What Do You Want?

From: Richard W Adkins, WRAL-TV Raleigh, NC

What do you want in a Chief Photographer? I try to be the type of Chief Photographer I would want to work with. But at times I just don’t understand what people expect out of me.

Here is what one photographer wrote, I want to learn more!


“Wednesday, during our weekly photog meeting, my station’s chief photographer asked, “What do you want from the chief photographer?” I wanted to reply simply, “a raise and off weekends”, but instead I went for a more rhetorical approach. We discussed the difference between want and need. The following is the little essay I wrote Wednesday night. Yesterday, he suggested I post it here. After sleeping on it, I figured it would make for some interesting banter here on the List.

It it not just a “tv thing” much of it applies to still chiefs as well as television. I do not intend for it to become a chief bashing session, but if it helps point out some strengths and weaknesses, then it did exactly what I hoped.


I have had six chief photographers and 13 news directors, there have been a lot of sins committed against me and on my behalf through the years, this is their culmination.

What I NEED from a chief photographer:

First and foremost, I need an advocate. Far too often, photographers live at the bottom of the newsroom food chain. They are the first people to be blamed when everything goes to hell and the last people to receive praise when everything works out perfectly. I need someone who will fight for that credit when it is due and help disperse the blame a little more evenly over the other guilty parties when it was not completely the photographer’s fault. I need someone who believes photographers are more than just overpaid gear schlepers and can convince management that there is an art and science to what we do versus the point and shoot mentality that often runs rampant. I need someone who will be my eyes and ears at meetings and pivotal moments when my fate is decided and I had to shoot a city council meeting instead. Meaning, photographers cannot be at every staff meeting, gathering with management or discussion session, yet what happens there affects us as much as anyone in the newsroom. I need to be informed as to what happened, what was said and suggested, and if need be, I may need someone to defend me in my absence.

Secondly, I need a critic. It is easy to sit back and say, “Hey, it made slot and had no black holes, whadda ya want?” I need someone who challenges what I believe is good enough. I need someone who will not let me get away with the years of lazy and bad habits I have developed by writing it off as, “you can’t teach a dumb dog new tricks”. At the same time, I need someone who will take notice of the good as well as the bad. It is easy to pick out bad shooting, it pretty much grabs you by the throat. It can be tough to pick out good shooting, especially if the subject was not very compelling. I am more flattered by compliments on a city council story that could have really sucked, than a pat on the back for some plum feature that everyone wanted to do.

Finally, I need a leader. I need a chief photographer who is not afraid of the fire. Whether it be setting standards for how a story should be shot to fighting management to put equipment in the budget, I need someone who will take the heat head on. If there is something out there that would make my job easier, my shooting better or improve on the things I already have, I need my chief photographer to hunt them down and get them for all of us. I need a leader who believes and does their best to enforce fairness (although we all know complete fairness impossible). Equipment, trips, good shifts, as long as there is consistency to the guidelines as to how they are doled out, I have no reason to complain other than entertaining myself.

What I DO NOT NEED from a chief photographer:

I do not need a chief photographer who hordes the best equipment just because they can. I do not need a chief photographer who gives the best trips and shifts to ass-kissers rather than to those with seniority or who have earned them. I do not need a chief photographer who hires to fill quotas rather than hiring the most qualified person: I need three female photogs, I need three Hispanic photogs, I need to hire the managing editor’s daughter’s boyfriend. I do not need an invisible chief photographer: they make a cold shadow in the hallway, they leave cruel e-mails, they call your house on your day off to tell you to come in, but you will never actually see them. I do not need a chief photographer who took the job just because they needed the power trip of hiring and firing. I do not need a chief photographer who is afraid to criticize me because I am a woman (if you can make me cry, the next round is on me.)

What I WANT from a chief photographer:

I want a chief photographer who loves what we do as much as I do. I want a chief photographer who enjoys innovation. I want a chief photographer who can be open-minded to unorthodox shooting if there is a reason for it. I want a chief photographer who has paid some dues. I want a chief photographer who recognizes and celebrates the differences between each member of the staff. I want a chief photographer who has a sense of humor and is not afraid to use it.”

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