I am working on becoming a better editorial photographer. I'm not sure if I'm after "breaking news" but certainly want to focus on events that are local/national news for 1-3 days so I submit my pictures as quickly as possible.

How do editorial photographers work to submit their pictures quickly?

I am starting to develop more and more experience as an editorial photographer and I like to focus on current events around my city. That means that I find myself often submitting pics to Shutterstock from my car or other "mobile" locations to get my pictures approved as quickly as possible.

Right now I do:

  1. Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 saving to RAW+Fine
  2. Connect my iPad to the G7 via the built in WiFi router; I can only download the JPEGs via this method, RAW cannot be done over WiFi
  3. Panasonic ImageApp on my iPad to transfer the images and save them to my iPad camera roll
  4. Use the iPad to review the images and decide which ones I actually want to submit
  5. Send the images to my iPhone via AirDrop
  6. Write all my editorial captions to spec
  7. Submit the images via the Shutterstock Contributor app

It feels like this might be too many steps. So how do professional editorial photographers submit their pictures from the field? Do they submit them to an assistant first and the assistant handles the submissions? I suppose I could cut out the use of the iPhone, it's just easier to write the captions on that platform.

  • Your question is mostly about workflow so what follows really doesn't answer your question. Most editorial photographers shoot on assignment. That is, prior to an event they've already established a relationship with a publishing entity who expects images from them when hard news occurs in their area. Though many news agencies now use stock for a lot of their stories, most of that usage is outside of their coverage of hard news. For that they either use freelancers, wire services, or agencies like Gannett that are set up for hard news. I'm not sure shutterstock is a player in that arena.
    – Michael C
    Jun 2 '20 at 10:17
  • @MichaelC well that's all fine & good and I appreciate the comment. But everyone you describe is still under some sort of time limit that (at some time or another) forces them to send pics from the field. So how do they do it? That's really what I'm after here. Jun 2 '20 at 12:54

Ask seven working photojournalists and you'll get ten different answers. This is because many will alter their workflow depending upon the specific assignment, how time sensitive the subject matter is, and how the image will be distributed (newsprint? magazine? Web? Etc.).

In general, if an assignment is very time sensitive, they'll:

  • Shoot straight to JPEG. That means nailing exposure and composition in a format/aspect ratio their client employer can use when shooting. That's why they are pros.
  • Maybe do some minor cropping or other basic JPEG adjustments in camera and edit the caption or other XMP/IPTC metadata. Top level sports/journalism cameras allow XMP/IPTC information, such as copyright and caption info, to be embedded into the image when shot.
  • Use either Wi-Fi via internal or external Wi-Fi transmitter, the ethernet port that the top end sports/journalism bodies such as the Canon EOS 1-series, the Nikon single digit series, and the Sony α9 series have built in, or the memory card to transfer images to a web connected device and push the images to their client/employer.

If the assignment is not so time sensitive, then they may shoot Raw+JPEG or even Raw only and do more extensive editing (color correction, exposure correction, contrast curves adjustment, etc.) on a laptop or even wait until they're back at the editorial office or at home and edit on a desktop before submitting the images.

In the past there were more numerous instances where there might be assistants either on-site (such as at pro sporting events or political conventions) taking all of a photographer's images, culling them, and deciding which ones to push (send in). Again, the workflow might be one of several methods. The elite agencies could have a van out in the parking lot with ethernet cables running to multiple shooters sending their images to the photo editor in the van via ethernet ports in almost real time. Or they may have had runners transferring memory cards from the shooter to an editor in the stadium's media center. By the time Wi-Fi got really going well enough to eliminate the wired connections or card runners, the budgets of most news agencies had been cut to the bone and very few events had more than perhaps a single shooter per agency feeding an editor back at the office via a laptop on the sidelines between plays or during TV timeouts. There are still a handful of major events, such as the Super Bowl or Olympics, where an editor will be onsite to assist several photographers all shooting for the same agency but the practice is becoming increasingly rare.

Often the "best" images are not the ones that are used the most, but the "first" images aren't necessarily the ones used the most either.¹ There are a lot of variables at play here. Different news distributors have different arrangements with various photo agencies, freelancers, or even staff photographers. If news publisher A has a contract with Getty, they'll wait until Getty posts images to their distribution portal. If publisher B has a staff photographer or freelancer on day rate on the scene, they're going to use whatever that photographer gets for them. If publisher C is a member of a wire service like the AP or Reuters, they'll pick up whatever photographers shooting for other members of the same wire service push onto the wires.

This is nothing new. Neil Leifer's iconic color slide of Muhammad Ali standing over Sonny Liston wasn't published for days after their second fight back in 1965. In order to use slower color slide film, Leifer had spent several hours before the fight placing a remote flash in the rafters of the dark gym in Lewiston, Maine. Unlike todays portable strobes, it was a unit that required several seconds to recharge and be available for another burst of light. An AP photographer shooting faster, grainy B&W film standing to Leifer's left got what was the lead image in most newspapers' sports sections the next day. In addition to being a lower quality B&W image compared to Leifer's perfectly exposed Kodachrome slide, it was not timed as well as Leifer's image, nor was it taken from as good of an angle. Most of the other photographers at the fight were on the other side of the ring near the judges' table and only got shots of the knockdown from behind Ali.

When Leifer's shot was published by his employer, Sports Illustrated, it wasn't even the lead image for the article, much less the cover. It was buried deep in the story. Only over time did it begin to gain momentum until it was recognized as one of the greatest sports images of all time. It did eventually make the cover of a Sports Illustrated special issue, "The Century's Greatest Sports Photos", over three decades later.


Unless your workflow requires you to be extremely mobile you might want to think about using a laptop computer. That way you get access to specialised software like the desktop version of Lightroom or Photo Mechanic (which make editing/organising/adding metadata to your images much easier), a proper file system, better multitasking capabilities (for having websites/documents open while writing captions etc.), better backup capabilities with external drives, etc. Your phone will be used as a mobile hotspot in that scenario.

All of this can of course be done on an entirely mobile setup as you describe it, however I feel it's probably more limiting than liberating in most circumstances. If you still intend to follow that route I'd (a) use a SD card reader with the iPad instead of WiFi for speed and reliability, (b) use an app like Lightroom on iOS to add proper IPTC metadata and edit/export from there and (c) use the iPhone as a hotspot only, i.e. don't spread your editing tasks across devices, that sounds like a pain in case you want to reuse any of the photos later.

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