This past weekend I was able to photograph the RIT Invitational indoor track and field meet at Gordon Field House. Without many specific shots needed for the assignment I was able to try more creative and risky shots and spent some time working on pan blur.
All photos: Josh Barber/RIT SportsZoneCarina Singletary of RIT competes in the women's 4x400-meter relay on during the RIT Invitational track and field meet at Gordon Field House on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 in Henrietta, N.Y. Michael Whelton of RIT, left, and Tony George of Geneseo, right, compete in the men's 4x400-meter relay during the RIT Invitational track and field meet. RIT took second and Geneseo took first. Allison Hoh competes in a 60-meter hurdle prelim during the RIT Invitational track and field meet at Gordon Field House on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 in Henrietta, N.Y. Hoh won the event.
Last week I travelled with the RIT basketball teams as they visited Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y. to cover the games for RIT’s Sports Information department.
Unfortunately the women fell 80-52 and later in the night the men squandered an early lead to lose 92-80.
All photos: Josh Barber/RIT Sports InformationMallory Apperson of RIT #35, left, and Julia Bender of RIT #24, right, compete with Lauren Brustein of William Smith #32, center, for a loose ball during a game at Bristol Gym, in Genvea N.Y. Jan. 14. Kamron Davis of RIT #30, right, competes for a rebound with Pete Drescher of Hobart #4, left, during a game at Bristol Gym on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 in Geneva, N.Y.
During our week in Washington, D.C., we met very talented and inspiring people who shared their time and a great deal of advice and insight accumulated through many years of working in the field as photographers and editors.
We met with people from a wide variety of outlets: newspapers, magazines, wire services, government offices, public radio and freelancing. Though what they talked with us about a wide range of topics illustrating their points with specific examples from their own careers or the work of their outlets they followed several common themes: The importance of professionalism and professional relationships, the need for attention to detail, value of photography, the ability to adapt, having a diverse skill set, and above all a passion for what you do.
Professionalism and building relationships are important to people looking for work in any field but in the thick competition of photography and it’s increasingly freelance market it is paramount. Professionalism ranging from being a pleasant person to work with to making sure that all parts of the job are done in a timely manner are the things we heard from editors as things that draw them to photographers that they will come back to again and again with work. The absence of such things are also what we were told were the quickest way to get off the list of photographers an editor will go to with work. We know that the industry for being as big as it is small enough that everyone hears about your successes and failures. Professionalism is almost synonymous with your reputation and should be given attention as such. Communication is important because many photographic assignments require complex coordination. Just to get the assignments however you need to be in the front of the mind of editor as someone who is reliable but as someone they remember.
If professionalism like fulfilling an assignment in a timely manner is paramount then what comes next is attention to detail. Attention to detail is essential to create a perfect frame, what can separate two great shooters is the attention to detail that they put into the things behind the photograph. The most common area mentioned as a place that attention to detail speaks volumes is the caption. Just to get as much information as possible was a thing to make yourself stand out; phone numbers subjects can be contacted at to confirm names and spellings, or the name of the family dog in the picture. To make an error in the caption, or in a cover letter, is a sure way to be left with a workless future. As one editor put it so plainly: “If [we see] you don’t care about your own work why would want you to do our work?”
The conversations we had with editors about the value of the photography was probably the newest topic, but as many of us head out to lily do work for hire, arguably the most important. Once we got past the basic “Do not give photographs away for free” line we came to the more unfamiliar world of contracts with all their legal jargon of rights and reuse and embargoes. The first thing to consider about contracts is who retains the copyright and to exactly what images: just selects or the entire take? Another thing is to determine how long and where they can be used: in perpetuity in any current or future medium? just for the assignment? or if you will get paid for reuse? Whether the images will benefit you beyond the fee for the assignment is important: will you get paid for reuse? can you sell the images to another outlet after the embargo expires? Only after asking those questions can you begin to consider whether the assignment fee covers your work.
We talked a lot about a need to know multimedia but it was framed in a way that most students don’t consider: It’s just the newest tool in a profession to which a rapidly evolving technology is the key component. What really hit home was listening to a newspaper veteran talk about multimedia and the other technologies he has worked with in his thirty year career, and that his friends that are not in business anymore mostly shared the fatal flaw of not being able to adapt. With so much change currently in the industry it takes a lot to think that once we have been in the business for even five years things will look radically different. What we can take away about adaptability is that when the new technology comes around you try to be on the cutting edge of it sometimes making it up as you go along. We saw that in many different ways from outlets figuring out how to get images to work on tablets and websites to people who have been in the business for many years showing us what amounts to the early trials with multimedia.
Something we had all heard before but needs to be mentioned is the importance of having a diverse skill set as a way to differentiate yourself. Some skills are very technical like being able to shoot and edit multimedia, or being able to write well. Other skills are more objective like being able to see the world in a different way, or knowing how to incorporate different mediums to tell a story.
With graduation just around the corner for myself and others on the trip our schedule was obviously set to show the different ways that photography is used by outlets that might not necessarily be perceived as a venue for images. We also met with a lot of people who used freelancers and gave us insight into the character traits and skills, like communication, that they look for when picking a freelancer as well as very logistical things like do they have the gear to do this? and are they in the right place geographically to do this.
Above all we were reminded the most important ingredient to succeed in such tough circumstances: loving visual story telling. Not every one came out and said it literally but in someway; whether the way that they talked about the work they did, their personal investment in a story, or the way they got into the work people did for them we got the same message: “You really have to love it.”
On our final day of visits we met with staff photographers at Reuters bureau in Washington Larry Downing and Jason Reed.
Despite the majority of the work they do being based in still photography for the wire service they talked with us about their award-winning multimedia projects.
What I thought was really interesting was the difference in the way that these two photographers viewed the importance of students learning multimedia and the one liner, “you need to be able to shoot video”, we hear constantly. For them it was still important to use it as another way to set yourself apart but also because “it’s fun to develop yourself… put yourself outside your comfort zone.”
The enthusiasm both Reed and Downing had for multimedia work and exploring it really reminded me about where we are in history of the medium. Everyone is still trying to figure out what to do with the tools we have. They talked about doing somethings that they admitted were gimmicky but if they were mindful of that and it was more important to try new things.
Being still photographers for a wire service they are not expected to do any multimedia, instead they are doing it mostly on their own time using personal gear, and that shows a lot what they get out of producing multimedia. However it also has benefits for the photographers in that it gets them looking at stories and shooting differently, the awards provide some finical reimbursement and the buzz benefits their employer by driving traffic.
Above all they emphasized the importance of continuing their education: You never stop learning, they reminded us. To get started in multimedia they recommended that we start with easily digestible story something simple, but more importantly to take away something more than a portfolio piece something that we learned or tried new.
It was inspiring to end the trip on a positive note of the opportunities that technology has afforded us, or as Reed told us: Don’t wait for permission [or] someone to validate what you want to do.”
Thursday started the with a visit to the Corcoran Gallery of Art to see the acclaimed WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath. It was a great exhibit to see; if you find the time catch it in New York.
Then it was off to visit Linda Epstein at McClatchley-Tribune. Epstein emphasized how important communication with editors as being one of the most important things to do. Not only to show that you are interested in working for them but also for very practical reasons to like letting them know that yo are out of town but are in another area.
She advised that beyond showing that you are interested in working for an editor showing that you are interested in work itself. Being self motivated is an important trait to an editor she told us. Also another important part of a photographer’s network is a mentor to show your work to and get feedback.
One important thing she told us was to not underestimate the value of your work and sell your time short, but on the flip side not to over sell yourself and come up short on an assignment. It would be preferable to recommend someone else to do a job you can’t handle because that makes you look more valuable in the eyes of an editor while showing you know your own abilities well.
From McClatchey headed to National Geographic to meet with alumnus Ken Geiger who is deputy director of photography at the magazine and Bill Douthitt, a senior photo editor.
What I really enjoyed about being at the magazine was seeing how things work at such a high level of photography. The considerations of doing such work is entirely different than some of the issue that other organizations we had visited with. Mostly what was extraordinary was the large amount of resources invested in each piece. “The key to our stories is time in the field.” we were told as we heard about how some projects take years to complete.
Beyond the time investment there is the sheer amount of research making sure that everything is set from pitching the story to many editors doing as much as possible before hitting the ground. The other is the amount of technical research like building things to solve problems that don’t yet have solutions. We got to see the basement shop and it was a Mecca for the gear heads in the class.
The other thing that was interesting was how fickle of a process that story boarding the magazine is. Geiger explained that even once the entire magazine is well into layout stories that have been waiting many months for publications can be sometimes cut to afford a more cohesiveness to the magazine. The other great dedication to having a polished magazine we saw was the amount of work they had dedicated to making sure that color was correct in the issue.
The other thing that I found especially interesting was the way that a one hundred and twenty five year-old publication looked at the use of new technology like iPads and the web to tell their stories in different forms. We had heard from Spencer Millsap one of the multimedia producers the night before but Geiger told us that a huge focus is how to coordinate the magazine’s stories across all platforms.