There are two fundamental ways in which buyers obtain use rights to photographs. One is to license an image that has already been taken - either through a stock library or directly from a photographer. The other is to assign a photographer to do a shoot. Assignment photography is the primary income stream for many professional photographers.
Assignments tend to fall into one of three main categories: editorial assignments, commercial assignments and retail assignments. We also added a section on multimedia assignments and one on NGO assignments which tend to fall between editorial and commercial. In this chapter we want to expose you to photographers who are doing each of these assignment types.
Editorial assignments are those carried out for the purposes of producing pictures for editorial use, usually published in magazines, newspapers, web sites or even broadcast. For this reason they are primarily concerned with capturing a verifiable story that communicates an issue, event or reality to serve the purposes of education and information. For this reason editorial assignments tend to require the expertise and approach of journalism and so carry with them particular responsibilities not inherent in other assignments.
NGO assignments tend to fall between editorial and commercial assignments. They are usually required to be carried out in an editorial fashion using the ethics of editorial photojournalism, yet they are not purely editorial and can place the photographer in a difficult place of having to tell the story as the client wants it told, particularly when the reality on the ground differs significantly from the image the NGO wants to present.
Commercial assignments are carried out for the purposes of producing images for commercial use. Commercial use may vary considerably in its requirements from photography of products requiring absolute faithfulness to colour rendition and style, such as in some fashion catalogues, through to advertising shoots and stock shoots intended to communicate an idea and therefore invention and creativity are highly valued.
Retail assignments are assignments carried out to produce images for private use. These might be for weddings, coming of age ceremonies, birthdays, graduations and even funerals. Pleasing the client is the primary ethic of such assignments.
Multimedia assignments could be reflected under each of the above categories. However, it is a specific enough deliverable to merit treatment on its own.