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A Freelance Photographer's Guide to Feature Assignments

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What You'll Be Creating

The feature assignment is the editorial photographer's dream job. For most assignments you will only have a small handful of photos published, but a feature assignment gives you the ability to really dive into the subject as a photographer.

In this short video tutorial from my course, Introduction to News and Editorial Assignment Photography, you'll learn what's involved in a feature assignment and how to approach one successfully.

Feature assignments need a variety of photos that tell the story of your subject. These assignments also come in a variety of forms, from travel stories to day in the life portrait shoots to long form photo essays. Filing a wide variety of photos from these assignments is a big part of making your editor happy.

Make an Assignment Checklist

While working on these assignments you'll likely be shooting from sunrise to sunset (or longer), so you're already going to have a large variety of photos, but it's important to be conscious of photos you've already taken and not be repetitive. It helps to go into these assignments with a bit of a mental checklist, or even a physical one.

Think about ideas and photos that you want to capture, and once you have them, cross them off your list. For big assignments you're going to be shooting in a variety of different situations. Likely there will be lots of activity, changing lighting conditions and different scenes. Have fun and be creative with your photography here, but stay focused on story telling photos. All good essays have a strong intimate story-telling photos as a base.

Go Deep to Create Emotion

You want to get in really deep with your photos. A good solid package will create a strong emotion in the viewer. I recommend looking for one or two people that you really connect with and that you can spend some time with. By creating a profile of them, you're telling their story, but also a bigger story that they are involved in.

For instance, on a feature story I just shot in Mexico on missing students, I followed two of the parents around and created an in-depth profile on them. With those photos, I mixed with more generic photos that I encountered to tell a wider story. By only focusing on two of the parents, I was able to spend more time with them. This helped me create more emotional photos. This is a way to keep these assignments simple, but still have a strong hook.

Travel Light

For gear, I recommend working with as little as possible. Smaller cameras allow you to be unintrusive—you generally want to blend into the background in these assignments as much as possible. In the portrait section of this course we talk about dealing with your subjects to make them as relaxed as possible. In these assignments these skills are going to be on hyper speed. Most people aren't used to having a photographer following them around, so it's your job to make the experience and the atmosphere as natural as possible.


Editing photos from a feature assignment can be tough. You're still gonna be riding off the adrenaline and picking your best selects that represent the story is very difficult. In this next lesson in the course we take a closer look at how to do that, and review at a previous assignment of mine.

Watch the Full Course

The full course, Introduction to News and Editorial Assignment Photography, will give you a comprehensive guide to working in news and editorial photography. 

We'll go into much more depth on feature assignments, and we’ll also cover everything from getting your first assignment to picture-making in the field, prepping your files for final delivery, and keeping your photo editors happy.

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