Over the past 11 years I have worked on quite a number of photo assignments, ranging from a simple shot of a cup of hot cocoa, to a rodeo clown, to a six-week assignment for a Frommer’s travel guide about Puerto Rico.
There are many reasons I love doing assignments. For starters, you’re sure to get paid for your efforts. Magazine assignments typically pay about $500 per day plus expenses, though this will vary depending on a variety of factors.
Then after you get paid, you will still be able to market the images to other publications through stock agencies. For example, the images I shot during the Puerto Rico assignment have since earned more than what I made for the assignment in the first place, about $8,000. That’s like getting paid twice for the same job.
Then there’s the benefit of working with other creative professionals (an art director or photo editor, for example), a learning experience that I always find rewarding.
Best of all, you travel to interesting locations to photograph unique subjects and meet people you may not have otherwise encountered (flamenco dancers, sports mascots, rodeo clowns, opera singers, painters from India, and more!).
You will make contacts that might be useful in the future. For example, during an assignment to photograph a baseball team’s mascot I met the team’s marketing director. Later that year I contacted him and got permission to photograph one of their games, and one of my images was later published in my state’s vacation guide.
Doors will open for you, figuratively and literally. There is nothing more effective for gaining access to private locations than saying you are on assignment.
Even if you are working for a small paper or travel publication, most marketing directors know the importance of publicity and will work with you to make sure you get the shots you need. Being on assignment has allowed me to photograph many otherwise inaccessible locations like museums, operas, symphony concerts, jazz festivals, brew pubs, shops and stores, restaurants, sporting events, and more.
You will feel the satisfaction of being hired by a professional art buyer, proof that someone other than your mother thinks you are a good photographer.
In the past, preparing images for delivery after an assignment was tedious work. After physically delivering the film for developing (and retrieving it), you edited your work, labelled it using stickers, and submitted the selected images to your client via the mail.
Nowadays things are much easier. Not only does digital technology allow you to see if you got the shot before you leave a location, but electronically submitting your images could not be quicker and easier by using any number of relatively inexpensive software programs.
Add to that the rapidly increasing number of publications that need travel imagery (magazines, books, travel companies, blogs, calendars, etc., all of which have a website), and you have a recipe for making a nice income from your travel photography.
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