Blink’s Sahiba Chawdhary chats with Buzzfeed’s Global Photo Director Wajmah Yaqubi and Senior Features & News Photo Editor Kate Bubacz about their photography department, the Buzzfeed style and freelancer best practices.
Sahiba: Tell us about your roles and work at Buzzfeed.
Buzzfeed: Kate is the senior photo editor for features and news at BuzzFeed. She assigns photographers and commissions original shoots for BuzzFeed News. She’s always on the lookout for good stories to share.
Wajmah is an Emmy-nominated Photo Director with 17 years of experience working on integrated digital platforms for media organizations such as Getty Images, AOL, and ABC News.
She is currently directing global photo operations for Buzzfeed managing contracts, rights clearances, creating editorial content, and launching new products.
Sahiba: Tell us about the photography department at Buzzfeed. What kind of stories/projects do you usually commission? What is the BuzzFeed style?
Each team creates original photography that is quite unique to their sections. The esthetic on News is more edgy reportage. The photos of recipes, drinks, and décor on Life, although beautifully styled, are attainable and fresh. I encourage our Buzz staff photographers to experiment and come into their own style when shooting celebrities in the studio and fun features outside the office.
Sahiba: Do you purchase produced stories? If yes, what is the best way to pitch Buzzfeed? Are you looking for anything specific in the coming months?
Kate: The short answer is yes, we buy existing stories. We love photos! The best, most efficient way to pitch is to email me with a link to your story or site or set up a time to meet.
It’s hard to predict what we’ll be looking for in the coming months, since the best stories are often unseen. The coming election season will mean stories on the candidates and the major issues/demographics will be in demand.
Off the top of my head I’d also say immigration, gun control, abortion, gay marriage, Iran, Cuba, ISIS, Syria, student debt, poverty, obesity, marijuana and police brutality are all things we’re interested in but really at the end of the day, the best art wins (and usually is something that I haven’t thought of).
Sahiba: What are the best practices freelancers should follow while they are working for BuzzFeed?
Kate: Before getting hired, please make it easy to contact you. That means don’t hide your contact info, and be clear about where you are based. If you’re traveling, let us know. If you don’t have access to email, let us know in an out-of-office. Keep your location, contact details and website links updated if you are using Blink as well.
Always ask questions! It’s better for us to go back and forth about direction before a shoot than afterwards.
When we get an assignment back, it’s better to send a wide edit than a tight one; we can narrow it down. Finally, most importantly, your captions matter. Send captions, send notes, we want to be able to share your photos with accurate details.
Sahiba: Tell us about your experience with Blink.
Kate: We assign all over the world including remote places or out of the way places. Blink is a really good resource for finding photographers in those areas. We use it several times a week, depending on how busy the weeks is.
We have hired a bunch of people from the platform. A recent one was a hire from Montreal. We used Blink to find a photographer for a story that ran in the weekend.
Sahiba: How do you describe a “job well done”?
Kate: A job well done is something that expands the horizons of the viewer and places them at the scene of the story, showing something that they wouldn’t otherwise know. The image can be mundane or stunning but it’s important that it’s there, to augment the viewer’s comprehension of the world.
Wajmah: I’d go back to Kate’s best practices for this one. If those things are done and done right, and we get amazing images as a result, I consider it a success. I can never say enough about how important it is to work with someone with a good attitude. Mutual respect and understanding are the hallmarks of a good working relationship and it’s something that carries a lot of weight with me.