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The Ins and Outs of Photojournalism and Freelancing

Miguel Candela, a photographer based in Hong Kong and whose work has received international awards, has been shooting across Southeast Asia for a decade.

Working primarily as a freelance photographer and as well as within other photography agencies, he shares a few essential tips for aspiring photographers who are looking to kickstart their career in photojournalism.

Be available and maintain a positive attitude

We all love working with people who have positive attitudes as they make our life just a bit easier and more enjoyable. You shouldn’t be any different.

Making a living with photography has never been easy. If people like to work with you, they will give you a call even if there are more talented photographers available. Be helpful, humble, receptive to feedback, and responsive.

Avoid common mistakes that I made early in my career. Don’t procrastinate. Reply as soon as you can after an email arrives in your inbox. You’ll be seen as professional and thoughtful. If the work at hand is urgent, you’ll have a greater chance of getting the job.

Be upfront and honest to subjects

Honesty and transparency go a long way when meeting and photographing people. Explain to them who you are, why you’re taking their photo and what you will do with it.

They might be reluctant, suspicious, or they might even decline you. If you explain your true intentions, they won’t see you as a threat. If they reject the idea, don’t take it personally. You may be disappointed, but you must still respect their wishes and protect your integrity.

Know your limitations

We all seek new opportunities and challenges, but paying the bills is also a great incentive. You shouldn’t commit to a job unless you can deliver a great outcome. Prior to accepting a job, you need to understand what the client expects and gauge whether both parties are a good match working together.

Building a long-term working relationship is essential for any freelancer. Nurture relationships but don’t place unconditional or blind trust in them, as often times, even the most respectable publication may take advantage of freelancers.

Always be truthful, make your terms clear and understood before committing to a job, and make sure the client’s expectations meet yours. When there’s a huge discrepancy, complaints and bitter experiences surface.

Not all jobs or clients will be perfect for you. Being honest with yourself will help establish your reputation as a great, reliable and trustworthy photographer that performs well in your specific field.

Build a strong and specialised portfolio for websites and social media

Whether it’s your website or your social media account, it is important to quickly establish your qualifications. When visitors or potential clients look at your work, they need to understand right away what you do and what your style is. You need to visualise how others will see you and how your work defines you.

You might be able to shoot breaking news as well as weddings on the side, but to your potential editor or client, it can be detrimental if your portfolio becomes too broad and unfocused. If you’re passionate about two different types of photography, separate them into different websites and social media accounts to help you create solid portfolios and demonstrate expertise in those fields.

Always back up your work

Accidents happen and can occur to anyone at any time. We’re not immune to accidents and gear isn’t indestructible. If you have multiple backups of your work on external drives and cloud storage, you might be able to avoid trouble.

External drives can be an expensive investment, but if you value your work and memories, make the investment. Periodically organise your work and delete unnecessary images to keep portfolios tidy.

Additionally, you may have poorly captured images that you’ve overlooked. By reviewing and deleting these images, you’ll learn from these mistakes and at the same time gain more storage space on hard drives. Before you take any action, make sure to do this when you already have a backup of the same content.

It’s also a good idea to keep a list of your storage devices. Using Excel files, for example, are great for personal organisation, in which you include all the folders, dates of when you made any modifications to them, and any other relevant information.

Have the right gear for the job

In today’s industry, a lot more is expected from photographers. Whether you need to take stills and deliver them immediately to a photo news client or take photos and livestream video, you need to have the proper gear even if it’s not the best.

Budget constraints can make it difficult to update your photography gear and digital devices such as laptops and external hard drives, but you can still deliver quality content.

A good smartphone can be a great investment since you can transfer images from your camera to the phone, use an editing app and send the files to clients via cloud storage or a file transfer service. This is a great way to save time, provide fast-paced image delivery, and avoid damaging your laptop.

About Miguel

Miguel Candela (Spain, 1985) is a documentary photographer specialising in long-term contemporary projects and humanitarian and social issues in the Southern Asia region.

He focuses on issues that are sometimes ignored such as minorities discrimination, gender discrimination, human trafficking, and poverty. He also documents cultures & traditions from an anthropological perspective, and reports on environmental issues.

Miguel’s work has been featured in Time, The Guardian, Bloomberg, Washington Post, Al Jazeera, Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, El País, CNN, Asian Geographic, La Repubblica, Spiegel, South China Morning Post (SCMP), Anadolu news agency, European Pressphoto Agency (EPA) among others.

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