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Your Photojournalism Survival Kit

Lesson 4 of 12

The Importance of Research and Funding

Ron Haviv

Your Photojournalism Survival Kit

Ron Haviv

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Lesson Info

4. The Importance of Research and Funding

Lesson Info

The Importance of Research and Funding

I'm a research, so we have the obvious, which are basically the internet all this media out there always great resource is social media groups, expert uh websites like alert net ice cg international crisis group libraries will go kind of let's go into those sort of one by one. So first of all, obviously it's important just to kind of keep abreast of what's going on in the world on dso using these are just examples of of a few different places, I think it's important to look at places like the wire services like ap or reuters new york times, wall street journal editorial pages obviously have different editorial slants that's important also look what is going on on the left what's coming on the center what's coming on the right and then also it's really important given also how many languages that you can speak and read to try to broaden your horizons so what's the bbc saying what's the guardian, saying, dear spiegel, incredible news magazine in germany has an english edition these are r...

eally important to kind of understand because you know your photography, even if it's just going onto your website is being viewed by the world, so you want to understand how the world is thinking and how your work is going to play a role in the world so I think starting to kind of look at things like that is really helpful then so many people get ideas you read a piece in the new york times and so obviously new york times is doing a story about x so not saying go off and repeat the same story the new york times is doing but there might be ah paragraph there might be a quote there might be a sentence and they're like, oh, wait this is like super interesting or maybe it's like a really small story so from myself going way back going back again to yugoslavia I read before the war started I read a really small story in the new york times like on page there were pages back then you know that these pieces of paper that actually had words but I read this small story about this place called yugoslavia that people thought things were not going as well as they could be in nobody really knew what was gonna happen was like, oh wow that's really interesting. Let me do some more research and kind of figure that out and within a few weeks after reading that story off I went and then spent much of my life over the next ten years covering that story so there could be things like little bits and pieces so it's very helpful to kind of read everything from your local newspaper which often has amazing stories to the bigger, bigger publications like this to kind of start to help you understand get ideas start doing research and you know thiss persons the expert on ptsd is person is an expert on social security this person's a community worker you can also start to build up people that you're going to know that you have to talk to for your version of that story just something to always know that it's there and of course because it's all online if there's no excuse not not to do it and of course the obvious you know google and others for research and so on but there's so much information you have to understand how to use it how to use these news organizations and the internet to benefit your ability to research rather than overwhelming then also like going online like facebook for instance is an amazing resource because so many places have dedicated pages so refugees international unicef all the different places and again the same sort of concept that within all these little conversations all these little announcements that's on there could be something that sparks an idea that could be some some something that you want to follow up or that could be really great research and research of course is also about contacts understanding who do you talk to you so come not only contacts for funding but contacts for people to give you access because without access you know what we're going to do, so you need to be able to like the more than you understand about stories and more that you're able to kind of present yourself this be part of the pitch letter idea as well that you understand what you're doing them or that not only will it help you sell the story, but it's also going to help you get access to people because they know you know what you're talking about too many times photographers just show up on stories and they're there to like take photographs but they actually don't know the story you don't know what they're talking about and if you don't know what you're talking about it's going to affect your photography, you can be a great person that could walk into any room and come out with an amazing visual image that's one thing but to come out with the visual image that striking that also has powerful content behind it, that means something to this story that you're doing there not a lot of people doing that that's that's like a whole other level. So this is a group called international crisis group and there are a number of places like this where you could sign up they send you every week you get an email with saint like so what's happening in america this is what's happening in haiti what's happening in russia and these were written by basically they're not written for journalists are written for policymakers written for for other think tanks and there amazing story ideas and things to kind of jump off from from places like that super super simple this is alert net, which is founded by thompson reuters s o basically it's not reuters the normal reuters website it's a little bit more specialized things that are going on in the world and they have a whole section here where you can actually link to ngos who will write about this is what's happening in burundi today to our operations or this was happening in flint, michigan today and things like that so all of a sudden you're getting content, you're getting an easy place to go super simple everything kind of condensed you can start to also do more research based on that and then for those of you that have relationship for the university's, maybe you were student in the university is still close. University libraries are incredibly helpful and especially librarians my brains can be great research. This is where you can say like, I want to study everything about, um, water contamination in america from nineteen, ninety three today because he wanted to research about doing a story in flint and this person is going to help you, you know, all son, you have somebody actually working with you and actually working for free because that's that person's job and really helping you start to get more information and again a guy like comebacks this idea of the more that you know about this story that you're covering will help you sell it and we'll help you photograph it better and you know, this is this is just really so incredibly important for four photographers because for so long so many of us just relying just on like you know what's in front of us what see image and now because of going back to the idea of the multi platform there's so many other things involved, right? So all of a sudden now especially if you're doing things on your own if you have to do interviews where you just not like you're not just saying hey, can you let me into that factory where you have to now go and talk to the factory worker or talk to the management of the plant? They're only they're going to talk to you if you know what you're talking about and the more that you talk with them, the more ideas you're going tohave for for your photography we'll talk about a little bit about that with my mapping in a bit so you're talking about about doing all this research but how is it with a world full of conflicts and possible topics how do you choose where to travel and create these days that that's a really good question and I think it goes back to the heart of what are you guys? Photographers? Because you're passionate about about this you're passionate about storytelling is something that you want to do and the same thing is like when you bear down to the actual choices that you make it's like go with things that you really care about that you really want to talk about and that's for me is like one of the first things like what's important to me now what do I want to say? How do I want to say it and what kind of impact don't wanna have that's like overall the first thing? But then he also have to do, and we'll talk about this in a bit as well the reality of the business aspect of it, how am I going to support it? How am I going to fund it? Um I going to lose money? How long will I lose money for all these other things? So these things also start to become important factors, but the first thing is for like, you should be thinking about things that you really want to do, stories that you really want to tell and they don't have to be across the ocean, they can be across the street I mean, the beauty about photography is that no matter where you are in the world her great stories to tell because what are you doing? You're telling the story off the world around you and everybody has something interesting to say something's obviously be more interesting for certain people than others and that will be part of your job is photographer we'll talk a little bit about that about you where do you place it how do you pitch it song but you know you really this is at least for me this is not a it's not a nine to five job is not something you know you want to make enough money to survive and live to find support your family but there's certainly better ways to make more money so you're doing this because you care about this and you're passionate about it and that's something that has to kind of carry you through throughout throughout your career in order to be doing this and so you know for myself now having done this now for twenty six years um you know, I still feel very passionate about about telling stories and seeing that there can be impact in various different ways and I think that's the power of photography and and what we could do so these were things like when you're making these choices about where you're going to do you have to kind of balance all of these different things together so we'll talk a little bit about funding now so these are just some of the basic kind of thing that's aside from the obvious, which is getting a publication or media house to support you other place that we could look for money are grant our grants we find some of that stuff to the foundation center there's crowdfunding, which was popular for a long time well less so now self publication using items, places like blurb or mad cloud and this idea of like selling a partial story and trying to market it that way let's first talk about the foundation center so foundation center is kind of this and I'm reluctant to tell you all about it, but since here is public here's the secret so the foundation center is this website it's also like a physical structure in new york, but basically this is great this is really great asset in which you can see all the different grants uh that support projects about domestic violence or the environment or so and so you can basically plug in keywords and all these grants come up. And now what's really amazing is that both in the negative and positive way most of the grants don't talk about photography because most grants are about for writing primarily for writing, but many of these places if you actually speak to him to make him a proposal or a proposal with it has writing and visual elements visual storytelling we're like god, they don't even think about like wow that's a really great a great idea so what's amazing about this versace the gene smith grant and the alicia patterson and all these other amazing grant the getty grant the magnum foundation there's all this amazing support for photographers but you're competing with every photographer in the world so while you should absolutely apply for any of those grants here when you find something you're probably not going to be competing with a lot of other photographer. So your application your foundation, your foundation grant your your idea will stand out in a very different way so it's really it can be a very valuable resource uh to look at uh and can help you kind of understand like who's supporting who's supporting what and then something that's kind of sort of gone up and down his idea of crowdfunding so could even lows and how listen it is a nor photographer founder of nor it's a similar agency like seven sort of few years after we did and he had this great project called via panna and basically he got both as you can see on the bottom got funding from various bigger groups but when he started he basically was crowdsourcing saying I need money to go off and do the story about the pan am highway and all this all these different aspects there and he went to the public and he said, if you give me five dollars, I'll send you a recap, I'll send you a digital magazine and so on he was able to fund ah, huge part this project and then create and then create a book, and then with the book, he did something that's becoming very important and very common with photographers. Izzy basically pre selling the book, so before you actually even go and produce the book, you get a budget, you know how much the book is going to cost? We'll talk about that in a second, and then basically you go to the crowd and you say like, okay, if you give me fifty dollars, you get a book if you give me one hundred dollars to get a book in a print and so on and photographers are before they even write the check to the printer or to blur birds, whoever they're going to do the book with already like in the black, they've already like they know how much they've already presold, and they paid for the production. Hopefully they're like making a profit. And so this is becoming like a vory normal way of working even if you're working with traditional publishers because more and more unfortunately, more mortar crucial publishers that air producing photography books like aperture and like others are still going to ask photographer uh, to help fund the production of the book. And so this kind of idea of kind of reaching out to you right there goes back again to what we were speaking about earlier building up your social media because these are going to be your supporters, people that like your photography that like, what you're doing, maybe they'll be willing to say, hey, I'll give you ten bucks for this because I'm getting something cool in return I'm part of a project, so this is becoming a lot of people are doing this eugene richards, through this very successfully peter turnley he's done this a number of times you two photographers very well known photographer. So yes, without question, the more well known you are, it can be easier, but it is not at all limited to that because they're photographers that none of us here of her of that have gotten the right idea, learned how to market it to the right people or had strong social, uh, networks, and were able to get their books, get their books done. Then there are also people that are doing magazine zines. Zines are incredibly popular, so both blurb and mad cloud our two great ways to do beautiful, well printed magazine so david, beautiful photographer based in los angeles, wanted to do a magazine on on what was happening in ferguson so he did a kickstarter campaign so it's kind of hard to see here, but basically he got thirty seven backers to pledge five thousand two hundred twenty seven dollars to produce to produce the magazine, the magazine I was actually printed on under man, so he pre sold he got support to do this. He came out with this sixty four page scene about something you know, incredibly important the time of ferguson through through social media, uh, basically through social media and through kickstarter. So kickstarter, a lot of people are again pre selling books, pre selling ideas this's still a very viable way to do things, and this idea of the magazine where it's super not as expensive, obviously is doing a full off offset book. But still the printing is incredible and allows you to have something tangible, which still most photographers love to actually have to have a book in hand. So if that's something you're interested interested in doing, there are really like a whole variety of different ways to be able to do that. So I did. I worked with blurb, and I also did a magazine I did a catalogue from my last exhibition called testimony same sort of thing it's very simple you laid out your software, worked with the designer, you upload it and basically blurb tells you ok magazine costs for I think it was probably for a forty page magazine it costs ten dollars and then I was able to say ok, I'm going to sell the magazine for eighteen dollars so's a mark up of the dollars I direct people to the blurb site blurbs ships it out they send me every time a magazine sells they send me the prophet and that was it and then if I wanted to print things for myself I buy them for the cost and that can use that for marketing I can use that to sell in person at book signings and so on uh and it's kind of amazing but still not a lot of photographers are taking advantage of this and it's like a really great way to kind of, you know, get your work out there both in terms of online but also like when you're meeting editors and so on. So actually tonight edited this magazine about sevens work on the refugee crisis so we were doing something we were doing a talk a tufts university a couple months ago we said ok let's quickly let's quickly get a maggot magazine together we asked a very young designer who wanted a chance toe work with us we gave him a young designer feet and uh hey created this great magazine and we have this we had this thing and so this is something you know that is incredibly I think powerful toe have something especially in times when we're looking at everything online but of course it also lives online but also lives physically but these are things that you can do like there's no upfront costs with mad cloud with blurb you can do it you just upload it and if it sells you make a profit and you have something is for marketing and you have something that's a statement about a project that you want and if you have the ability and we're not gonna go into marketing in this class but if you have the ability to market then it can really have a lot of impact and you show you piece from from my latest book lost roles and quick quick thing from that wait wait wait so this is basically I mean very simple concept for various reasons over the course of last twenty five years I didn't develop over two hundred rolls of film so don't do that it's not a course on how to make stupid mistakes like that but anyway I want to put all this film and at some point I was like really should try to do something with this film and at that point I met dan milner who's, a photographer large from blurb and he was saying, oh, you should come and like see see what we're doing a blurb because I knew only at that point blurb was doing books but they weren't the best quality and they were fine for normal people were not really great for photographers he said no no we've all the machines everything is like we've gone a whole other level I mean the books are impeccable so come and come and do your project with us so I said okay and and we and I went there and we did an offset book and we did a magazine version of the book and the question earlier about about books and stuff is that we're now again like the multi platform thing we have all of these different tools now to be able to create work and so now you have if you wanted to do a book you have the ability to go picture book to a traditional publisher like a powerhouse or steidle or fighting but you also have the ability now to do it to do it on your own and you also have the ability now so either you can do offset printing which means that you are printing in a traditional way you're producing large quantities but probably all five hundred and up at the same times your costs are lower or you doing like what were talking about earlier with the magazine's doing kind of a print on demand thing where the cost per piece or higher but there's no investment necessary and so this book lost rolls came out in november, and now, basically, every week since then, I'm getting another review. Yesterday, the washington post did a piece on it and other abc news and other people, so basically, even though it's being printed through a non traditional way, not through a traditional publisher, the book is available on amazon, other places, but it's not being done through a traditional publisher, but it's being treated like a normal book, like if I had done it with a normal publisher, this's, in terms of those of you that want to do books, this is super exciting because there's now no longer because the quality now is the same, if not better, it's actually one of the best printed this my fourth book, is probably the best printed book that I've done, and this means that now all of you have the ability to produce the book, whether offset or print on demand and treat it and market it like if you had done it with with the normal publisher. And one of the secrets about publishing with normal publishers is that for some reason, most of them when it comes to marketing, leave it up to the photographer, which is like this really horrible secret, but in actuality, it's always going to be up to you, so you might as well take complete control of the book and complete access to the profits and do it on your own if you want to do that, it's just really amazing that we now have thes tools to be able to do that, and if you wanted to do it with crucial publishers, you know they're going to be times when you have the right idea and it's the right moment and they'll pay for everything but that's becoming less and less and so understanding that we have all of these different tools available is, I think super exciting for us because it's, just enabling us to be able to to create as much as as one are as little as we want first of all wrong, congratulations on the book it's actually beautiful and it is really exciting all these tools that folks like us you can have and to create our own our own pieces. We have some questions about both research and funding, and again, let me know if you have any questions in the studio on dh so I think you just answered this question, which was do you recommend as prepping a teaser self published book um, that we could present for possible funding as well funding from from who? So for possible funders to show them what they'll be getting in a fully fleshed out format, so making some kind of teaser book it's kind of I think we're okay well, there's like there's two different things there's there's doing the book dummy that you would take to a publisher and say like, this is what I want the book to look like and this is my idea, which can be incredibly helpful or actually backfire because sometimes publishers just want to see the work because they wantto help conceive the idea. So you have to kind of understand the bet sway that you want to present that idea, but if you're going to a funder or or you're going to do a kickstarter campaign or crowdfunding or something that would try and pre sell it having the book dummy having ordered the the layout of the book that's what's going to look like obviously would be incredibly helpful, so people are even more excited about buying the book and supporting supporting the project. Thie kiefer really? So much of this stuff is it's like it's no longer one size fits all you have to really kind of pay attention to exactly like who were you pitching it to? At what point? What does it mean and configuring thing and being configuring it for that person and be incredibly nimble uh to be able to kind of move on a fly that if you go into meeting with five people who could chance of three of those people want a very different presentation and understanding that and not trying to make one size fits all it's a little bit more difficult, but when it works and it really works, thank you for that. We have another great question from tim ball that has a ton of votes. A lot of people want to know when you were talking about working with ngos in terms of them funding project's, can you talk a little bit about how you handle rights for your photos that you've made on this trip? That's been funded by an ngo? Do they? Are you able to license them to editorial clients as well? How does that work that that's a really good question, and this is more and more rights or becoming an issue. Everybody is trying to take our rights, and they wantto some people want to own the work because they wantto be compensated back from the investment they made in the project. Some people just want to own the work because that's, what their lawyer tells evan has nothing to do with you or the people you're talking to, but in reality, they're very big people that actually need to own the copyright of your work, so one of the things that can be helpful is coming up with the idea of it, they really insisting about about rights and copyright is having a shared copyright for certain purposes so often. But not always depending again with actual client especially within the ngo world I would propose to them to share a copyright for their specific use which would be internal use possibly usually everything but advertising who's advertising brings you into another place but something that enables them since they supported the project they paid for it enables them to use the photographs whatever they need to do within within that organization that's usually like that at the very least I would start off and then especially when I'm doing work this idea when you're working for an ngo there's two ways of working for someone is this idea I talked about earlier about raising awareness like we're it's a common issue we want to talk about seventy two huge project about malnutrition and msf it was done in conjunction with them myself so now the idea of malnutrition had a treat it was very important to us at seven very important to doctors without borders so we're working to raise awareness it wasn't about going out and photographing their doctors at work we're going in photographing unicef handing out pencils and books that's a different type of work for ngo so they're two very different things so the raising awareness thing is the idea is then for us because we're going there as journalists treating it ethically journalistically proper way we're not slanting our coverage to benefit the organization even if they're paying for us because that enables us to them put the work out there in the editorial world because we've done it as journalists so in that case we ourselves have the right to syndicate that work if it was done on a job to show them at work wearing blue t shirts and so on then we would never syndicate that work does that work is basically it's ngo work but it's actually corporate is corporate work which puts this puts it into a completely different different sections and that's a really big and very significant significant line but in the concept overall of rights it is incredibly important especially for well for all of us but especially for the younger generation people that are trying to kind of make their impact and often are exchanging rights for exposure or even people clients are coming to a photographer let me use your work for free because ah lot of people are going to see it photographers like oh I really need to be seen in this publication or on this website while I totally understand it and it's a very difficult place to be in the more that that happens the more rights that we give away the more exploitation that we allow to be pushed on to us is going to affect you very quickly when you need to really make a living from photography and because we're all in this together what's happening on all the different stratosphere sze is affecting all of us together. So I really, really hope all of you really pay attention, uh, to the contracts to rights to what people are asking and trying to maintain as firm align as possible, to protect yourselves and to protect your work.

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

Related Classes


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!