May 21 2009

Photojournalism at war: how do you do it (and pay for it) in the new media market?

danfungdennis_rollingstoneDanfung Dennis is a brilliant young war photographer who has had his stunning work splashed across the front pages of papers like the New York and London Times and top magazines like Newsweek. But he wants to know how to do his job.

How do you combine stills, video and audio work in the midst of a dangerous conflict situation and secure the kind of quality imagery that will capture both the story and the headlines? And how does a freelancer  make it pay in a world where clever new equipment is leveling the skills playing field?

This guest blog by Danfung, who spoke at Polis last year, explores the opportunities and challenges of conflict photojournalism today.

Photojournalism at war: a battle for survival?

By Danfung Dennis

The barriers of entry have dropped considerably in the journalism industry. Canon’s EOS 5D Mark II released  a few months ago  is changing  the industry by allowing high resolution still photos and high  definition video to be captured on the same device, at a price that most freelancers can afford. It allows professional lenses to shoot video at the high qualities that only feature films once had budgets for. The low light capabilities are unprecedented.

 I recently had video of a night raid in Afghanistan published on a newspaper website, and a frame grab extracted from that same video published as a full page still image in the paper, which demonstrates  the convergence between still and video content. (They paid a day rate of stills only, claiming it was the same content, and even then the rate was reduced due to budget constraints).  

00028030With magazines and newspapers on the decline and slashing their budgets, freelancers have been the first to feel the hit. The pressure for freelancers to produce more content to stay viable is strong. For  example, John D McHugh was commissioned by the Guardian to do a six month embed with the US military to write a blog, shoot still pictures  and produce video multimedia. The ability to produce multiple forms of content, deliver  it by satellite modem from the field, at higher qualities than ever  before at a fraction of the cost, combined with the evolving channels  of distribution online, is changing media landscape rapidly.

I am returning to Afghanistan this week to experiment with this model. I will be embedded with US forces in the Korengal Valley and hope to  shoot HD video and stills, edit and produce a pieces on my macbook, encode for broadcast, web, iphone and video podcast platforms,  transmit by satellite to my website and update my RSS feed, twitter,  facebook, vimeo and blog platforms with regular video dispatches from  the front line.

I posted a preview of my work on civilian casualties turning Afghans  toward the insurgency on my website a few nights ago and had over 5000  hits in the first 24 hours. But my question is, ‘how can I monetize my content and actually make a  living with this networked solo videojournalism model when internet  content is expected to be free, no matter how good or original the  content is?’

This article was written by Danfung Dennis

This entry was posted in International, Journalism, Media, Research and Publications and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Photojournalism at war: how do you do it (and pay for it) in the new media market?

  1. Pingback: Photojournalism in the New Media Market : Videojournalist

  2. Good luck to you with this project Danfung. This is an issue — both the economics of multimedia, and the politics of photojournalism — that I am very much interested in.

    UK media companies are not valuing multimedia the way the should, something that emerged from a recent discussion between John D McHugh and Roger Tooth of the Guardian (see

    Also, like a lot of other photographers you are going on an embed to the location US forces take most image makers. This raises important issues about the sort of story you will be able to tell, and the sort of account of the war we get to see – my post today covers these issues – go to

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  4. Pingback: POLIS: Photojournalism at war | DAILYMAIL

  5. Pingback: Profissão Repórter Fotográfico «

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