Just came across this: it’s fresh as of January 16, 2009, San Diego Union Tribune announced more cost cuts etc.
That said, this means most major newspapers have been feeling the pinch.
Their staff size has been drastically reduced.
As a result, most are more than willing to drop their standards on what is usable as far as photos are concerned.
The current business climate aside, traditionally newspapers have always relied on freelancers for theirÂ sports coverage because it is labor-intensive, time consuming and occurs in the evenings and weekends.
Evenings and weekends are also when newspapers have less staffing in the photography department. It makes sense because the content for the metro and local sections of the paper are already laid out and breaking news have been covered by the daytime crew. Most of the evening work tends to be concerts or speeches andÂ sporting events.
So, if you’re still gung-ho, be warned, those are the hours you’ll most likely be needed. So be prepare to sacrifice “quality time” with loved ones.
At this point, I need to mention that many newspapers will want you to sign a work-for-hire contract. Make sure you don’t do it. I would go so far as to avoid that discussion, so you can’t be ripped off.
Briefly, by signing that document, you are giving all your rights as the author/originator of that work forever, so don’t do it. No matter how tempting “they” make it sound, don’t do it!
With all those pleasantries aside, what’s next?
Build a portfolio
Start shooting a variety of sports. Show you can stop peak action, properly exposeÂ while paying attention to make sure you have uncluttered backgrounds.
Unless you have deep pockets and can afford long fast lenses, shoot games that are played in daylight.
That means you might have to be selective about the kinds of sports you want to cover.
Mt. San Jacinto College quarterback Colin Wigely scrambles in second half and was 18 of 31 for 195 yards and threw for two touchdowns.Â Canon 300mm telephotoÂ f2.8 ISO 1600 1/400 sec @ f2.8. Photo by DeeAnn Bradley.
If you make the grade, some newspapers allow their stringers access to their pool of lenses but you’re not there yet.
When you have a body of work that you’re comfortable with, have 8″ x 12″ prints made of your favorites.
Also consider putting your images online along with a resume.
The online version is useful for obvious reasons.
Courtney Pete, right, catches a 50-yard touchdown pass to stretch the lead to 9-0 in the first half. Photo by DeeAnn Bradley. ISO 500 Canon 300 mm telephoto 1/400 sec @ 2.8.
If you read the caption carefully, you’ll see this picture was taken earlier than the one above. That one was in the 2nd half . That explains the difference in the background’s appearance.Â DeeAnn, the photographer adjusted her ISO to give her the ability to shoot with a shutter speed high enough to arrest peak action and also wide open at f2.8 so that the background will be blurred out.
Next time you see a photographer from your local newspaper, introduce yourself and get a business card.
Then ask for the full name of any or all the picture editors.
From that business card, you’ll probably be able to figure out the official email address of that person. (When I worked at the newspaper, my email address was pphun[at]pp.com.)
Large organizationsÂ usually have some sort of syntax for email you can figure out. You guessed it.
Now with your online portfolio ready, you send that picture editor the URL (web address). Don’t forget to mention you will follow up with a phone call!
If they like what you have, then those prints will be surely help to get you that first gig. As to where you should host your images, there are many online sites that offer “free” accounts.
So pay for the service and retain your copyright.Â Places like Zenfolio, Smugmug and others are very popular and they actually have e-commerce solutions built-in. That just means there are built-in shopping carts for you to sell your work.
Should you pay for your own domain name and own webhosting? It’s a question you’ll have to answer for yourself. If appearances are important, and they are in this business, you ought to register your domain name and set up your own webhosting.
It’s not just about getting a cool email address like peter[at]peterphun.com.
Learn To Send files electronically
Getting great pictures is only a small part of the work. You need to know how to connect to the internet by a WiFi network if you use a laptop or by plugging in an (RJ-45) ethernet cable and ultimately transmit your pictures.
Once you’re online, you can either email or use a FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program to transmit your images to the newspaper.
Every so often, email gets flaky and doesn’t play nice, it is useful to know how to compress files, upload to a webserver, and then get the URL (web address)Â to send to your recipient for downloading.
That means you’re computer will need photoshop and some sort of FTP or file transfer protocol software. If you use the Firefox browser, they have a free add-on called “fireFTP” which works well for these purposes.
Most newspapers have accounts for access to Starbucks, T-Mobile, Metro Wi-Fi or other hotspots. That is generally the way but until you become a dependable stringer, expect to have to pay for your own account name and password.
That is generally the way their staff photographers transfer their images back to their newspapers. These days it’s becoming very common for staff photographers to have a Mobile broadband cards. These are special antennas which have either USB 2.0Â or PCMCIA connectors that plug into laptops to allow connection to the internet anywhere they have a cellphone signal.
At every newspaper there is at least one picture editor who works nights or weekends. They are the ones you want to make first contact with, not the Director of Photography or the Big Kahuna in the photography department.
They are the ones who will ultimately be supervising you. They also want to be take the credit for finding “new and cheap talent.” For most paper-pushing picture editors, that’s probably the most joy they find in their jobs.
Be computer literate
The laptop is your digital darkroom. The sooner you become familiar with its ins and outs, the better. As a freelancer, the more competent you are with these technical issues, the more likely you’ll impress your supervisor/editor.
When out in the field things often go wrong. You need to know how to quit a frozen application, how to troubleshoot, re-boot and work around issues. Understanding your computer’s operating system is vital.
If you haven’t realized this by now, the actual picture-taking is maybe 50% of the actual work you’ll be doing.
Getting there, not getting lost, writing captions and identifying your subjects in the picture and making deadlines makes up the rest of the work.
On my next installment, I’ll deconstruct covering a typical Sports assignment you might get at the local newspaper. And if I get enough interest, I’ll discuss how to cover a News assignment after that.
Again, if you have any questions, suggestions and comments, let me know. I’ll try and answer all of them here.
Many many thanks to my friend DeeAnn Bradley for sharing her football pictures. If you have a need for a freelance photographer in the eastern Los Angeles Valley, contact her “irishfiregirrl [at] yahoo.com”