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How to Make Money Shooting Digital Photos for Local Newspapers

written by: Larry M. Lynch•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 12/29/2008

If you read the local newspaper each day where you live, you've almost certainly given the photos it contains a serious glance or two. You can also be a credited newspaper photographer in your local newspaper if you'll follow these straight forward tips and techniques to get your foot in the door.

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    Remember Clark Who?

    You remember Clark Kent, fearless reporter for the Daily Planet newspaper and his news photographer sidekick, Jimmy Olsen, right? How about Peter Parker, who always seems to get those images of Spiderman that no one else seems to be able to get? Well, there’s your key. You can fairly easily break into the newspaper photographer’s market with your local, regional and perhaps even national newspapers. And it might even be a lot easier than you think. Why? Because even with a pal like Superman, staff reporters for your local and regional newspapers simply can’t be everywhere at once. If however, you’re secretly Spiderman, Catwoman, Batman, one of the X-men (or have any mutant or super-powers) you can safely disregard this article. Otherwise Bunky, read on to learn more about how to make money shooting digital photographs for local newspapers and other media.

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    How to Be Everywhere at Once

    Pacific Coast Festival Dec. 2002 024B If I knew THAT, I wouldn’t tell you anyway (OK, maybe I might). But the point is neither you nor anyone else can cover a city, region or all the newsworthy events as a news photographer. Although, what you can do is to “cover” those events and activities which are not on the normal “beat” of the staff photographers of local newspapers and magazines. For example, high school and college, trade school, technical school or university academic and sporting events, movie and theater openings, cultural events and festivals, holiday celebrations, special activities and parades are just a few of the possibilities. If you get unique digital images of celebrities, important people, winners, losers, “special” participants or a “scoop” of digital images surrounding an important local or regional event – you’ve got a good leg up.

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    Contact Newspaper and Magazine Editors

    In every issue of a local, regional or national newspaper, there is a listing of the editors in charge of each section or area of coverage. The same is true on the “banner” or “credits” page of magazines. Call, write an e-mail or “snail-mail” a letter or make an appointment to see the editors covering the areas you’re interested in. Take a portfolio of sample digital images along with you. Ask if they’ll accept on-the-spot digital images of local events that you can shoot. Better yet, ask if there are special areas or types of events they’d like for you to cover as a “stringer”. If there’s a fire, bad accident or other catastrophic event, get all the unique digital images that you can. Call or get them to the editor ASAP and if they take any – you’re “in”, likely for the long term if you can keep shooting compelling imagery that tells a story. Be sure to check out any photographer’s guidelines that the publication may have available.

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    Newspaper Digital Photo Events to Consider

    Cali nights 053 What to shoot? Anything that might be considered newsworthy in your local or regional locale, that’s what. Accidents, fires, crimes and the people these affect make good starting points. Cultural events, concerts and the people who comprise them can be a good source for in-depth coverage which newspaper staff can’t get to, but you can. Take your lead from the types of photos you see published on a daily basis in the newspapers and magazines you wish to target. Add in the local school championship team and “action photos” of games or local celebrities at work or play, whoever “extraordinary” people might be in your community. If you can write and do interviews as well as supply good digital images, you’ll be “in the clover” in no time at all. Hey, don’t forget local television stations and magazines too. So you truly lucked out and got something really “unusual”? Then give the tabloids a call. (Anytime I get ANYTHING even remotely “offbeat”, I contact the tabloids) They list toll-free numbers, e-mails and websites for tips and hot photos in every tabloid just on the chance that YOU will get that “million dollar” shot. Okay, well maybe hundreds or thousands of dollars, but you never know. I recently interviewed and photographed a lady with a three-legged dog in our neighborhood. I sold the story and images with two toll-free phone calls. The money from less than half an hour's work bought me a new laptop and accessories.

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    Additional Smaller Markets to Consider

    Policia Muerto sign While you’re at it, don’t forget to pitch some of the other, smaller markets available all around you. Got accident photos of that terrible crash near your house this morning? The lawyers and insurance companies might be very interested in acquiring your on-the-scene photos. The Police might be too if there were fatalities. A fire or destruction of a local landmark, company or site? The Real Estate and Insurance companies will want as-it-happened digital imagery as might the owners and local news reporting agencies. The principals involved should get a business card from you providing your contact information. You DO have a business card, don’t you? At a sporting event, the athletes themselves, the school or institution and the parents might well be interested in a few well-composed digital images of their hero in action. It doesn't even matter who wins or loses the game as both sides may still want action images. Sweet, huh!

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    Make Money Shooting Digital Photographs for Local Newspapers

    Only Superman and perhaps a handful of the X-men can be “everywhere” at once. Certainly the over-worked skeleton staff at your local and regional newspapers or magazines can’t be. With paper media on the decline in most of the world, newspapers and magazines are cutting staff positions in favor of freelancers and stringers. This is definitely good news for you, the astute, professional digital photographer. Look around you for opportunities to make money shooting digital photographs for local newspapers and other media. They’re out there, just waiting to be picked up, believe me. Hey, did I just hear a siren? Gotta go!