Getting pictures published#
No one can deny that the traditional media is deeply cynical about the information they receive. Given that a picture paints a thousand words, this same rule must apply to photographs. However, everyone has to start somewhere: there are many photographers around who cut their teeth in grassroots stories and gained credibility as good journalists by getting THE picture that illustrated the story. Many had or even have their hearts close to the campaigners. The old saying by war and documentary photographer Robert Capa 'if your pictures aren't good enough then you're not close enough', still holds some truth despite the surfeit of irrelevant PR stunts posing as stories in the press. It's a battle to get pictures in the mainstream press; more so now than ever due to the grip advertising has over the newspapers (the car lobby etc). There is a somewhat naïve belief (we've all been guilty of it) that if you are fired up about an issue then everyone else should be as well. Harness this feeling and channel it in a positive direction.
There are 2 aspects to getting pictures in:
1. The savvy - the psychology of getting them to publish the pictures. 2. The method - The practicalities so you don't lose your pictures (newspapers are notorious for this) and the technology used to get the pictures onto the picture desk.
(Marc to revise this....)
Most news stories start on a local level, so we'll deal with the local press first: These newspapers tend to use staff photographers who mostly are covering cats up trees and grannies receiving cheques. To stick a 'staffer' on a protest often takes up too much time and many of these newspapers aren't interested in the wider social issues, even though the events in question are happening in the community they are meant to be informing. Keeping their advertisers sweet tends to be more important than representing the truth. However, it is worth sending pictures in - at the very least it tells them that you are on the scene and if you're lucky you may just happen to have the picture they want. NEVER say you are a campaigner or activist - it's the kiss of death. A good strategy is to say that you are a photography student and you are working in the area (this avoids coming over as partial). Impartiality is the watchword of the media (even though the machine itself is run by corporate money and rules). Campaigners are 'partial' and to be avoided. Say you have some good pictures of a local issue they might be interested in and would they like to have a look with a view to the possibility of publishing them. Flatter the picture editor/news editor (it costs nothing except your pride).
Let's remove the paragraph below: Do not worry about copyrights (CC)
DO NOT give them originals. Shoot on colour negative and get prints made. Or, if you can get a reasonable digital camera (capable of 4mb file size) then email them a picture. Get a signed delivery note if you can. Expect to get paid (usually around £20-30 per pic) but don't go crazy if they say they don't pay - they often believe that if you're a student or rookie photographer then you will be grateful for the publicity. If the campaign is the thing then getting it into the 12 press is what counts. NEVER lose your rag with them
- any sane person feels this way if they're emotionally involved in an issue - stay cool. You can always come back for a second go later in the campaign. Make sure you get a credit (also known as a byline), especially if they aren’t paying. You will then have a record of pictures sold to the press, making it easier next time.
The golden rule is:
if they accept your pictures don't expect them to publish the ones you want. Editors have their own take on the story and will often print a derogatory article using a great picture that you have taken.
It's not all pot luck. The editors are cynical. Be nice even if they are the epitome of everything you hate. On the whole they will be interested to have a look at your pictures if they are any good…you'll have to judge this from feedback from your friends and fellow photographers, whilst picking up ideas from what is being publised already.
National News - A whole different ball game.
These days all the national picture desks are accepting their pictures digitally (via a phone line): this has the effect of censoring many of the amateurs/campaigners out of getting pictures published on spot news stories (i.e. time specific ones). The cost of an adequate digital camera can run to about a thousand quid. However if you do have access to one of these it will open up many avenues. You will also need access to a computer, picture editing software and email. For big spot news stories there will often be an agency (i.e. Reuters, ISF, Associated Press) photographer there who will have all the digital gear and you will not be able to compete on time. These guys also have a track record as an accredited news source with the picture desk. If you are not working on urgent news stories but are trying to get an issue covered as a feature (often the best option) find out who the journalists are who are sympathetic to social/environment causes and link up with them. Call them at the newspaper having studied their form from reading their articles. Flatter them - they don't get much of that and they deserve it if they are any good. It won't make you feel sick because it will be genuine. On the whole photographers do as much as journalists in sussing out the story and often your information is very useful. By working together you will get the journalist's respect and gain credibility with the newspaper. However, do be aware that there is always the chance of having your story stolen and given to one of the few staff photographers that the newspaper is still employing. Here you have to be clever. Journalists are not white as the driven snow. The story is the thing to them and most don't give two stuffs about the emerging career of a rookie photographer. On the other hand working in this type of feature environment removes most of the speed pressure. You can get prints made and hang onto them until the picture editor of the newspaper gets in contact with you. Put all the caption detail on the back of the print along with your contact details. As a rule there are 3 ways of getting pictures published in the press: 1. Being a freelance who has a recognised name to picture desks. 2. Having a really strong picture that no one else has. (e.g. Anne Widdecombe being pied). 3. Work alongside a sympathetic journalist. But above all don't rant about the 'cause'. Empathy is the name of the game; bearing in mind that most people in this field are under intense pressure covering many news stories and make it feel like they are doing you a favour covering the issue you are impassioned about. ….and don't give up in the face of cynicism. You will often find that your campaign/protest site attracts local freelance and student photographers. Often you will find that they are sympathetic to the cause, in which case you need to get to know them and work together with them. There is a growing band of freelancers who are activists at heart and cover campaigning and direct action whenever they can (believe me, they are doing it because they believe in it - it's bloody hard work for very little money). You will soon know who you can trust, and you can then give them tip-offs as to the next action, so they can get the best pictures before the main body of the media arrive or the police cordon the area off. They will also have the contacts needed to get these pictures published. Written by a news and feature photographer