Thursday, May 3, 2012

10 Tips for Photojournalism Students: How to Succeed Visually and Financially

Students attending the lecture delivered by photojournalist Al Diaz at the SPJ Region 3 Conference received a copy of the National Press Photographers Association's News Photographer magazine. Perfect timing for the cover story on Freelancing in 2012 Who Would Want To? and What Does it Take to Survive? Think Tank Photo founder Deanne Fitzmaurice is seen on the cover. The ladies are holding Digital Holster camera bags provided by the seminar's sponsor Think Tank Photo.
By Daniel Reimold

By his own admission, Al Diaz shoots better than he speaks.  The award-winning photojournalist and Miami Herald staffer began his presentation at a recent SPJ Region 3 Conference at the University of Florida by admitting that while his oratorical skills may lack gusto he hoped the photos he planned to show and the stories behind them would resonate.

And they did. Diaz delivered a kick-butt talk with stirring images to boot.  Below is a top 10 sampling of the wisdom and witticisms he shared with j-students, profs., and advisers.

10 Steps to Succeed as a Photojournalist in 2012

1) When you wake up, consider yourself on assignment.  Shoot every day.  As Diaz put it, “Don’t just shoot for class.  Shoot for yourself.”  Early in the talk, Diaz mentioned with a smile that when people ask him when he stops shooting, his two-word answer: “I don’t.”  People laughed when he said it.  But I didn’t get the impression he was joking.

2) Develop your own style and vision, while also mastering the basics.  Take visual arts classes.  And visit museums to get a firsthand glimpse of how artists capture and present elements such as lighting, composition, and depth of field.

3) Embrace photojournalism as a business.  The days of surviving and thriving as simply a staff photographer at a single news outlet are over.  Set up multiple revenue streams that include editorial and commercial work such as wedding photography, holiday and business portraits.

4) Self-promote, humbly not arrogantly.  Set up a professional website featuring a portfolio of your work.  Be present and active on social media.  Blog within reason about assignments and photojournalism news of the day.

5) Retain the rights to your images.  Diaz repeatedly stressed the importance of copyrighting your work, along with keeping track of the whereabouts and use of your older, archived shots.

The message featured beneath images on his own site:  

“COPYRIGHT NOTICE All multimedia content, photographs, text, video, sound and music within is copyright protected by Miami photojournalist Al Diaz and/or the stated publication and are presented for web browser viewing only. No images are within public domain. Nothing contained within this site may be reproduced, downloaded, stored, copied, manipulated or altered for broadcast or publication. Nothing may be redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium  without prior written permission from Al Diaz and/or the stated publication. Using any image as the base for another illustration or graphic content, including photography, is a violation of copyright and intellectual property laws.”

6) Enmesh yourself within the larger photography community.  He recommended joining the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), Editorial Photographers, the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), and Professional Photographers of America (PPA).

7) Don’t wait to be handed an assignment.  Develop, pitch, and undertake your own projects, for your employer and yourself.  Advantages: You get the chance to follow your passions and do work you’re excited about.  You can earn a rep as an independent thinker, someone with the foresight to simply be let loose on the waiting-to-be-photographed world.  You have the opportunity to stand out by building up a body of work that represents a particular style or content niche.  And you are motivated to stay visually sharp, always looking for the next potential project.

8) Learn and love video along with stills.  Become a multimedia whiz, adept at capturing, quickly stitching together, and presenting narrative slideshows, still-and-video mash-ups, and full-on video reports.  These presentation options also seem to be great for organizing and featuring your own work on your portfolio site.

9) Dress appropriately, depending on the assignment.  Don’t wear sandals and shorts to shoot a funeral.  Don’t wear a shirt and tie or super stilettos to shoot a construction site.  Think ahead about the type of scene you’ll be entering, the people within it, how long you will be on site, how much you will be moving around, and what the temperature will be.  Bottom line: Attempt to fit in while still projecting professionalism and ensuring comfort and ease of motion.

10) Never work for free.

Dan Reimold, Ph.D., is a college journalism scholar who has written and presented about the student press throughout the U.S., Southeast Asia, and in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. As the Student Press Law Center Report notes, “Reimold’s work allows him to track the pulse of America’s college papers and identify student press trends.”

He is an assistant professor of journalism and the co-coordinator of the journalism program at the University of Tampa, where he also advises The Minaret student newspaper. Along with maintaining CMM, Reimold serves as the college media correspondent for PBS MediaShift and the “Campus Beat” columnist for USA TODAY College. His first book on college media, Sex and the University: Celebrity, Controversy, and a Student Journalism Revolution, was published in fall 2010 by Rutgers University Press. His forthcoming textbook Journalism of Ideas is due out in spring 2013 by Routledge. Read more here