“Yesterday Hugh Pinney, Vice President of Editorial at Getty Images, joined us at IdeasTap for a Q&A about photojournalism. For those of you who couldn’t make it, here’s a selection of his top tips for freelance editorial photographers…
You are a business
First and foremost you’ve got to put money on the table. You’ve got to be able to turn your skill with a camera into something that will generate income. Understand your customer – and give them what they want.
There’s no substitute for experience
Experience is what gets you everything else. Have a vision of where you want to be. In the photography industry it can be easy to get stuck in a rut. Once you know your chosen environment – whether it’s news, fashion or sports – do whatever you can to get into the office, through internships, apprenticeships or bursaries, and find out how it works from the other end. Don’t wait to be assigned jobs. Bring something to the table. Pitch ideas. Find ways to make yourself useful.
Present your work in multiple ways
When pitching your work to a client, try to present a story in the following three ways: the single killer image that sums up the whole story in one frame; a three-to-five page magazine spread, with half-a-dozen pictures that show a narrative; between 12 and 25 frames on a website that show the full context, with detailed shots that give weight to the story. If you can do this you’ve shown that you have covered the story fully.
Tailor your work to wherever you’re showing it, but have another portfolio up your sleeve, that you only bring out if it’s suitable, which shows why you’re passionate about photography. This gives an insight into what makes you tick as a photographer. I don’t want to see work that looks like everyone else’s – I want a photographer to bring something of themselves to a job.
Find a niche but be ready to turn your hand to other things
In terms of getting established, specialist talent gets you head and shoulders above others and that’s the way forward. But you should be market-aware enough to always have different ideas in your head, different tangents. A niche will make you stand out from the crowd but don’t rely on it – always have something else to offer.
Go abroad – but establish yourself first
Follow your dreams and take risks before life nails you down but you might find when you go away the phone doesn’t ring because you haven’t done enough groundwork. Get experience and get your name about before you go.
A lot of people say photojournalism is dead. I couldn’t disagree more. Storytelling with pictures couldn’t be stronger. Digital publishing gives us the luxury of having the scope of 25 images to tell a story. The market for multimedia is yet to mature but it is a fabulous storytelling tool. And as people are becoming more visually literate, video will have a role to play.”
These wise pointers are possible the most helpful and encouraging that I have heard/read. If you put the work in you will reap the rewards, without passion though these tips are useless. If you don’t believe in yourself then how can you expect anyone else to? I truly believe I have what it takes to make it in the industry and so I will always refer back to these points when I’m feeling low or that I should just pack it all in for a 9-5 job to remind myself that I am what makes an award winning photographer and that I’m one of the luckiest people alive- I’m doing what I love.