While You Were Writing

January 25th, 2013

Take a Picture

What’s the one thing a freelance writer can do today to improve their career?

I posed this question to Jay Irani, an accomplished photojournalist who led a session  in basic photo skills Tuesday night in our New York office. “What is the one thing a freelance writer can do today to improve the chances a pitch will be accepted, raise the rates they charge, find a new market for their work?” I asked.

He didn’t recommend a $400 DSLR camera or Adobe Photoshop ($200+) or even classes.

“Learn to compose a shot” was his advice.

It surprised me that Jay’s advice would be so artistic. “Learn to set up the shot in a way that tells the story.” It’s a matter of framing the image, focusing on the subject, selecting which background figures to include, lighting, shadows, and what Henri Cartier-Bresson, the father of photojournalism called “The Decisive Moment.” Changing any one of those elements in a single image will tell a different story, and your job as journalist, photo or otherwise is to tell the best story, Irani told the assembled writers.

There are opportunities for freelance writers in the space between amateur and professional photography. Whether selecting an image to accompany a story you or being asked to take the photo yourself from the scene, writers are increasingly pressed to add imagery to their assignments. Professional photojournalism of the sort practiced by Irani and Henri Cartier-Bresson might remain the realm of dedicated photojournalists, but the ability to supply an image a step above amateur, will make you a more valuable storyteller.

For more on Jay’s advice:

Join us for the next Freelance Writer’s Meetup in February.

(Image by Cimm via Flickr, CC2.0)


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