Are photos part of your freelance package? Hear how one photographer made visual storytelling his passion

By Monique Ty Cowan, SPJ Auburn University Vice President

Kevin Liles

Photojournalist Kevin Liles

Freelance photographer Kevin D. Liles will teach journalists the best way to work with an assigned photographer and how to take exceptional pictures with their smartphones at the SPJ Georgia event, “Best Case/Worst Case: Photography Tips & Tricks for Writers,” on Jan. 18, 2018.

With a resume that includes The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Associated Press and The New York Times, Liles will bring his expertise as an experienced photojournalist to the table for SPJ Georgia’s first major event in 2018.

Though Liles started his career as a reporter, he quickly found his passion in photography.

In 2004 he worked as a reporter for the Griffin Daily News in Georgia. He says he fell in love with photography after seeing a friend’s work and soon became a full-time photographer at the newspaper. To take his skills to the next level, he says he enrolled as a student at Clayton State University in Clayton County, Ga. and worked as an assistant for Sports Illustrated.

“My whole plan with going back to school was to enter the newspaper market at a much larger newspaper, but because I didn’t have a degree, I kept getting shot down,” said Liles. 

Tom Burton, Director and owner of TWBurton Media.

Tom Burton

By the time Liles graduated with a degree in communications and multimedia in 2011 he said he had a hard time finding job openings for newspaper photographers. Newsrooms were shrinking around the country and according National Press Photographers Association’s (NPPA)  News Photographer Magazine Editor Tom Burton, “anecdotal evidence suggests” that there are more freelancers than in the past. This led Liles to freelance work. In the beginning of his freelance career, his goal was to supplement his income until he found a steady job, says Liles. 

He did freelance work for the US PRESSWIRE (now USA Today Sport Images) and Clayton State University before he got his first big publication: The New York Times.

“The New York Times called and things started changing,” said Liles.

Though he had finally gotten his big break, Liles says it didn’t go as well as he expected. After accepting a called for an assignment to photograph a real estate agent who often ate at Waffle House, Liles says he realized he had the wrong mentality for this project. Previously, Liles worked mostly with sports.

“I’m particularly interested where politics, religion and sports collide,” said Liles.

He often shot NASCAR races and went on an assignment with heavy gear that included several bags and large cameras with multiple lenses.

Immediately, he says he could tell the atmosphere did not call for so much equipment with the Times’ shoot. Liles powered through the shoot and sent his best photos to the Times. Though his picture was published, the photos were not exactly what they had in mind, he said.

I just remember the photo editor calling me and asking me what happened,” said Liles. “I bombed my first Times shoot, and it was a steep learning curve for me.”

In 2015 Liles was assigned to take photos of Omar Shekhey, a Somali-American man who runs the Somali American Community Center in Clarkston, Georgia, during the day and is a cab driver at night. He was shooting for NPR’s WABE/Atlanta.

Liles followed Shekhey for several hours before calling it a day. When he prepared to leave, however, he decided to go back and stay a little longer with Shekhey.

“I thought that I would just go back and take some more pictures. At least until dark,” said Liles.

Omar Shekhey for NPR

Omar Shekhey, NPR photo by Kevin D. Liles

He says he was glad he decided to stay a little longer to catch this moment with Shekhey.

“I love meeting people and telling their stories, getting access to people’s lives and gaining that trust from people to tell these stories to make a difference,” said Liles.

“I’m glad I stayed even though I was exhausted.”

Today Liles publishes commercial, news and editorial photography. Because of his dedication to freelance photojournalism and working in the newsroom, he was selected to speak at the SPJ Georgia event: Best Case/Worst Case: Photography Tips and Tricks for Writers on January 18, 2018, in Atlanta, Georgia.

Adina Solomon

Adina Solomon

SPJ Georgia Freelance Chair, Adina Solomon, said she realized that there are two situations that freelance writers encounter. The first situation, Solomon said, is that writers must communicate their ideas without telling the assigned photojournalist how to do their job.

“They’re experts, and we trust them, but at the same time, we want to make sure they understand the story and its subjects so they can take the best photos possible,” said Solomon.

She said the second situation is when writers have to take their own pictures because the budget doesn’t allow for hired, professional photographers.

Reverend John Darsey

Reverend John Darsey   Photo by Kevin D. Liles Photography

Liles will be addressing these situations at the event. Attendees will learn how to communicate effectively with an assigned photographer and how to take a professional portrait photo themselves.

“He processes an understanding of freelancing and the intricacies of working in that space. We are excited to have Kevin lead the event,” said Solomon.

For other freelance photographers starting out in their career, Liles has a few words of advice:

“Don’t shoot just out of nervousness or to feel the void,” he said. “Slow down and watch more than you shoot.”

The event will be Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. at Indigo Yoga located at 2033 Hosea L Williams Dr. in Atlanta, Ga. For more information, link HERE

Kevin Liles, Photographer kevin@kevindliles.com, (770) 851-3347

Adina Solomon, SPJ Georgia Freelance Chair, adinars9@gmail.com

Tom Burton, News Photographer Magazine editor, National Press Photographers Association, tburton@nppa.org

Monique

Monique Ty Cowan

Monique Ty Cowan is a senior at Auburn University. Her major is journalism and her minor is creative writing. Cowan is president of the Diversity Interest Group at Auburn University and the vice president of the Society of Professional Journalists SPJ student chapter at Auburn University. She specializes in videography and photography. To learn more about Cowan visit her LinkedIn here https://www.linkedin.com/in/monique-ty-cowan-999447a7/ or her eportfolio here https://mtc0025.wixsite.com/mtc0025

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