From Staff Editor to Freelancer – Lessons Learned – by Michael Ip

Michael Ip
Michael Ip is a freelance photojournalist and photo editor based in New York City. He was a photo editor for the New York Daily News before he could no longer resist the urge to go back to shooting pictures. When not shooting pictures he’s probably watching cat videos or buying shoes.

This Friday I will resign my photo editor position and return to the world of freelance photojournalism.

I never planned on being a photo editor, but the opportunity to take a staff editor position with the New York Daily News was too good to pass up.  Throughout the whole process, I told myself the experience I gain as an editor would ultimately make me a better shooter.  After just 15-months as an editor, the urge to go back to shooting proved to be too great.  But I am certain the lessons I learned as an editor will provide me with enough insight to make this time around a success.


Michael editing photos during an overnight shift on Oct. 9, 2011. Photo by Kristin Clements.

I’m hoping this piece (and subsequent ones) I’m writing on the lessons learned as an editor will prove helpful to any working photojournalist, but more importantly it will impart some confidence to anyone else thinking about making the jump into freelancing after leaving a staff position.  So without further ado, here are the three biggest lessons I learned as a photo editor that can benefit a shooter:

1.  Photo editors, for the most part, are extremely busy all the time.  They don’t have time to remind a photographer how to do his or her job.  That being said, as a photographer it’s easy to forget some basics.  But never forget to shoot a nice variety (close, mid, wide, horizontals and verticals).  Accurate, clear and concise caption information is extremely important.  If you spell a name or place wrong, you pictures might never be found, thus wasting everyone’s time.


Searching the database for pictures

2.  Unless you are working for a print only publication (lucky you), transmit your images in a timely manner.  There is nothing worse than having the web desk, copy desk or designers having to wait because accompanying pictures for the story aren’t ready yet.  Many organizations have a robust web presence now, which means there is a constant deadline looming.  The stories and pictures have to go online as quickly as possible.

3.  If the exposures or white balance on your images are a little off – fix them before sending them in.  While the photo editors or photo techs can do that, that’s not something that should consume their time.  And seriously, it’s not that much effort.


Captioning and toning files in Photoshop

Having this knowledge, I hope I will be able to remember my own advice.  If the photo editor I am shooting for yells at me, I won’t have any excuses.

Let’s see in a few weeks how well it went.

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