Supporting Oneself with Freelance News Photography: Possible??
April 25, 2013 7:42 PM   Subscribe

It's looking like I'll be jobless this summer. Would it be possible to keep myself alive by taking photos of newsworthy events and selling them to news organizations?

I'd like to drive around the country this summer before starting a new job in the fall, and I'm wondering if I'd be able to support myself during the trip by selling photos. Planning around events might be difficult, I know, and so might finding someone willing to pay for coverage of them. I know that the new industry is in peril, and news orgs don't have a lot of money floating around.

But would it be possible? Is it a totally hare-brained idea? And, if it is indeed viable and not just a complete fantasy, how do I begin making contacts in the media who would even be interested?
posted by Sheila Nagig to Work & Money (8 answers total)
You might have more luck selling photos to glossy magazines with a news-ish bent. I sold a photo of an elephant for several hundred dollars to Colors magazine once (Colors of Benneton, that is) for an issue they did on volunteerism. (I was a freelance writer at the time doing an interview for them; it was a revelation how MUCH more photos pay.)

Friends who were photographers tended to due "style" shoots (for NYT for example) or travel, to subsidize the work they really cared about, like covering conflict or poverty or what have you.

I'd just grab/surf a bunch of periodicals you'd like to see your work in and make queries, and expect a lot of indifference. And persevere.
posted by seemoreglass at 8:10 PM on April 25, 2013

Is there a reason you're only looking at photojournalism and not other kinds of freelance photography, like senior portraits, prom photos, pet photos, engagement shoots, fashion shoots or ads...? I know a couple of press-pass-serious photographers for major publications and they all have devoted serious, much-needed time and energy into their credentials and portfolios, but they're all based in major east coast cities.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:12 PM on April 25, 2013

I doubt you'd be able to support yourself via newspapers: newspapers either already have staff photographers or are happy to accept free photo submissions. And as far as magazines go, well, they've already got a professional pool of photographers, and it'd take a lot of time and effort to break into that small circle.

jetlagaddict may have something, though; maybe also look into working for one of the companies that do some of those photo packages at Sears or KMart or JCP.
posted by easily confused at 8:15 PM on April 25, 2013

Do you have any contacts at news organizations?

Have you sold any news photos before?

It's only harebrained if you have no contacts, no idea what to shoot, and no idea where you are going to be or when. It's not very usual for news organizations to purchase photos from totally unknown people. And not very usual for that to be a one-time deal. They have staff photographers for this stuff.

If you're starting from a position as cold as it sounds like, I don't think it would work, no. Only major papers pay a lot for photos, and they do so on assignment, with people they know already.
posted by Miko at 8:30 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: So without any experience you want to enter a highly competitive field where established talented photographers are having trouble making ends meet? And you do realize that getting paid within 30 days is rare? This site has user submitted payment reports. Doing a search for "photography magazine payments" found this and this and this and this NY Times piece. As far as manning a booth at Sears, sorry but the company running them went bankrupt and closed them all.
posted by Sophont at 8:30 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: No. No, you won't. Yes, this is a hare-brained idea. Yes, it is a complete fantasy.

I could list the reasons, but they are too numerous. Try selling a photo in your hometown tomorrow, see how crazy that is. That'll tell you how it will go for you out on the road.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:19 PM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Agree with Cool Papa Bell. Try selling one photo this week, in a place you know intimately and are well-connected in, and you'll see why.
posted by bonaldi at 5:56 AM on April 26, 2013

If this were possible at all, you'd have to go back to the end of what would be a very long line of people wanting to do the same thing.

It would have been difficult to impossible 20 years ago, but now it is just plain impossible.
posted by imjustsaying at 7:25 AM on April 26, 2013

« Older It was Biiiilllll...   |   Moneylending in Edwardian Great Britain Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.