Michael Reigner is the commissions and features editor at Panos Pictures
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The Independent Online

Why you should consider photography

Despite ever-increasing competition from the growing numbers of talented photography graduates, a photography career still offers a fascinating, creative, artistic and highly diverse working life, unlike any other. It might not be financially rewarding – especially in the editorial sector – but the travelling that sometimes accompanies interesting assignments can make up for it. And while freelance photographers may not have the benefits of a full-time job, they do enjoy the freedom of moving around the world with their work.

What we’re looking for

When commissioning photographers a number of characteristics are essential: technical, artistic and creative ability; journalistic sense; grasp of the subject matter; the ability to arrange difficult shoots; attention to detail; clear captioning; and Photoshop skills.

What this job involves

My responsibilities are many and varied, and include liaising with photographers and clients (such as book publishers, newspapers, magazines and non-profit organisations); commissioning photographers; issuing and chasing invoices for commissioned work; and editing and preparing work shot on commission, ready for submission to the client. I also liaise with partner agencies around Europe and therefore travel regularly to meet clients both there and in America.

How much you could make

This is very difficult to estimate. Our highest earning photographers, who make money predominantly out of stock sales, can earn up to £25,000 per year from us (and bear in mind that most photographers have a number of agencies). Photographers working mainly on commission can make around the same amount, and some of their images will resell after the original commissioning body has published the material. Additionally, many photographers will make a fair amount of money from working directly with their own clients on projects.

Tips from the top

I got this job just by writing to Panos at a time when a job opportunity had luckily just opened up, so speculative applications are certainly worth a go. If you’re interested in getting a foothold in the world of photojournalism it can be very helpful to base yourself in a part of the world where there aren’t very many photographers so that clients will be more likely to commission you to do work, rather than fly in their usual photographers that are based elsewhere. Finally, sign up with a number of different agencies: this can be the key to getting enough work to survive as a freelancer.