Canadian Geographic Photo Club - Does Canadian Geographic use staff photographers or freelancers?

Does Canadian Geographic use staff photographers or freelancers?


CG creative director Suzanne Morin and photo assistant Kathy Frankiewicz, the two people responsible for photography and layout in the magazine, offer an inside look into the origin of CG's photos. 

Canadian Geographic has a reputation for powerful, award-winning photography that complements the stories in our magazine. Our devotion to great photography may have you wondering who takes these striking images.

Like most magazines and some newspapers, CG employs freelance photographers.

"It's mostly about geography," says Frankiewicz, "You almost need an army of photographers to get the job done. Canada's a big place, so it's not feasible to fly the same person from one extreme to the other."

The time and money that would be spent flying a staff photographer across the country from CG headquarters in Ottawa to British Columbia, for example, is saved in hiring a freelancer who already lives in and is familiar with the area. 

Hiring freelancers also gives us a variety of talent and styles to draw from.

For example, "Polar Vision" in the January/February 2008 issue required Arctic and Antarctic marine wildlife photography. Paul Nicklen won countless awards for his photography of this subject and has been shooting in the frigid waters for more than a decade. Paul fit perfectly into the photography niche that "Polar Vision" called for. 

Freelance photographers also have to be strong in many different styles, from portraits to landscapes, to shoot a Canadian Geographic story. 

For the Edmonton Folk Music Festival story in the May 2008 issue of Canadian Geographic Travel, for example, Edmonton freelance photojournalists John Ulan and Ian Jackson have covered this event several times in the past. Together they shot a variety of images for that story, from wide-angle landscapes of the outdoor venue to portraits of performing musicians. 

"Finding the most appropriate freelancer for the job depends on many factors," says Morin. "But it all starts with an idea and a good match between the photographer's approach and style and the story." 

First, a story meeting is held, several months before the press date, and decisions are made on which stories will make it into the upcoming issue. 

Once a story is chosen, Morin and Frankiewicz decide what photos will be needed to best illustrate the story and which freelancer will be best for the job.  

They consider who has worked for CG in the past and consult their list of about more than 100 freelance photographers. They also consider the photographer's skill set and the story's location.

"Just like working with writers, we develop working relationships with photographers," says Frankiewicz. 

When a suitable photographer is found and the logistics of the shoot are set up, a shot list is sent to the freelancer to outline what CG is looking for. 

"We always look for a mix of vertical, horizontal, wide, medium and close-up shots. Variety is important," says Frankiewicz. 

Our list of photographers is constantly evolving. We watch for new freelancers who are pitching a great idea and presenting the ability to follow it through.

Whether you are a relatively new freelancer or have been in the business a long time but have never worked for CG, make sure you are prepared to show samples of your work along with a great idea. 

"It's a really big country with a lot of different kinds of stories and we need a lot of different kinds of photographers," says Frankiewicz. 

By Michela Rosano



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