Freelance photojournalist Branden Camp shares career insights

SPJ Georgia member spotlight: Branden Camp

Branden Camp

Branden Camp would not say that he has a news specialty. He considers himself a multimedia journalist and worked for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as a freelancer, recording audio, shooting video and taking photos, still photos and doing breaking news interviews.

“Most of the time I shoot features stories for the Associated Press,” Camp said recently.

But he’s also worked for The AJC, where his work split down the middle with half general assignments stories and the other half feature assignments.

Camp said he found his passion for journalism quite by accident, while enrolled at Chattahoochee Tech.

“I was taking a class break, when I saw some smoke rising through the woods nearby,” Camp said. “I had my camera on me and I went out there, and discovered a big field was ablaze and there was a firefighter trying to put the fire out.”

Instinctively, Camp started taking photos. Then he wondered about getting his work published.

The firefighter told Camp his unit was from Cartersville, so Camp said he checked out the local newspaper there, the Daily Tribune News.

“I emailed the managing editor with the photos attached,” Camp said. “She called me and thanked me for the (photos), which they used. As good fortune goes and much to my surprise she called back later, and offered me a job.”

Camp said he worked from the office five days a week and did three assignments, sometimes five, covering news, portraits, events, features stories and high school sports.

“After eight weeks on the job, I knew where I wanted to take my career,” Camp recalls.

So, Camp said he enrolled in courses at Kennesaw State University, switching his major to communication with a focus in journalism. He studied and shot everything he could.

“I wasn’t getting paid, but I was learning my craft as a photographer and how to network,” Camp said.

As Camp learned more about freelancing, he met David Goldman, who was an AP staffer and helped Camp get his foot in the door.

“Keep in mind that prior to my introduction to the AP, I had emailed The AJC six months or longer for work, and they, too, finally came through,” Camp said.

My first AJC assignment was a high school football game and, afterward, the assignments began to multiply.

Photojournalism is not a craft where people automatically step up to mentor you, Camp said.

“You have to dig for it,” Camp said.

He said he hung out at the AP’s south region headquarters, with the photo editor and other photographers.

Camp said he asked questions, picked their brains about the art and was careful not to be a nuisance by balancing his time with them and not getting in their way.

“Without question, David Goldman made the biggest impact on my career,” Camp said, because he was open to talking. “I could show him my portfolio and he would give me honest feedback.”

That feedback helped Camp become more successful as he continued to network and build relationships with lots of people, he said.

And Camp remained tenacious, emailing The AJC if he hadn’t received an assignment for a few weeks.

“I would drop them an email and say, ‘How are you? My schedule is open if you need anything,’” Camp said.

Most of the time someone would respond sooner or later with assignments, he said.

Camp said those up-and-coming photojournalists should flip the mode on their cameras to video, branding themselves as multimedia journalists and ensuring that they keep up with the modern newsgathering pace.

He advised all interested in freelance photography and videography work to learn not only video but also to ask questions and conduct interviews, while still honing a still photography craft.

“When running down the newsmakers, conducting interviews, shooting video and/or taking lots of still shots, try to get it all wrapped up and sent back to the newsroom within an hour,” Camp encourages those looking to stand out when given an assignment.

Camp recently joined the Georgia Tech Research Institute as a staff photographer.

Learn more about Camp at his website.

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