Photography 101: Shooting Editorially on Assignment

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Stephen F. Dennstedt

Depending on your preference you may or may not be open to shooting editorially. I lean towards the latter (may not) but will sometimes accept an interesting assignment or financially significant offer when it’s offered. I was contacted by the Senior Photo Editor at *STAT news magazine a couple of weeks ago about doing an editorial shoot for them on a Cuban doctor practicing medicine here in Merida, Yucatan.

STAT is produced by Boston Globe Media. Our headquarters is located in Boston but we have bureaus in Washington, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. John Henry, the owner of Boston Globe Media and the principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, has brought on veteran reporter and editor Rick Berke to oversee STAT as executive editor.

For those of you who haven’t shot editorially before, and think you might like to, there is a lot to consider. As a freelance photographer you enter into a written contract for the assignment. Typically the contract outlines the terms of the assignment: in this case a daily rate of $300 + expenses, a laundry list of photos to be taken, ownership of the images and the submission deadline. It took a couple of weeks to put this shoot together but the submission deadline was quick: I shot on Saturday and the photos were due by noon on Monday.

I ended up taking about 300 total images and edited them to about 30 for submission, the magazine will choose only 3 or 4 images to illustrate their feature article. You really have to be on your game because in this case the doctor could only give me about an hour of his time. You absolutely cannot afford equipment failures: cameras, lenses, flashes or memory cards (redundancy is the name of the game). During this shoot I also had to arrange for a Spanish-speaking assistant, thankfully I knew the perfect person here in Merida.

The shoot went well. I edited my photos this morning which took a couple of hours. Then the internet crapped out and I spent my entire day (and most of the evening) trying to get my images uploaded to the magazine. About an hour ago I finally succeeded but not without a lot of worry and frustration. If you ever have the need to email a large quantity of high-resolution images to someone (hopefully a paying customer) I might suggest using this free service WeTransfer.com. Once my local internet provider got its act together the transfer was quick and easy.

I’m sorry I can’t share the images with you now but they belong (legally) to the magazine. Once the article is published I will post a link to it if you’re interested. Editorial and commercial photography can be great for generating income but it’s not easy. You need the skill set, experience and proper gear—an iPhone just won’t cut it. I don’t want to scare anyone off but you really have to ask yourself if you’re confident you can do it. Messing up an assignment like this is tantamount to messing up someone’s wedding.

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4 responses to “Photography 101: Shooting Editorially on Assignment

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