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Episode #143

How to Get Hired for Assignments as a Conservation Photographer in 4 Steps

by

UPDATED: July 18, 2023
ORIGINALLY AIRED ON July 18, 2023

 

If you've been dreaming about turning your love for nature and photography into a rewarding career, and you're thinking assignment photography is right up your alley, then today's episode is tailor-made for you. We're taking a dive into how to land assignments in this field.

 

4 Steps to landing photo story assignments

This topic comes up every so often with my students in Conservation Photography 101. As they get some experience under their belt creating stories, the idea pops up: “Hey, what if I don't have to come up with the ideas, but instead, a publication hires me to photograph stories they're already working on!”

Sounds nice, right?

Let's look at the four simple steps to take to get on that path.

The art of landing assignments in conservation photography involves training your eye to see and photograph stories, sharing these narratives with the world, building relationships with editors, and connecting with fellow photographers.

 

1. Training your photo storytelling eye

As a conservation photographer, your role extends beyond capturing stunning landscapes or fascinating wildlife. It's about weaving compelling narratives that inspire people to care for our planet.

This storytelling skill is essential for those seeking to work in assignment photography.

Start by immersing yourself in nature. Observe patterns, interactions, and seasonal shifts. Look for connections, conflicts, and simple stories that can be told through your lens.

Additionally, study the work of other photographers. Analyze their composition, light usage, and storytelling techniques. Understand their approach to portraying a story through a series of photos.

This exercise will provide new insights and help improve your work.

And remember, practice makes perfect. The more you shoot, the better you'll become at spotting potential narratives and capturing them effectively.

If you're looking for a jump start on this, I recommend my mini-course, 6 Must-Have Shots for a Photo Story. It gives you the foundations you need to start making storytelling images.

 

2. Sharing your stories in a strategic way

Once you've captured your story, it's time to share it with the world. This allows you to receive feedback, showcase your skills, and build a portfolio that reflects your visual storytelling style.

Your website serves as an ideal platform for this purpose.

However, your website should be more than just a repository for your pictures. It should narrate your journey and passion for conservation.

Ensure your site is user-friendly, with clear categories for different types of photography.

You could create a specific section for photo stories or even share them as blog posts, offering behind-the-scenes insights and thoughts on conservation.

Remember, quality trumps quantity. Carefully curate your images and include only your best work that truly showcases your unique perspective and skills.

 

3. Building relationships with editors

Networking plays a pivotal role in the world of photography. Start by researching magazines, websites, and organizations that publish conservation photography.

Find out who the editors are and introduce yourself. Share your work and try to understand their needs.

Don't limit networking to just emails and calls. Attend industry events, workshops, and seminars.

Genuine relationships can open doors to assignments.

 

4. Connecting with fellow photographers

The conservation photography community is supportive and welcoming.

Engage with fellow photographers, join groups, and participate in online forums.

Collaborate on projects and share experiences.

Remember, a recommendation from a peer can be invaluable in landing an assignment.

 

These four steps – training your eye, sharing your stories, building relationships, and connecting with others in the industry – are your roadmap to landing photography assignments.

Each of these steps is crucial in your journey to becoming a successful conservation photographer.

Go out there, explore, learn, shoot, and most importantly, enjoy the process!

 

Resources

Poison Dart Frog logo for the 6 Must-Have Shots for a Photo Story Training by Conservation Visual Storytellers Academy

6 Must-Have Shots for a Photo Story

Learn how to next-level your nature photography in one afternoon. Get the breakthrough training that turns nature photographers into visual storytellers so you can reach a bigger audience and inspire people with your photo stories.

American Dipper logo for the Conservation Photography 101 course by Conservation Visual Storytellers Academy

Photo Stories for Nature

Master how to photograph impressive photo stories and share them so they make an impact, all without the overwhelm of where to start, the stifling insecurity about getting the “right” images, or the frustrating confusion of how to get in front of audiences or editors.

Episode 140: Is Conservation Photography Right for You? 5 Ways to Know if It’s a Fit

Shownotes: ConservationVisuals.com/140

(Digitally transcribed, please forgive any typos)

Jaymi Heimbuch:
[00:00:00] Jaymi Heimbuch: Hey there, and welcome to today's episode of Impact, the Conservation Photography Podcast, and I'm really excited about what we're covering today because it's something that you may have been mulling over, maybe seriously, maybe not so seriously. It might be something that's in the back of your mind.

[00:00:17] Jaymi Heimbuch: Here's the thing. If you've been dreaming about turning your love of nature and photography into a rewarding career, and you're thinking, you know what, assignment photography is right up my alley. Then today's episode is tailor made for you. We're taking a dive into how to land assignments. In the field of conservation photography, and we're gonna break it down into basically four steps.

[00:00:40] Jaymi Heimbuch: In fact, this is something that comes up every so often with my students in conservation photography 1 0 1. See, in that course I teach how to identify a story, idea how to shape that idea into a really compelling story, how to photograph that, and then how to pitch that to publications. And [00:01:00] that's one approach that you can take.

[00:01:01] Jaymi Heimbuch: To photo stories, really learning how to craft this really well made story and then pitching it out to publications so that it can get out into the world in different ways. However, as you get some experience under your belt, creating stories, the idea pops up of, Hey, what if I'm not coming up with these story ideas, but instead a publication hires me to photograph the stories that they're already working on?

[00:01:25] Jaymi Heimbuch: Sounds kind of nice, right? And sometimes my students, after they really start to sink their teeth into creating these photo stories, they get some confidence in their skills, and they're thinking, well, hey, is assignment photography for me as well? So let's look at the four simple steps to take to get on that path.

[00:01:43] Jaymi Heimbuch: Step one is, Training yourself to see and photograph stories there is flat out no getting around this step. As a conservation photographer, your primary goal is not merely to capture these beautiful landscapes or these [00:02:00] intriguing wildlife shots. It's really about telling compelling stories through photos that inspire people to care to.

[00:02:07] Jaymi Heimbuch: Act for our planet and publications or organizations that are looking for an assignment photographer are looking in large part. For someone with a track record of knowing how to tell stories through photos, you really need to have this skill to be able to even be considered. For an assignment, a publication is not gonna hire a photographer who has no clue how to tell a story in photos.

[00:02:32] Jaymi Heimbuch: But how exactly do you train your eye to see and photograph stories? Well, first, immerse yourself in nature. Start spending time really observing and understanding the environment around you. Look for patterns for interactions for seasonal shifts. Look for really interesting connections or maybe some conflicts that are going on start to know.

[00:02:56] Jaymi Heimbuch: How you can tell very simple stories, even [00:03:00] just the life of an animal that lives in your yard through photos really build up the ability to spot not just an idea, but a story within that idea. Now. Secondly, learn from other photographers. Really study the work of photographers who are great at creating conservation photo stories, study their work, analyze their composition, so, Their use of light, the storytelling techniques that they use for both single frames and bodies of work. How do they approach showing a story through a set of photos?

[00:03:34] Jaymi Heimbuch: Really dig into why you think they chose the frames that they chose and that portfolio of images. How do each of those photos individually tell a story and also together build a bigger story? This will give you a whole new perspective and really help to improve your. Own work as you figure out what photographs that you really wanna make to tell a story.

[00:03:58] Jaymi Heimbuch: And lastly, it comes down to [00:04:00] practice, practice and practice some more. The more you shoot, the more you notice stories like, Like I mentioned, you're immersing yourself in nature and you're noticing things that are happening. The more you're able to shape those into a concept of a story and then put that into images, the better you're gonna become at spotting those potential stories in the moment.

[00:04:24] Jaymi Heimbuch: Capturing them effectively. And that really helps you as an assignment photographer because you may know the story that you are supposed to tell with the publication that you're working with, but once you get into the field, you need to be able to notice moments on the fly, opportunities on the fly. And these are skill sets that are really gonna help you out.

[00:04:43] Jaymi Heimbuch: And of course, If you are looking for a jumpstart on this, I definitely recommend my mini course. Six must have shots for a photo story. It gives you the foundations that you need to start making those storytelling images. I'm gonna go ahead and put a link [00:05:00] to that mini course in the show notes.

[00:05:02] Jaymi Heimbuch: So you can just scroll down from where you're listening and click on that. Or you can go to conservation visuals.com/six shots, the number six, and the word shots. Uh, so that's step number one really is training yourself to see and photograph stories, develop those visual storytelling skills. Now moving on to step two, it's sharing your stories.

[00:05:27] Jaymi Heimbuch: So once you've captured your story, it's time to actually share it with the world, and this is how you get feedback to improve. And importantly, how you show off your skills and your style. You really need to build up a body of work that shows your visual storytelling style, and that means putting your photo stories out there and what better platform than on your own website.

[00:05:51] Jaymi Heimbuch: Now remember, your website is not just a place to dump all your photos. It should be a visual representation of your work, your journey, your [00:06:00] passion for conservation. So when you're putting together your website, think about the user experience. Your site should be really easy to navigate with these very clear categories for.

[00:06:11] Jaymi Heimbuch: Different types of photography that you do, and one of those categories is your photo stories. So you can have a specific photo stories section on your website with each photo story appearing as a collection of images with a short writeup. Or you could create a blog on your website and share your photo stories as blog posts,

[00:06:34] Jaymi Heimbuch: so there's two ways to go. Either creating a kind of a gallery section to your website that is focused entirely on your photo stories or going the blog route. Now, another benefit to going the blog route is that you can share behind the scenes stories. You can share your experiences in the field, your thoughts on conservation.

[00:06:54] Jaymi Heimbuch: All of that is a really great extra bonus to be able to share your personality and who you are [00:07:00] as a photographer. No either route you choose whether you decide to have a section on your website dedicated to showing off the photo stories that you've made, or you create a blog, and each entry is a photo story in and of itself.

[00:07:12] Jaymi Heimbuch: Either way, make it really clear that there is an area on your website. Dedicated to photo stories that can be perused. Now, I'd also suggest creating a very solid about me page where you can share your own story, your mission, your vision. It's an area that can make it really clear who you are as a photographer and the kind of work that you want to do, your expertise, special skills that you have, , experience that you have that can really, , help a photo editor understand more about what you can bring to an assignment and your photo stories. Meanwhile, show off your style and the stories that you've already covered, your experiences there. Now, remember, I. Less is more. Don't overwhelm your visitors with hundreds of photos. [00:08:00] Instead, really carefully curate your images, especially the images inside your photo stories, and include only your best work that truly showcases your unique perspective and skills.

[00:08:13] Jaymi Heimbuch: And in fact, I have a couple of podcast episodes that'll really help you out here. Head over to episode three, and that's where I cover curating a portfolio of images and the kind of five step process that I really use to create portfolios.

[00:08:27] Jaymi Heimbuch: Also, head over to episode 100 where I talk about my personal strategy for editing photo stories. I think that you will get a lot out of each of those episodes that can help you. Avoid becoming maybe a bit stuck in this phase, so you can get those@conservationvisuals.com slash three, the number three, and conservation visuals.com/ 100, the number 100, those could be super helpful for this stage of the photography process.

[00:08:57] Jaymi Heimbuch: Now let's move on to step [00:09:00] three of how to land photo assignments. And that is building relationships with editors , In the world of photography, who you know, can sometimes be just as important as what you know, and that's because trust is huge when it comes to photo stories and working as an assignment photographer.

[00:09:18] Jaymi Heimbuch: Your reputation really matters, and networking is key in this field. So start out by researching magazines, publications, organizations that publish conservation photo stories. Find out who the editors are and which publications you're particularly excited to photograph for. Then reach out and introduce yourself.

[00:09:37] Jaymi Heimbuch: Share a little bit about your work, and if possible, you might even arrange a meeting, a, a time to chat. Now, here's what's super important.

[00:09:45] Jaymi Heimbuch: Don't be pushy about this. Don't make it all about you instead, you know, just be friendly and open and focus more on finding out what that publication may need, what the editors need, how you can help. Maybe drop some [00:10:00] links to your webpages where they can see the stories that you've created. I know that this can also be kind of an intimidating part of the process, and sure there are going to be editors that you write to and you will never hear back from them.

[00:10:12] Jaymi Heimbuch: That's just how it goes. So I know that this can feel a little bit intimidating, but. Take it from me. There are plenty of editors who are really happy to learn about new photographers with great skill sets and to keep them in the back of their minds for future work. So this is a really important aspect of really getting yourself out there and getting known and getting talked about.

[00:10:34] Jaymi Heimbuch: Right? And another important aspect of this is networking isn't just about sending emails or making phone calls, it's also about face-to-face, real life relationships. And we are finally back in an era where we can go to industry events, we can go to workshops and seminars and conferences.

[00:10:52] Jaymi Heimbuch: And so these are great opportunities to meet editors and other industry professionals face to face, because again, [00:11:00] genuine relationships can open doors to assignments, and really, I think assignments are built more on those relationships than just outta the blue cold calling and wow, something lands in your lap that just is not likely to happen.

[00:11:14] Jaymi Heimbuch: Maybe it will. Maybe you are super lucky and someone just discovers you, but more likely than not, Assignments will come from relationships that you have built with editors and with other people in your field. And that leads us to step number four, which is connecting with fellow photographers. The conservation photography community is tight-knit and very supportive.

[00:11:36] Jaymi Heimbuch: Reach out to fellow photographers, join photography groups, participate in online forums, share your experiences, ask for advice, collaborate on projects. In other words, get involved with. The field, and don't forget to be very generous in forwarding opportunities to other photographers. Be someone who helps out others.

[00:11:58] Jaymi Heimbuch: After all, what goes around [00:12:00] comes around and you never know when a fellow photographer will recommend you to an editor looking for someone for an assignment. That is exactly how I landed my first ever photography assignment. It was about being as helpful as I could to other photographers in the community.

[00:12:16] Jaymi Heimbuch: People who kind of knew what it was that I worked on, what I really enjoyed working on. And sure enough, one of my friends in the field couldn't take up an assignment and instead recommended me. The editor was able to check out my work on my website, thought that I was a fit, and away we went. So those are the four key steps to landing photography assignment.

[00:12:36] Jaymi Heimbuch: First, train yourself to see and photograph stories. Get really good at this. Second, share your stories on your website. Really craft a place where people can come and see exactly what it is that you do, what your style is, your approaches, your experiences, third, build relationships with editors and finally, connect with your fellow photographers in the industry build real [00:13:00] relationships, not just networking, in order to exchange business cards and maybe cross your fingers that someone's gonna mention your name, build real relationships, help other people out. That is what this field is all about, and that is what really helps you move forward.

[00:13:15] Jaymi Heimbuch: Now, each of these steps is crucial in your journey to becoming a successful conservation photographer who is in line for assignments. But remember, even as you have this awesome ambition to be able to be tapped on the shoulder for an assignment, to be someone who is called on to go out there and get these beautiful shots for stories that publications are trying to tell.

[00:13:36] Jaymi Heimbuch: The work that we do is not just about capturing those gorgeous images, but also about using your talent to make a difference. So as you are going through each of these four steps, how else might you use that to advance your conservation photography as you're thinking about telling stories, what kinds of stories do you wanna tell to be able to help conservation in the first place as you're connecting with publications and?[00:14:00]

[00:14:00] Jaymi Heimbuch: Fellow photographers, who is it that you wanna build a network with that not only helps you in your career, but helps you in the conservation efforts that you really want to put center stage, that you wanna highlight, that you wanna advance? We're doing this work anyway, so let's go ahead and make the most out of everything that we're doing in this field.

[00:14:18] Jaymi Heimbuch: All right, my friends. I hope that this has been really helpful, and again, if you would like an easy but powerful jumpstart into photographing stories, check out that mini course. Six must-Have Shots for a Photo Story. You can watch it in a single afternoon, and it will forever change how you think about making images.

[00:14:37] Jaymi Heimbuch: You can find that@conservationvisuals.com slash six shots. The number six, the word shots. All right. Enjoy, get out there, photograph, have fun, and meanwhile, I'll talk to you again next week.

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