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Your Photojournalism Survival Kit

Lesson 10 of 12

What to do When You Arrive

Ron Haviv

Your Photojournalism Survival Kit

Ron Haviv

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Lesson Info

10. What to do When You Arrive

Lesson Info

What to do When You Arrive

Customs forms you know, same kind of idea about with visas some less and less but countries are often asking for you to declare your profession so get the pay attention to that and also declaring whether you have equipment or not generally unless I'm going in with a lot of video equipment, I'm really trying very hard not you not to say let's start listing all the cameras and laptops who's generally accepted at the same time it's really helpful to have something called a karnei and a carny basically you don't need to do an official car neighbor karnei basically is a list of all your gear and all the serial numbers and often what happens in some places machine going from america to another country where the gear is much more expensive they're interested to make sure that you're not selling the gear that you know you're not walking photo shop so often when I've gotten stopped and they're like, oh are you here to sell him like no and I take out the list they're like, okay, fine, you're oka...

y go ahead and if not, what they'll do is take the list and the staple it to your passport will stamp it with the idea that when you leave, somebody will check to make sure that you're leaving with all that gear as many times as I've been stamped going in, I've never been checked going out but showing that you're organizing that you have this paperwork already shows them like okay, that's this person, this person is okay and having the list ahead of time stops you from doing what I've had to do with times which is sitting in the middle of an airport with all my gear around writing down numbers and trying to see the little tiny serial numbers so doing it ahead of time can be, um, you know, super super helpful another thing with customs forms that can kind of like this idea like when you're crossing borders is to kind of understand like what's the situation on the ground so there's, like quick to couple quick stories went to cover a coup in panama bunch of journalists get off the plane, we're all wearing scarves, we're all wearing black and they're all like you. You you you you you're all under arrest, come over here, sit here, wait while we try to figure out what you're doing, we're looking through a big window, another flight lands we see a friend of ours walking through customs, carrying a surfboard, wearing a hawaiian shirt and flip flops and they're like, what are you doing here? And he said, oh, I'm here to surf the like, oh, please welcome and so he got a whole day ahead of us while he was he didn't go to sir if you want to take pictures. By the time we got released recently arab spring in egypt they started arresting photographers or people that look like photographers coming through so a friend of mine on many other journalists on the plane they and they decided to basically be a honeymoon couple and they kiss their way through customs so you know kind of paying attention and your ability to kind of get into these places is really important but I will tell one more story about like another person who took this class who went to cover arab spring and he flew from new zealand to cairo landed in cairo in the middle of the night got into a cab to go to his hotel he drove for ten minutes got stopped at a checkpoint uh I got pulled out by by civilians got beaten up and handed over to the army got beaten up and robbed the army then drove him back to the airport put him on and made him buy a plane ticket and deported him and it's like it's idea again of like not doing research, not checking in had he called me or anybody else we would all told them I don't travel at night wait wait until there's daylight and you'll be able to come so it's again understanding what's the situation on the ground has that work is really, really really important, so same thing about, like what's in your passport going back to visas, same thing like what's, obviously the one stamp that you should never have in your passport, no matter what anybody israeli don't have an israeli stamp in your passport. If you go to israel, ask the israelis to stamp. I asked very nicely, but ask them to stamp a separate piece of paper. Why? Because their countries where they won't let you in if you have an israeli stamp and aside for that, there will be lots of problem could be lots of problems in various different places understand also let's say you're going to ukraine and you're going from ukraine to russia could be a problem. So thes things are changing tibet and china different things where indicates where you've been, their place is that don't like each other, and you could actually become, um involved in something that you don't really want to have anything to do with. So you have to be very, very careful about all that often, like if there was a play, if there's a thing like I'm worried about in terms of getting in out of the country in terms of customs at the airport, hiring a baggage handler can be super helpful. The baggage handlers know everybody at the airport and those guys want this guy to make money so they let him go back and forth, so if he takes you in your baggage out, he often gets waved through that sometimes you would get stopped obviously don't travel with any weapons, nothing creator than a leather man but really don't travel with weapons once you start traveling with a weapon, you cross the line into a whole other whole other place um, stay in a hotel is obviously a key a key thing is about your security it's about communication? Um, I think that while you shouldn't stay at a four seasons hotel, you know, it's been five hundred dollars a night if you're if you're really doing this is a business there's no point in staying and working. I'm living in a hostel with like a bunch of teenagers like spend a little bit more money, especially if you're a woman you want to stay in someplace secure, you want a place that has wifi wanted places easily reachable that in security or so on super super, super important same thing with cars it's like try to rent if you can from the major organisations because you know the vehicles are going to be in good shape might be another twenty dollars a day, but in the end you'd rather have a car that works and have infrastructure that would take care of you if it doesn't work rather than trying to save, uh, save some money then again, back's a little fix her and driver thing really pay attention to who you're hiring and also be really careful, especially in terms of them being a driver. So a couple of years ago to photographer retired very well known driver in pakistan, they were driving from one place the other the driver really wanted to get going was really anxious to make sure everything worked didn't get enough sleep trove driving like a major highway guy felt falls asleep, flips the car, the driver's killed two photographers are hurt really badly. So it's again, it's like these air really important things, like make sure that you guys were on the same wavelength with these people because they really want to help they're they're they're working for you, but you have to make sure that they're getting enough sleep. They're getting enough food. All of those things are are super super important walking around with gear same kind of thing like understanding like how do people react to journalism and and photographers? They're places where it doesn't matter all other places where it's going to be super important like so covering covering the drug war in juarez was a place like following the directions of of the local photographers we show up somewhere our cameras on the backpack take our cameras out, we take pictures, get back in the car and were gone within five minutes because everybody I was so scared of the cartel's. So talking to locals talking to your fixer, understanding all that super super important press credentials a lot of people ask about getting press credentials. So certain cities in america issue press credentials certain countries like the u k in france, france issue press credentials if you're unable to get like an official government sanctioned press credential. It's very easy to to make your own press credential, which basically says you don't lie just says, I'm a work photographer. This is my name, so and so on, one of the keys to credentials is lamination, so the harder the plastic and the more stamps on it totally like can be amazing. You show to people and they're like, great, you've got something from somebody I don't know who it is, but that means I'm not responsible because don't forget access is really key, so often, like these little cards can be really amazing again don't lie on it, but you have every right to say that you're working photographer you are and it's really important to make sure you pay attention to the expiration date. So covering the war between georgia and russia I was with a photographer from the times michael robinson chavez and chris hondros from getty and we're driving down the street and we see these russian soldiers who had just invaded the country off trying to fix their tank so I get we all get out of car to go photograph them and were photographing them and officer comes up and says, can I see your credentials? Michael shows times karan shal guy goes okay, fine chris shows is getting torrential fine. I show my credential the guy looks out and goes I'm sorry this credentials expired you have to go back to the car so you guys get that right? A guy who just invaded a country is telling me that my new york city press credential is not valid during this invasion anyway, it's just good to make sure that you have the right date currency exchange used to be like you would go to the black market it's becoming less and less necessary obviously with eight teams but there are still times when you need to do that. If you need to do that, make sure either your fixer or somebody that you know does that so you avoid being robbed who ripped off for getting a bunch of newspapers like I did in china a couple years ago which was not super helpful

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!