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Your Photojournalism Survival Kit

Lesson 8 of 12

How To Use the Pitch Letter Template

Ron Haviv

Your Photojournalism Survival Kit

Ron Haviv

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Lesson Info

8. How To Use the Pitch Letter Template

Lesson Info

How To Use the Pitch Letter Template

This is the initial shorts short pitch. This is, uh, a pitch that I did for espn magazine. Um, on a story about high school football in juarez. I wanted to talk about the drug war, but I was looking for another way to do it instead of just dead bodies in the streets. And I was looking to reach the american audience and I found this football team, uh, who were attacked by a drug cartel at a birthday party. Several players died, and then the coach was trying to keep the team together, and so I pitched you to magazines. I pitched people because it's a story people story, a story about a person, people story about the coach and being kind of a father and people in the end thought didn't really play for their audience. And then because they were playing football, I said, why not let me picture to espn and espn is like, oh, this is great and they came back to me and said, yeah, it's a great story we want to know more and then I found a colleague who had done work with before I said, hey, wou...

ld you wanted a story with me and we researched it together and we wrote this pitch and then basically here now you start to see statistics, some familiarity with it with what's going on we called the coach we got some quotes from him and then basically kind of talking about it and in the end it's like here's like you know the final like conclusion there's a great story here about the transformational power of sports and personal focus and discipline despite the odds all helped along by a committed adultery wants to through his own example make the world a better place the story while not a profile gay goes who's the coach would be a profile of the whole team in a city that's beset by compelling reasons not to pursue athletic achievement at all so while why it makes sense too espn because of sports strong character the team talking about the drug war and saw it and they would like us is great and so there was a six page photo I say and then I also did a film er as well for espn and so it's again kind of like little bit thinking outside the box not in terms of the way that I did this story but in terms of approaching a client with a story that they normally wouldn't do and then also, you know, writing a pitch letter that had that hook that immediately made sense them and of course then it was timing that made sense uh for espn to know they had a place in in an issue that made sense to run that story so it's again kind of like doing a story about the drug war and reaching the audience for me, which was very important to reach the american audience and reaching it with people that are reading about sports that in a lot of cases don't really care about about the drug war way have some great questions that have that are all cued up ah lot of questions about pitching the same story, teo multiple magazines at the same time and that like exclusivity. So can you pitch multiple and see who comes back first or do you have to do it one at a time? No it's really up to you on how you want to do it? If you're going to do multiple people at the same time, then don't say I'm giving you this exclusive pitch say I'm pitching you just be straight up. This has gone out to a bunch of magazines I think you guys are one of the magazines that would make sense for it and I'm waiting to hear whoever here back first from I'm going to go with I think for so many things, as long as you're like straight up honest and straightforward, you're not going you can't be criticized, so I think just kind of doing it that way makes him so if you feel like you want to wait around or you're not that concerned about being exclusive to this magazine or that magazine just say like I'm pitching this to a number of people and it's happening next week or I'm starting shooting next week and I need answer by you know, by x and I think that that's a very fair, fair way to do it now can you sell that same story to multiple outlets? It will depend uh first on the contract that you sell so you sign so a lot of magazines are part of putting in these embargoes often the minimum embargo now seems to be about thirty days, but now they're a lot of publications are switching to ninety days, meaning that you are welcome to syndicate the story and sell to others but you can't do it for three months after date of publication now it's a big difference then after you finish shooting it because you can shoot something today headed in and it might not run until april so you can't go off and start selling that story today you have to you can sell it, but they can't be published until three months after able so until july nobody else can publish it that's what the contract says so understand that part and then also understand that chances are in a lot of markets if a major publication runs that story, nobody else in that market will want to run it because it's already been run but even though the world is becoming more condensed now because of the web and so on, there are still places where you can sell a story in america and then sell it in germany and cell in italy and sell in china sold in korea selatan france that's still a very viable way that photographers can make can make money but that's becoming less and less as people are putting things on the web because the web obviously is accessible everywhere it's damaging what used to be traditionally an exclusive market when you can only see things in print but these are conversations for youto have with the editor what kind of a story what what does the contract say? And then when you're talking about selling the story after the initial assignment then people gonna askyou where has it been published? New york times magazine published it and some people were like okay that's fine with us and people like now or time published it but it was published both in time america and time international and they were like no, sorry it's already been published and it could some people could just be a language thing it hasn't been printed any german speaking publication then for them it's brennan really? It really depends now there there are no set rules, so you have to constantly kind of figure this out and understand sounds like like you said, I really appreciate you saying, just to be totally up front with everything, especially if you're still new and you have, you know, questions that you're not sure how it all works really, actually, and now at all times because of these contracts, because things are constantly changing you really actually I have to do it. Seven has to do it doesn't matter who you are like, what are the rules were and there times where people are working off a different rules on what the contract says, maybe have a relationship that has earned will protect you, or maybe they'll be fired the next day, and then all of a sudden you're in trouble. So these are things that you have to kind of decide and understand on your own it it can be complicated. We have some questions about going back to the actual pitch letter itself. You talked about two different part one and part two, kind of a shorter and then getting more in depth are those two different emails say, and is there a certain amount of time in between those or or how does that work? Well, generally what I do, it's, a short it's, a short letter that goes out, you know, to gate to gauge in just to get a reaction. And people hopefully if you've written that well understand what the story's about why it makes sense for them they'll come back go that that sounds really interesting hopefully that will happen rather quickly please tell me more and then he spend the time and you send out the bigger the bigger pitch I think just sending out the bigger pitch I'm sure some people do this but I think setting sitting out like that second email with just cold people just like I don't have time to read this it's like it doesn't it just doesn't make sense so you want to you want to hook them in the hook command was something that they can immediately digest they can walk into a meeting with other other editors and tech centers hey and basically forbade him read that paragraph that everybody gets that makes it easier for them as well thank you so this question is interesting would love to hear your thoughts about how to balance pitching a story and a concept but protecting your idea from being used by that publication without your involvement does that happen? Yes I mentioned earlier if it does happen although it is infrequent and in the world that we live in you can't copyright ideas so there is a mountain there is an amount of trust that you have to give when you're putting out you know your brilliant idea and you have to understand who you're talking to and as I said before you can be to some degree a little bit cryptic or oblique but not to the point where it's like somewhere in the americas there's a small town that's probably not gonna fly you have to you're gonna have to trust a little bit but there are times and I don't think it's related to just taking advantage of young photographers I think it happens across the board that people's ideas get taken and there times where you know like your idea is a good idea but you know you have the same idea and you pitched it last week and I pictured today the magazine said yes to you and then it comes out and I'm just like what happened and you have to just say like you know these were things that happened the cost cost of doing business but hopefully you know when you have a good idea you'll find the right home for that for that story we have another question from cc chapman again who is one of our former instructors so if you find yourself in the middle of happening events and you're taking the photos how do you then recommend letting editors and publications no sort of I guess if it's in real time but you don't maybe have that established relationship that's a good question actually that add something to this so one hopefully you're starting to establish relationships there are starting to become also some aps and software programs that are allowing you to interact with the editors and tell editors where you are so there's one called blink, which is free two great up many photographers and many agencies are on it and it will basically allow editors who let's say they know that you're doing news breaking news you're here in seattle, something happens and it was like, oh, I need a photographer in seattle so they might call people they already know or they might just want to see who's in seattle so I'm blink a map will appear and your little blinking dot will appear you're in seattle will be a link to your website to your phone uh portfolio bio so on and that photographers are also getting worked like that but which is starting to become I think, somewhat successful I highly recommend joining that it's free, but also you have to keep working on building your relationships with clients and so one of the things also because the pitch letter is not gonna work most of the time but what you really want and you really hope is that after that first that first query that short one another will come back to you and say thank you so much for thinking of us doesn't really make sense for us or doesn't really work or whatever but keep us in mind for further projects you've now established relationship with that editor you have they responded to you you could send them again a picture letter a few weeks later hey here's another idea have you remember you told me to contact you and you do that multiple times and you start to build up uh that's one of the ways to start to build up your contact list so just another note that a lot of these resources that you're talking about are included in the class when you do purchase it that's an extensive list and length and such a of all of these resource is I do have another one more great question from greg pulsipher who is how many pitches air stories are you circulating working on at any given time throughout the year? How many companies stories nothing trying to so you're have out there any particular time probably not as much as I should be, but I think it sze incredibly important teo to have a lot of balls in the air because so few of them are going to get caught so you want to constantly be throwing out ideas on dh and working on stuff on your own also you know kind of this old adage where you know when you're when you're busy people come to you so even when you're just working on your own stuff kind of seems to create some sort of magical energy so keeping working on your own stuff pitching that pitching stories that have that you're looking specifically for support and engaging in having this conversation. So if you send out that short pitch letter to twenty people, hopefully to be totally realistic, hopefully in today's world, it would be great if you got a response from five people. I got a response from five people, and you begin that relationship that's. Awesome. And then you can pick some of the other stuff, and then you do it again. And five different people respond, and so on. But you have to constantly be working, keeping busy, working on your social media. All these things are all coming together, too kind of you to get you work to get you out there to get get you some traction succeeding.

Class Description

Capturing a story on film is a complex process. It demands an understanding of the issue at hand as well as the ability to condense, package, and pitch the story to a distributor. Successful photojournalists make a job of nailing down the details before a shoot and being prepared for anything.

In Your Photojournalism Survival Kit, Ron Haviv brings two decades of experience in building a photojournalism career on carefully laid groundwork. 

In this course, you’ll learn:

  • How to identify a captivating story and organize a plan for shooting it 
  • How to create a budget and a pitch letter
  • How to plan for any eventuality during the shoot, and cope with setbacks when they strike
Ron Haviv draws on his long career for anecdotes and suggestions for aspiring photographers. He’ll teach you that your assignment starts before you leave your house; planning, packing and preparing for even the best-laid plans to go awry is essential. You’ll learn tricks for assessing your preparedness, safety, and support while on assignment in the field.

Your Photojournalism Survival Kit is crucial for beginners, and for current photojournalists who may need to brush up on their checklists. Learn from Ron Haviv’s early-career mistakes, and lay the foundations of your own successful, impactful enterprise in visual storytelling.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Budget and Invoice Template

Medical Kit Supplies

Resource Guide

Resources Mentioned In Class

Workshop Print Sale

Pitch Letter Template

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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KAren OLlis

Thank you Ron and Creative Live for the thoughtful and expansive course. Even for a pro, the information was often enlightening and definitely inspirational. The best way to learn is from a seasoned professional who knows how to teach in an organized manner. Appreciate the support materials as well. Will be out shooting stories no doubt! All the best, Karen Ollis, Karen Ollis Photo

Connie Kennedy

Ron Haviv presents his generous insights and experience in a wonderfully paced and very clearly delivered manner. Combine him with the Creative Live platform and you have a magical educational experience. I'm so grateful to attend this course. I wish I had heard a presentation like this years back; it would have spared me some mistakes. If you're sitting on the fence buy this course. Tap into his wisdom. Enjoy.


I've been a following Ron Haviv for years. Love his expressions in delivering explanations. It's amazing to see and hear from the photographer behind the photos. Well structured course. Having Kenna's facilitation makes this workshop so worth watching. Thank you creativeLive for this great sensory experience!