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Field Editing, The Art & Science of Deadline News

2013 – Present: Freelance Field Editor for Getty Images / WireImage / FilmMagic

With automation technology forever changing the pace of deadline photography, spending a few years as a freelance field editor for the largest photo agency conglomerate in the entertainment industry will certainly educate one in the art and science of deadline syndication. With an army of up to 50 field editors and IT engineers descending upon the major awards shows in Hollywood, a field photo editor will quickly master the 20 second edit. In other words, if you can’t make the photo perfect in 20 seconds, kill the shot!

At the start of major red carpet events, runners will take memory cards from the photographers to an editing area, usually backstage somewhere. A lead editor will then ingest photos into Getty’s proprietary digital asset management system (DAM) and quickly make selections and color code for worldwide or domestic distribution. The system then automatically queues the select photos to Photoshop editors who crop as needed, make curves or levels adjustments, and dust bust or color correct if necessary. These last adjustments are usually only on the first card as instructions will be sent back to the photographer to make in-camera corrections.

Strict journalistic standards are in place, there may be no “cosmetic” modifications or alterations to the scene as it is captured. If there is an “X” on the carpet marking a photo stop for the talent and they are not standing on the tape, it may not be removed before syndication. If a publication wishes to remove the tape, or a blemish on someone, or whatever, that is their editorial decision. But in photojournalism, images have to go out from the source as a pristine representation of the scene as it happened.

After the Photoshop work is done, a photo is next queued by the system for captions. A third group of editors has the basic boilerplate event information already loaded in the system. Their efforts are focused on identifying everyone recognizable in a photo, left to right. Caption info is usually similar to, “-Talent Name- arrives at -official event name- at -venue- in -city,state- on -date.- Photographer credits, company contact and licensing information are already in the system as well.

The end results? Photos are going out to the world’s press and media outlets usually within 15 minutes of the first limo drop off. It’s an amazing process to be a part of and learn from, and today, it’s possible to even do it wirelessly. Photographers may now make selections in camera, transmit to a server that an editor is logged into, and the edit may be performed hundreds of miles away just as if it were happening backstage.

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