Sarah Dimmock, a journalism student at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, e-mailed me and asked me some questions about the career of a freelance photographer/visual journalist and the importance of having a portfolio website. It may sound obvious, but more than often photographers are not good at presenting and positioning themselves. Worse even, some photogs don’t bother to make portfolio websites. That can be the worst mistake of your career. You may not even have a career if you don’t have a website.
Q1 : How do you see the profession of visual journalism/freelance photograph nowadays (is it difficult? useful? valued?)
The industry is ever-changing and it is becoming more difficult to build a career as a freelance photographer. But the importance of visual journalism is increasing and being recognized at the same time. I think there will be always a demand for a good visual journalist. You have to be persistent, improve yourself everyday and connect the right dots.
Q2 : What is your approach as a photograph? Do you photograph as a freelancer? Do you photograph your own projects/ideas? I see you also make some commercial photography, do you think it is necessary to survive as a photographer?
Yes, I work as a freelance photographer and take on personal projects. I like being freelance because it gives me more freedom and flexibility. However, there is a high level of uncertainty regarding when you will find work and how much income you can generate per month, and it does require a lot of time and self management skills. Not everyone is cut out for it, but if you can manage it, it is a most rewarding and fulfilling job.
Yes, I think it is absolutely necessary these days to take on commercial assignments. You cannot sustain yourself through editorial assignments alone as they are hard to come by, especially in the early stage of your career. That is why I have two separate websites: one for reportage and editorial, the other for commercial work. I’ll eventually combine the two.
Q3 : Your website/portfolio is pretty amazing, do you think it reflects well on your vision/philosophy of photography? How long did it take you to create that website, did you get help from a webmaster?
Yes, I think my websites reflect my vision pretty well and they are very important as my primary marketing tool. Sometimes editors and PR reps will find me through Google search or referral, and the first thing they see is my website. You want to keep your portfolio fresh and make your website easy to navigate. You want to learn about keywords and search engine optimization.
There are many portfolio services including Format, Livebooks and Squarespace, which will help you build a clean and easy-to-navigate website at a monthly or annual fee. I wanted a more affordable option and went with a separate hosting service, a domain name and WordPress. It took me maybe a week of trial and errors to figure things out. At first it can be challenging, but there are many Web tutorials, and you don’t have to delve into coding too much.