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Starting something new almost always means doing some research. We’ve tried to make the job a little easier by pulling together several resources, including books, blogs, and RESOLVE contributors. This list is obviously not exhaustive, so we welcome your additions in the comments and will add them as they come up. Click here for a list of all other “After Staff” posts.

Making the bride happy, not an editor

  • Tips – RESOLVE weekly contributor and destination wedding photographer Gene Higa shares his approach and inspiration
  • Etiquette and Optimization – When and when not to shoot, WPJA’s posts on manners and communication
  • Preparation – Leaving nothing to chance, Jeff Ascough blogs to be “fully prepared and focused to give 110% to every wedding”
  • Scenes, mistakes and tips – Wedding photojournalist Roman Zolin’s gives lessons about what’s “In the Bag of Wedding Photographer”

Strength in numbers

  • Diversify and multiply – Ann Hamilton’s complementary brand strategy: how to diversify, multiply revenue streams, and balance a thriving wedding photography business

  • WPJA – Wedding Photojournalism Association

Many photojournalists love the idea of working with NGOs since it lines up well with their philosophy and style of image making. The reality, however, is that most NGOs have an unsophisticated understanding of visual storytelling and are used to getting photos for free. With that in mind, Chris Tyree and Stephen Katz, along with a crack team including other former staffers, founded Wéyo, a visual consulting firm and content producer for nonprofits. I knew the potential impact of inventive image collaboration from talking with Valenda Campbell, CARE’s senior photo editor, and Najlah Hicks, the founder of Do1Thing.
An image from Wéyo illustrating a program in the Dominican Republic that teaches young mothers pre-natal and infant care.

An image from Wéyo illustrating a program in the Dominican Republic that teaches young mothers pre-natal and infant care.

Chris Tyree

In the beginning, Wéyo co-founder Stephen Katz and I started talking about how we could turn our photojournalistic skills and passion for working with nonprofits into a full-time career. We researched the nonprofit sector, talked to numerous organizations, and started to assemble like-minded journalists from a variety of disciplines (photography, film, writing, editing, designing), as well as marketing specialists.

Our goal has been to build a team that produces award-winning stories about nonprofits and then uses (markets) them in a way that can make a difference. Sometimes that is through designing websites and blogs around the content and sometimes it is crafting unique marketing projects utilizing our narrative-based material. Our fundamental principle is that, for people to act they must truly believe, and that comes from showing/telling them in compelling ways what it is exactly that our clients are doing to make this world a better place.

Starting a business in the middle of the greatest recession since the great depression may seem like a crazy move, and maybe we are a bit crazy, but it also presents a lot of opportunities. Nonprofits need us more than ever to tell their stories, and we have been able to attract people with not only great talent, but also great souls. We’ve grown (slowly) without taking loans or reaching too deeply into our personal finances, in part by appealing to nonprofits that we’d worked with when we were on staff at daily newspapers. Until now we’ve existed almost entirely by word of mouth, but we are currently in the early stages of a larger marketing campaign. So, we are growing at a comfortable pace,getting calls on a national level daily,but are ready for a larger role as organizations realize the potential we can tap into through our compelling work.

A Wéyo image of George Washington University students who set up clinic care in an unserviced Rwandan village.

A Wéyo image of George Washington University students who set up clinic care in an unserviced Rwandan village.

We decided on a model for the business that brings together different disciplines in large part after looking at thousands of nonrprofit websites — we realized 90% or more have a hard time telling people what they actually do with the donations they receive. The images on these sites are often of smiling kids, if there are images at all, and the videos and words leave people more confused. Our group understands the importance of showing and telling the story. It has been an amazing experience working with all these talented individuals, whose hearts are as big as their ideas. It’s not the hustle and bustle of the newsroom, much of what we do is in the virtual office online, but when those kind of talented people collaborate for a great cause, there is an excitement and creative buzz that is unmatched.

There are two main concerns working in this sector. First, these organizations have generally relied on donated content. And now everybody with a digital camera considers themselves a photographer, so and there is a ton of really awful, but free, imagery available. Most of the nonprofits we’ve worked with realize the power of strong documentary photography, but can’t come to grips with paying for it — even though these same groups will pay a decent amount of money to an PR agency or consulting group to utilize the donated images. There is only so much they can do with bad photography and most of these agencies really have no concept in how to use strong documentary material.

Second, you really aren’t your own boss. I don’t think any of us imagined at the start how long it would take to get a project started. In the newspaper business, you get an assignment, an hour later you’re shooting it, a few hours later you’re editing it, and a few hours after that it is in print and sitting on your doorstep. Not so in this new world. We have proposal meetings, then contract reviews, then board approvals, lawyer approvals … then perhaps you get the chance to work. Wéyo has proposals out that are over a year old and still in contract review, awaiting board approval. So, you have to have a lot of patience and take solace in the knowledge that what you are doing has the potential to change many lives for the better.

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: Have you been frustrated working with NGOs? Have you found any that have a more sophisticated understanding of visual storytellling?

Click here for a list of all other “After Staff” posts.

We asked a wide variety of former staff photographers the same question, and here’s what they told us. Please share your own stories — as you can see, you’re not alone. Follow the “more” link to see all photographers, and check out Monday’s “Group Therapy” for photographers’ back stories and websites. Click here for a list of all other “After Staff” posts.

  • What did you do to build awareness of your photography and your new availability?

Stuart Thurlkill
I talked with everyone I knew and then went and talked to everyone I didn’t know. I found out what each person’s greatest need was and tried to find a way to fill that need. I made it a point to go everywhere with advertising and marketing material. I worked with some great photographers here in Arizona who gave me a chance to cut my teeth while I built a portfolio. I also built my own flash website. I don’t recommend this unless you have a lot of time on your hands. I also put together a print portfolio and started to shop it around to as many people in my community as I could get an appointment with.

Christopher Record
I would say a strong website is the most important first step for people starting out. I was lucky in that I had worked as a photojournalist for many years, in which time I had assembled a diverse portfolio. I also started doing weddings on the side while working at The Charlotte Observer. I was able to build my wedding portfolio while working full-time at the paper. By the time my wife and I decided to go out on our own, I had already been photographing weddings for six years. The newspaper industry has been going through so many problems and the timing just seemed right to go out on our own. We’ve been lucky that our websites have been able to attract clients from across the country.

Michael Mulvey
I instantly jumped on getting my website together and I happened to use liveBooks. I also started a blog. This allows me to routinely update a photo area with what I am immediately doing at the moment. I joined several associations and jumped into the business end of photography concerning branding, copyright law, marketing, etc. I also started networking and using the various social media sites to get the word out, build new relationships, and keep the ones I always had. More »

It’s not just photographers who are looking for new ways to apply well-developed skills. Matt Randall, who managed the editorial photo department at the L.A. Times for 15 years, recently founded the Pro Photography Network as a way to keep doing what he does best — organize a photo staff and hand out assignments.

Miki Johnson: How did the idea for Pro Photography Network come about and when was it officially launched?

Matt Randall: The idea came to me through various portals. Some from just brainstorming ideas and some from advice given to me about “doing what you do best.” Since I had managed the editorial photo department for 15 years at the L.A. Times and knew all of these photographers very well, it was just a natural thing to do. Let’s get them back together again so we can market their skills as photographers, and I’ll do what I like to do, which is logistics, financial innovations, and event planning.

MJ: How does the group work logistically? How are assignments handled?

MR: I will start by working with the needs of the client and confirming the who, what, where, when and why. Once I have the logistics of the shoot, I can work with the client and find the right photographer for their needs: male, female, bilingual, or any other special needs that require a photographer with a particular skill set.

“We can always find a photographer for any job.”

I then send out a request based on the needs of the client to the pool of photographers that meet the clients criteria. Since we all have our Blackberry/iPhone devices, reaching the group is easy. I then hook up the photographer with the client. From this point on, the photographer can focus on being a photographer and doing what they do best. At the L.A. Times, we are always trying to find the best photographer for every assignment too. But the beauty of this approach is the client has more input up front when hiring a photographer. More »

Starting something new almost always means doing some research. We’ve tried to make the job a little easier by pulling together several resources, including books, blogs, and RESOLVE contributors. This list is obviously not exhaustive, so we welcome your additions in the comments and will add them as they come up. Click here

Writing a photo grant

  • Foundation Center – Connecting grantmakers and grantseekers, the (epi)Center houses an incredible database — including “95,000 foundations, corporate donors, and grantmaking public charities in the U.S. and 1.3 million of their recent grants.”

Grant resources

  • NYFA – New York Foundation for the Arts

Lasting relationships with NGOs

  • NGO photography – British photographer Colin Pantall blogs about photographers taking initiative in their idea and approach to NGOs, and being creatively farsighted in seeking grant opportunities
  • NGOs to the rescue – Pop Photo’s simple answer to the complex question of why photographers are turning to NGOs for work: “Most photographers cannot solely depend on magazines and newspapers to fund long-term projects.”
  • Approaching NGOs – With a photojournalist’s methods and motivations, Mike Fox offers perspectives for working with NGOs
  • Convincing NGOs – Valenda Campbell, Senior Photo Editor for CARE, explains to RESOLVE how to persuade NGOs to collaborate on larger photo projects
  • NGOs and awardsRESOLVE contributor and conservation photographer Daniel Beltrá tells how his passion for nature and his alliance with Greenpeace grew into an award-winning career
  • NGOs and publishers – In his RESOLVE column, conservation and fine-art photographer Robert Glenn Ketchum describes his trailblazing publishing model, working with NGOs and publishers to create books that effect tangible change

Nonprofit reportage centers

  • IJNET – International Center for Journalists
  • IRE – Investigative Reporters and Editors
  • NECIR-BU – The New England Center for Investigative Reporting at Boston University


One of the questions I hear most from photographers, whether they used to be staffers or not, is, “How do I get commercial jobs?” A close second is, “How do I find a commercial rep?” As day and page rates for editorial work decline, it’s no surprise that photographers are paying attention to where the money is still flowing.

So now’s your chance to ask. As Maren’s introduction suggests, her areas of expertise are varied, and she’s truly eager to help. Leave a question in the comments section, along with your website if you have one, and he’ll respond asap, also in the comments, so others can benefit from the good advice.

Maren Levinson

Photo by Amanda Marsalis

Photo by Amanda Marsalis

I founded Redeye in 2005 as a photo agency that supports photographers with both fine-art and commercial careers. I have always believed a photographer benefits from a multifaceted career, and I am interested in inspired work of any kind. Redeye currently represents six photographers, each with their own distinct photographic voice.

Before starting Redeye, I was a photo editor at Dwell and Mother Jones magazines, and consulted at various publications including Big, Chow, and GOOD magazines. I have also consulted with design firms and emerging photographers.

I love to edit and match up a photographer with their perfect job, path, or next project. Feel free to ask me anything and, if I don’t know the answer, I will make up something really good.

Click here for a list of all other “After Staff” posts.

Former Contra Costa Times photographer Nader Khouri contacted me after seeing my request for help with this “After Staff” series on RESOLVE last week. I was immediately impressed that he’d successfully broken into commercial photography in the short time since leaving his staff job. Now that I’ve learned about his background in marketing and heard his insights into understanding and connecting with clients, I’m not surprised.
©Nader Khouri

©Nader Khouri

Miki Johnson: How and when did you transition to commercial work after leaving your staff position?

Nader Khouri: Immediately after leaving the Contra Costa Times a year-and-a-half ago, I knew that I was going to be doing commercial work. I am shooting mostly food right now and many of my clients are branding firms and restaurants. I would love to be shooting food-related subject matter most of the time, but I am still building my business. I am also doing corporate/nonprofit work and am very thankful to some of my photographer friends in the Bay Area for giving me referrals during this transition. For me, this change isn’t happening overnight, and I don’t expect it to.

MJ: How did you present yourself to commercial clients? Were they drawn to your photojournalistic background?

©Nader Khouri

©Nader Khouri

NK: Most of my food clients have come from doing a lot of networking. I got to a point where I said to myself, “I’m sick of hanging around photographers.” So I got as far away from them as possible and started meeting people who I could potentially collaborate with. I had discussions with them about photography and gained their trust. My website was just a confirmation for them. I’ve gotten to the point now where I’m back in the loop of being around photographers. I became a member of APA and am using a lot of their resources. Also, I have done a ton of email marketing and I have to say, even in this day in age of Twitter, Facebook, and Adbase, seeing someone-face to-face is still number one for me.

MJ: Did you work with a consultant or rep to re-brand and find commercial clients?

NK: I studied marketing and it helped me go back and ask myself, “What am I passionate about?” and then set goals for myself. It also helped me focus on how could best serve my clients. I started hearing the word “partnership” more, and that helped me think more about how I can reach out to other professionals to meet my clients’ needs. Photojournalism and commercial work are both collaborative processes. Commercial work just has a whole host of different players. And I think that’s where photographers might end up getting discouraged.

During a transition, photographers need to take the time to understand the scope of the markets they are in and to identify growing markets. I constantly say to myself, “Even in this down economy, plenty of work is being done and plenty of money is being made.” Instead of learning video like many still photographers, I am spending my time researching my markets and making connections there. I think spending time on the content of my images is more valuable than the medium in which I shoot. If I have a client who wants motion, then I’ll hire someone to do motion. But I am still quite passionate about still images and don’t plan to change what I do anytime in the near future.

MJ: I notice that you have a strong “mission and values” section on your website. Has that helped you focus in on the kinds of jobs you want? More »

Listening to Paul Myer, founder and executive director of the the VJ Multimedia Workshop, you might stop seeing multimedia as the downfall of photojournalism and see as he does instead: a versatile tool to get excited about. Headed by VJ faculty from the Brooks Institute and Pierce College and sponsored by Olympus, Photoshelter, and ThinkTank among others, the workshop recently offered tuition-free training — and sympathetic ears — to 25 students and 25 laid-off staff photographers.

Miki Johnson: Why was it important to bring together recently laid-off photojournalists to connect with each other and hone their multimedia skills?

Paul Myers: The workshop aspires to create a grounded space for the participants, a space to create but also to reconnect with our intentions as visual storytellers.
The most important thing to walk away from this workshop with is an approach to multimedia storytelling. The journey is what matters.

This workshop had little to do with technical multimedia skills and in the process it set people up for success. Yes, we taught a bit of Final Cut Pro, some audio recording techniques, just enough to get people creating, so they see how easy this really is, how much fun it is to tell stories with these tools. I think many of the students will look back at this experience, the magic of this moment, and relate it to when they developed their first black-and-white pictures in a lab, watching in amazement as that blank sheet of paper transformed in front of their eyes.

This workshop opened the eyes of both participants and the leadership teams in several ways. The focus on technical skills that so many people in our field buy into is mostly smoke and mirrors. If only I knew Final Cut Pro or produce a video, I would not have been laid-off — this is so damaging to our field in terms of our credibility and our emotions.

Economic factors are driving reductions in the workforce, but with the change of technology makes many veterans in our field feel particularly hopeless. Many are arriving at a point in their careers where they are ideally prepared emotionally to tell important stories that really need to be told, but they feel like they no longer belong in the field. They are actively looking for work outside the field because they do not see opportunities for their work and no longer feel needed. This workshop was about understanding a long-term approach to multimedia storytelling that will enable our community to embrace this new form of story.

MJ: How many people applied to the workshop? Do you feel like the first year was a success and why? More »

We asked a wide variety of former staff photographers the same question, and here’s what they told us. Please share your own stories — as you can see, you’re not alone. Follow the “more” link to see all photographers, and check out Monday’s “Group Therapy” for photographers’ back stories and websites. Click here for more “After Staff” posts.

  • What was the hardest or scariest thing for you when you left your staff position? How did you get past it?

Pouya Dianat
Free time is a terrifying thing to have, at first. When I was a staffer, I talked about everything I was going to do and kept a list. The first week I had off from work, though…I sat staring at my computer just crushed by the overwhelming weight of freedom. So I set up a comprehensive list of everything I wanted to do and organized my days to have a loose rotation. If I have a week off while the Braves are out of town I rotate my days between:

(1) PHOTO DAY – Spent working on personal projects, screwing around with studio ideas, editing photos, researching things I want to work on, planning future projects

(2) FILM DAY – Working on scripts with my roommate, who is a writer, watching shorts, reading FilmMaker, MovieMaker and Film Comment, watching movies, reading about other filmmakers, researching

(3) TRAINING DAY – Log on to and choose something from SEO, Flash, Final Cut, PhotoShop, or any other program and learn something new — it’s been phenomenal

And on the seventh day of the week? Errands and finances: getting bank accounts into order, budgeting for the rest of the month, paying bills, buying way too many Magic Arms at Showcase Inc., etc. The key to my new career is constant growth, continuous learning, and striking a balance between paying the bills and doing what I want to do.

Stuart Thurlkil
Not knowing very much about business and how to get the phone to ring. I was afraid that my photography wouldn’t match up with what people were expecting in the consumer and business markets. But I found that people responded to my storytelling style, and it just took some time to get the ball rolling.

Business took longer to learn, but I read a lot and talked with others who were in business and sales. I listened to other photographers at workshops and conferences and sought out people in industries outside photography. I was like a sponge, soaking up as much information as I could. I then tried to immediately implementing what I learned.

Nanine Hartzenbusch
Establishing my professional identity in a new community — we moved to a different city and I created a new business. I was known and well-connected in the Baltimore Washington community because I had worked as a staff photographer for the Baltimore Sun for 11 years. In Charlotte, where we’ve been for two years, people are still getting to know me and my work. My biggest challenge is to grow my client base, while getting to know Charlotte. A friend counseled me, “This is a marathon, not a sprint,” which has helped tremendously. Being patient has been key.

Annie Wells
Sometimes I’ll get to the end of a day and wonder, “What did I accomplish today?” Losing your profession is mind boggling, even though I knew I was going to be moving into something else. I’m also such a work-oriented person, not having a job is hard. I have covered events with friends, and it’s good to know you can be moral as well as physical support for other people. We’re all struggling. Just to know there’s someone out there who is willing to lend a hand is huge.

More »

Starting something new almost always means doing some research. We’ve tried to make the job a little easier by pulling together several resources, including books, blogs, and RESOLVE contributors. This list is obviously not exhaustive, so we welcome your additions in the comments and will add them as they come up. Click here for a list of all other “After Staff” posts.

The deal with reps

  • A Photo Editor – Rob provides lots of insights into the industry, including agency lists like this and this, as well as informative interviews like this one with L.A. rep Deborah Schwartz
  • A Visual Society – A no-nonsense post with lots of tips for getting a rep – the first one is, decide if you actually need one
  • Nick Onken – Nick shares the process he himself went through to find a rep
  • AdBase – AdBase also has lots of industry insights on their blog, in particular “How to Decide if You Need a Rep”
  • Advertising Photography: A straightforward guide a complex industry – An informative book by RESOLVE contributor Lou Lesko — the title says it all
  • RESOLVE – Jasmine DeFoore at Redux Pictures wrote an informative series of posts answering common questions about reps, mostly on the editorial side

Boosting creativity

  • Ivan Makarov – I almost “borrowed” a few links from this “Links to Boost Your Creativity” post, but then decided they are all pretty good and I should just give Ivan his due
  • Creativity Tools – This is a fun list of online tools that help spark creativity

Tools for (new) leaders

  • Fast Company – Despite the fact it’s about a huge corporation, the tips in this “How To Lead Now” story would work equally well for, say, a photo crew
  • Leadership is Creative – A great piece from Harvard Business that asserts, “It’s not that creative work gets set aside in order to lead an organization, leading is the creative work”
  • Managing Creative People – This book’s title could refer to a freelance assistant, a business associate, or (just as important) yourself


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