Many photographers question the viability of a career in editorial photography these days. Magazines and newspapers especially have been hard hit not only by the economic decline of the past several years but by the shift in media consumption away from print to the web, as well. Ad pages are down, editorial pages are down, budgets are down, and, in many cases, fees are down relative to just five or six years ago.
But I remain optimistic about the general future of the editorial market.
Certainly, the traditional venues for quality photojournalism are pretty dismal — the news magazines are shells of what they once were, publishing minimal material even from those industry stars who once filled their pages. However, other venues are emerging. There are numerous new online “magazines” dedicated to high quality photojournalism and reportage, many organized by photographers themselves. And there are platforms for multimedia and motion work such as Mediastorm that hold tremendous promise for a bright future for dedicated photojournalists.
While traditionally thought of less glamorous or prestigious than their consumer brethren, there are many trade and corporate publications that continue to thrive, and these publications very often have budgets larger than those of the mainstream magazines. Your mother might not gloat quite as much to her friends about your two page spread in Nut & Bolt Review as she would about a 1/4 page picture in People magazine, but your bank won’t care when you deposit the check.
Finally, editorial work remains a wonderful means of introduction to potential corporate clients. I’d wager that 90% of my corporate work through the years has been a direct result of a prior editorial assignment. Entering a company with the backing of a respected magazine helps inspire instant credibility. It also demands responsibility on the part of the photographer to treat the assignment as the number one priority and resist any inclination to turn the visit into a sales call.