Friday, May 21, 2004

Graduating PJs need these toys

John Dabkowski blows against his tassel to pass time during the Carroll High School graduation at the Fort Worth Convention Center on Thursday, May 29, 2003.

Mark M. Hancock / © The Dallas Morning News

Currently, many people are graduating from high school and college. With their freshly printed sheepskin, they go to the graduation party, get drunk, wake up the next morning with a headache and wonder, "What am I gonna do? What do I need to do it? What was I doing for the last four years?"

I can answer the middle question at least for photojournalists. The other answers are up to you.

The first question is the hardest. For high school students, they should be performing summer internships until they are out of college. Each internship should be at a larger and more prestigious newspaper or magazine. At this point, it is probably too late to get into a major paper this year, but apply now for next year and try the smaller markets to get your feet wet (they love FREE or cheap help).

I can already hear the pros banging their heads on their desks. They get really upset if anyone works cheap. Get over it, we are talking about high school kids. They will learn after a summer of poison ivy, insect bites, sunburns, no money and no time that it sucks and will get a decent internship next year.

For the college folks with their B.A.s, B.S.s and masters degrees, I’m hoping y’all thought ahead. Otherwise, y’all are seriously scratching your noggins about right now. I have a blog entry already written for you, but I promised to hold it until Monday (yes, I am giving someone in the military a head start).

In the meantime, here is some information of use to all aspiring PJs. Here is what you will need to do the job. If you have an extra $20K, get this stuff over the weekend and meet me here on Monday for the rest of the info you need.

Fast lenses (f/2.8 minimum) are a must. The only f/4 lenses I use are a 70-180mm micro and a 600mm. Everything else is f/2.8 or faster. I call myself a "low light, fast action specialist." This happens only with the f/2.8 and/or some huge strobes.

The problem with photography is the expenses involved. If it's not too late, ask for these things from your rich relatives as graduation presents. Otherwise you are basically toast.

Our freelancers are required to provide their own equipment. The assignment editor knows what system each one shoots and assigns accordingly. Those with digital cameras, laptops and wireless transmission capabilities get the most assignments. They can deliver enough images on time without additional expense to the company (we have our own film processors, but maintenance is expensive).

A normal shooting rig includes the following:

2 professional digital camera bodies
17-35mm f/2.8 lens
80-200mm f/2.8 lens
50mm f/1.8 lens
70-180mm micro lens or 55mm micro
300mm f/2.8 lens
400mm f/2.8 lens
(optional, mainly sports shooters)
2X extender
2 flash units with wireless connections or TTL cords
electronic plunger or IR remote
flash/ambient light meter
gaffers tape
cell phone
pager (preferably two-way)

chamois (to dust/dry lenses)

reliable car
Mac G3 or higher series laptop with WiFi or cellular card
car power inverter
towel (to dry everything else)
rain suit
hard hat
flat spool of nylon cord
gloves or trigger mittens

Most of us also have a major strobe system with Pocket Wizard remotes, heavy-duty light stands, softboxes and snoots. Although strobes are clumsier than flash, the results are dramatically better.

I also have a closet full of gizmos and gadgets I use for special shoots. Most of them were a waste of money.

Enough for now,


chris said...

Hello Mark,

What an informative blog...

Are there any industry-standard digital camera bodies you could recommend for an aspiring PJ? (A poor, digitally inexperienced one at that...)


Mark M. Hancock said...

I recently answered this question in the comments section of this post.

chris said...