As freelance photojournalists, we have the luxury of being able to shoot the stories we want. This can be overwhelming or intimidating. We don’t have a media company behind us with an editor to send us an assignment. If you’re in a smaller city, you may have the desire to travel to get to a bigger story. A large city also means more competition, so your competitive advantage may be to stay where you are and shoot locally, but think globally.
One example of this is the global pandemic. We started to see photographs of empty streets from big cities worldwide. Making a photo of an empty street in a small town is not as interesting as Times Square. Other photos contribute to the larger story and are available locally. These include, but are not limited to:
- Long lines at grocery stores
- Empty store shelves
- People in masks
- 6 feet apart & mask required signs
- Discarded masks
Imagery like that has a universal theme and is not location-specific. These examples of photos can be licensed for future articles, documentaries, and textbooks. The challenge for freelance photojournalists is to keep our expenses down. When you compare the cost of traveling to the realistic amount you expect to earn, you may be losing money on your self-assignment. Staying local minimizes that loss and allows you to create unique photographs.
This video from 2011 with veteran photojournalists David Burnett & Ken Jarecke validates the reasons for staying local.