Thursday, May 25, 2006

Make lemonade

It's always hard to post images after interviews with Pulitzer Prize winners. I'll never have anything on hold to post that would compare to their work. Primarily because I tend to take "happy" photos while most competition award-winning photos aren't happy.

So, I'll do the opposite. I'll post some "making lemonade," "stone soup" or "silk purse" images. These are images from less-than-coveted assignments. Look at the image and then ask yourself about the assignment and why it was assigned.

Keep in mind that each photo assignment costs a newspapers anywhere from $200 to $400 or more (include PJ time, benefits, mileage, etc...). So, if the assignment is weak - for whatever reason - it cost the company the same amount as a quality assignment.

In all cases, PJs must remember the subjects aren't responsible for the assignment (most of the time). They are often simply thrilled they'll be in the newspaper. So, as both of this year's prize winners noted, every assignment deserves a PJ's full attention and ability. Each shoot must be done as well as possible. This work ethic shows the PJ's professionalism and creates good will with subjects and readers alike.

During the monthly meetings in Dallas, a standing joke was to say, "You get all the good assignments," to the senior PJs who squeezed coal into a diamond. It was an understood complement to the PJs' ability to do well under challenging conditions.

The nifty side effect of this experiment is that until I have an obviously cool assignment, both of you (regular blog readers) will think I'm making good photos out of these assignments, rather than bad photos at great assignments. :-)

Enough for now,


Ken said...

Another thing I like to do on feature or portrait assingments on the good PR side of things is to really show gratitude to the subject.

I thank them for their time and tell them things like, "We are so happy you agreed to be interviewed and photographed. Your helping us balance the rough news that we cover with your story, which spotlights something (or someone) good in our community."

I also answer EVERY question about the PJ profession that people ask. I answer it like I have never heard the question before (even if I have heard the question a thousand times) and I always use my response to engage the subject to share about their work, life, or whatever else after answering the question.

There have been several times that this kind of interaction has shed light on another facet of the subjects personality that I have then incorperated into their portrait or guided me when continung to follow them for a feature or news shot.

You never know when the "lame" assingment is going to lead to something great.

On a final note: A speaker at the 2005 Northern Short Course said that when his younger shooters in the photo department would complain that the verteran shooters got all of the "choice" assingments, he told them that it was because the veterans had shown their abilities first by making great, storytelling photos from the city council meetings, the ice cream socials and the umpteenth gas price story.

CarmenSisson said...

I think we'd all be a lot better off if we remembered this attitude. Thanks for the timely reminder that it's not WHAT we do, but HOW we do it. And you're right... what's boring to us means the world to someone else.

Anonymous said...

Something I've brought with me from my sales days is to treat every assignment like they are the most important one of the day. I also like to tell myself that there is an award winning photo in every assignment. I just have to find it. It may not be true, but it helps me get through the boring ones. In one case, with a 101'st birthday, worked. I got 1st in feature package in an AP contest.