Freelance round-up: This month in photography

Hello! My name is Jan Wright and I have been fortunate enough to be chosen to write Freelance UK's Monthly Photography Round-up for the next few months. The previous columnist, Cathy Topping will be a hard act to follow but I’ll do my best.

I’d like to start by giving a potted history of me and my career so far. I have been freelancing for around 15 years. I started out as a freelance feature writer, choosing to go straight into freelancing in order to work from home and bring up my four children. I had regular columns in writing and business magazines over several years, which are now sadly, no longer being published. Nothing, I hasten to add, to do with my columns!

Photography had always been a hobby of mine, and I was asked by one particular editor to get a head and shoulders shot of an entrepreneurial millionaire I was due to interview, so I took along my point and shoot compact camera, got a couple of shots in the lobby of the hotel where we met and submitted the picture and copy. To my amazement, two cheques arrived in the post a few months later! One was signed by the picture editor for the photograph and the other by the features editor for the copy.

It didn’t take much for me to work out that if I supplied both words and pictures I could increase my income. I am now the proud owner of a Canon 1DS MkIII with a MkII as a back-up. My favourite lens is a 28-300mm L series which is rarely off the body of my MkIII. Over the years the ratio of photography and writing has gone from equal measure to mainly photography, so I am very happy and slightly nervous to be writing a column again after several years. But that’s enough about me, for now.

I thought I'd start by looking at the Freelance UK Forum to see what questions members were asking, and that old chestnut ‘Copyright’ has raised its head yet again.

It’s not just knowing whether you own the copyright to your photographs, but if you do, how to hold on to it. Some social networking sites have been accused of ‘rights grabbing’ by having a clause in the small print allowing them free use of photographs uploaded to the their sites. Some photography competitions reserve the right to use the winning photographs for their own promotions with no payment, just an accreditation for the photographer. A visit to the Copyright Action website focuses on UK copyright law, explaining what the law says, where you stand, and what to do if you think your copyright has been infringed.

Press Passes

How do you get to where the action is? Accreditation is easy if you already have a letter from a commissioning editor. But what do you do if you want to submit your photos on spec.? How do you get the photo you know you can sell, if you can’t get anywhere near your subject?

An NUJ (National Union Of Journalists) press pass may get you through the door for news-worthy photos of Boris Johnson or a major city store opening, but it won’t get you up up and away at the Bristol Balloon Fiesta, or through the gates of London Zoo before it opens to the public! Both of which I have done. Not with my NUJ press pass, but with a letter, to the organiser, explaining that if they allow me to attend and I get the shots I want, and they are subsequently published, they will surely benefit from the publicity.

Of course, some events, especially the big sporting events and concerts are already flooded with photographers from magazines and newspapers, so the need for additional publicity is academic. There’s a need to be realistic about the events you would like to cover without the backing of a newspaper or magazine. For more ideas on how to approach organisers for passes, visit Ehow.

And finally...

Photographer Terry O’Neill talks to The Independent, about his career and photographs with information on his latest exhibition in London, open until 3oth October.

Next month there will be less of me and more news.

Happy freelance snapping.

Jan Wright


21st September 2010

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