Ask any shutterbug around and most of them will tell you that becoming a professional photographer is their lifelong dream. If you are looking for information about how to plan your dream job as a staff photographer, then you definitely want to read this entire article.
How the Industry Works
Many amateur photographers strive to land a position as a staff photographer for a newspaper or magazine. But the reality of this profession is that most photographers are freelancers. They don’t have a steady salary and a list of assignments.
Instead, they attend events and take pictures that they later pitch to potential buyers in hopes of convincing them to purchase their work and publish it. Jobs are not steady and your next assignment depends on something as simple as a phone call.
Step One: Take Great Pictures
This is obvious, but worth stating anyway. Don’t go out and trying to get a job as a professional staff photographer if you take lousy pictures. There’s lots of competition for these types of jobs. You can’t just be good with your camera, you have to be outstanding, because if you’re not, you can be sure that your competition is.
Step Two: Network
Having talent is great, in fact it’s essential. But having solid contacts is just as essential. Chances are that you’ve heard the old adage, “It’s not what you know but who you know.” That truism is definitely applicable to the photography industry.
That’s what professional freelance photographer Michael Le Brecht II says. He puts it this way, “Talent keeps you in the game, but who you know gets you in the game [in the first place].”1
If you want to land a job as a staff photographer then you have to get an interview. Call the magazine or newspaper where you’re trying to work and ask for the name of the hiring manager. Get yourself scheduled for an interview and then be prepared to impress him or her.
Step Three: Be Available
A lot depends on whether you get the job of your dreams. Being “Johnny on the spot” is a big help. You may start out as a freelancer and eventually become staff photographer after you’ve demonstrated your talent and ability to “fit in” with the members of the rest of the organization.
You should respond to every call no matter how inconvenient it may be at the time. If a publication sees you as reliable you stand a better chance of joining the team.
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