Amaria, multimedia producer and incredible photographer talked with us about the working in public radio. She expressed the new emerging need for stations to hire visual communicators. All companies must have an online component and websites require visuals. So to be a visual expert will benefit you greatly in your future.
I also learned that the going rate for a freelance photographer at NPR was pretty decent at $250 for a ½ rate and $400 for a full day. And Dukehart expressed the importance of keeping in contact with everyone in the business not matter how frustrating an assignment might have been. The photo world is small and word travels quick so always be respectful and do your best work.
The following posts will document my class trip to Washington D.C. (September 23-27th). This is an annual visit to the city by the senior photojournalism class of Rochester Institute of Technology. During out time in the capitol we’ll meet with multiple news agencies: Associated Press, Reuters, NPR, Bloomberg and various freelancers who are working in the city. This is a tremendous opportunity to meet, learn, ask questions and network. I’m looking forward to the week!
Andrew Harrer, Chief photographer with Bloomberg News in Washington D.C. spoke to our fourth-year photojournalism class about his work at the International News agency.
The RIT Alum, got his first internship right out of school as a photo editor at the company and soon worked his was to becoming one of only four staff photographers worldwide who shoot for Bloomberg. He is the sole photographer at the DC Bloomberg, so is responsible for shooting and editing his own work.
The News agency focuses on images that have a business and financial basis. So if you want to pitch a photo idea it must be relevant to the economy, but they are interested in pitches from freelancers. They hire only freelancers and contractors but have found that having multiple staff photographers is not essential to the success of the company.
The day rate is $250 for fewer than four hours and $400 over four. Which, according to Harrer is about average for an agency its size. And surprisingly the rate hasn’t changed for years.
Harrer, spoke about the importance of shooting B-roll for every event. Bloomberg TV and its many clients can also use the footage for their stories. And video sales for a lot more than stills so any additional footage can be very beneficial.
Avi Gupta, director of photography for publications started working at U.S. News as a copyboy before working his way to the top. Now he spends his time dealing with logistics: emailing, PR, connecting with photographers etc. But he still finds time to do his own fine art photography on the side.
What he looks for in photographers are photographers that have a vision, can shoot in a different and innovative way, and who has considered the U.S. News audience.
The work in the ‘Best Colleges’ article was about 95% commission, which means that the photographic work is fresh and not drawn from archives. The magazine
What was also interesting (food for thought) is his comment of people who judge photography. He expressed how everybody seemed to have an opinion on images even though they didn’t have an education on the medium. In comparison to a classical guitarist who most people wouldn’t comment unless they knew about the medium they were judging.
Ken Ruthhardt waits atop his father’s 1937 John Deere tractor while Bill Driscoll adjusts a part in preparation for the 32nd Central Washington Antique Farm Equipment Expo at the Central Washington Agriculture Museum at Fulbright Park in Union Gap. in Yakima, Wash. on August 14, 2013. (SCOTT JULIAN/Yakima Herald-Republic)