Over the past 12 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 6-week assignment for a Frommer’s travel guide about Puerto Rico. Some photographers are a little intimidated by assignments because they come with the pressure of having to get the shots (as opposed to just shooting for yourself and see what you can get), but I like the challenge and enjoy working on assignment.
There are many reasons I love doing assignments:
1. You will get paid for your efforts (as opposed to photographing for stock, where there are no assurances an editor will buy your pictures). Magazine assignments typically pay about $500 per day plus expenses, though this will vary depending on a variety of factors.
2. After you get paid, you will still be able to market the images to other publications as stock. 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.
3. You will be working with other creative professionals (art director or photo editor, for example), a learning experience that I always find rewarding.
4. You travel to interesting locations to photograph unique subjects and meet people you may not even know existed (flamenco dancers, sports mascots, rodeo clowns, opera singers, painters from India, and more!).
5. You will have made 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.
6. Doors will open for you, figuratively and literally. There is nothing more effective to gaining access to private location 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 free advertisement 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.
7. 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.
Now get out and shoot something.