Designer Ron Reason, and old Poynter friend, recently posted an item on his blog about things never to say to a photojournalist. Ron and PJ Jedi Kenny Irby, in an effort to gain/earn more respect in newsrooms for editorial designers, artists, and photographers, decided to have a little fun and started asking friends and colleagues in the business of their biggest “Uh… groan,” moments.

photojournalist working


The list includes such old chestnuts as:

2. “And this is my photographer…”

4. “All we need is a head shot.”

12. “No, you can’t come on the interview. The subject will never open up with a photographer around.”

And more.


That got me thinking. What’s missing from the list?

So here’s my amendments:




1. “Don’t use any tricks or get creative like you guys like to do.”

2. “Everything already happened so we’re asking him to do this.” or when I show up and talk to the subject, “wait, so the reporter asked you to do this for me? When do you normally do it?”

3. “The reporter said you’d just take one picture in about 5 min.”

4. The worst is when everything in the story has already happened, and it’s a great story that you know you could have turned into a nice photo package, but no one communicated to the photo department.

5. Being treated more like a in house photo service rather than journalist and collaborators.

6. “Could you stand right here and get this, this and this all in focus at 9pm… oh, you say you need some lights to do that… oh, we should have talked earlier so you could have planned… oh…”

7. “Can I see it… ooo, she’s not smiling right.” Thanks, now the subject is self-conscious, uncomfortable and doubting me.

8. “This marathon photo of the 30 people running, what’s their names?”

9. “Here hold this up and smile… okay, you can take the picture now.”

10. Get to a shoot, “But the reporter said you weren’t going to a take my picture, just my stuff and home.”

11. “What’s all this ’empty’ space for?”

12. “Let’s just crop this one down to his face.”

13. “The headline would look great over this picture.”

14. “Why isn’t the man who just lost his daughter in a car accident not crying in this pic?”

15. “Turns out we’re killing the story because of some factual errors in the copy.”



But the absolute worst is, as stated already, “my photographer” not even a name, just “Here’s my photographer, he’ll take your picture now.”

That all said, I must say there are some good ones out there and some of my best work has come from building strong collaborative relationships with reporters.

We end up liking to work as a team, we both produce stronger packages for better play, we share the reporting and news gathering, and we respect each other.

When I was at the San Antonio Express-News I worked with Vince Davis a ton and at one point he and I worked it out with editors to where we could have half a Tuesday every week to just go out and work on whatever we wanted together. We ended up producing many weekend center pieces together a found a few long term projects to collaborate on as well. It was a great working relationship that was #winning (yeah, I just did that) for both of us and the paper.

So hint hint, go ask your favorite photographer out for coffee and talk about ideas you have and they have and see what you can do.

And if you’re freelance independent like moi and have an idea you’d like to develop, or a project in mind, get in touch!

Have your own suggestions for the ever growing list? Add your thoughts in the comment box below!