tips from the visual storytelling workshop
Last week, I flew to Massachusetts to work with John Stanmeyer and his photo workshop participants. We slept in yurts, ate communally, and I shared advice about how to pitch visual stories and write grants for projects. I know that when you begin your career as a photographer or a writer, the pitching process seems like a mystery. Here are some of the tips about pitching projects that I shared with participants during the workshop:
· Editors don’t like pitches from writer/photographer pairs. The writing editors pick the writer. The photo editors pick the photographer.
· Editors receive on average 300 emails per day. Don’t send pitches that are more than a few paragraphs. Editors are busy and don’t want to read a pitch that is pages long.
· Editors want to discuss the pitch with you and modify it as needed.
· The network of editors is strong, and editors talk to each other about writers and pitches.
· If editors are going to commission a story and invest money, time, and resources, they want to know that you already have the connections to do the story. It is better to be honest if you don’t have certain connections.
· Editors prefer to see photos in a PDF. If the editor is interested in the pitch, they can ask the photographer for a wide edit.
· Ask the photo editor: What is the best way to communicate (email, text, calls)? What is the preferred method for sending photos (WeTransfer, Dropbox, etc.)?
· Make a nice package for editors – a PDF with the photos and the text together. Editors don’t want to download a ton of pictures.
· Editors usually present your pitch to a group of editors, so the approval process involves several people.
· At many media outlets, editors meet biweekly to discuss pitches.
· Create photo captions in ICPT.
· Check your grammar (try Grammarly). If you make errors in the text, what other corners will you cut?
· A lot of photographers are wonderful storytellers and know their subjects, but they aren’t great writers. If editors trust the photographer, they will take time to polish their writing and get it in shape.
· Find someone who is unfamiliar with your topic and get them to read your pitch.
· Many editors would like to see your portfolio to understand your work before talking about the pitch.
· Recognize the difference between a project you’ve done and an idea you have that you haven’t photographed yet.
· If you’ve never worked with an editor before, they will not spend 10% of their budget sending you somewhere like Tibet.
· Editors don’t have the money to send three different photographers on assignment to three different areas or countries. They can pay photographers who already have a body of work or are in the place where they propose doing work.
· Editors love it when people come in with packages.
· What is going to result in the best pictures? Spend time building relationships with people in an area.
· Editors are looking for new voices and photographers they have never worked with before.
To create stories from idea to execution is a wild ride, a difficult road, a joy,
August 26: If you are in NYC, stop by this event with my publisher, Astra House, from 4-7 pm at the Center for Fiction. I will be there!
September 12: Arkansas State University "Reporting on Femicide in Mexico" (in-person)
November 13- December 15: Jentel Artist Residency
November 23: MIT Data + Feminism Lab "Data Against Feminicide" (Zoom)