Among the best freelance editorial photographers in KY & ATL

Mid-South photojournalist and Kentucky photographer Billy Suratt getting soaked by rain while on the campaign trail covering former House Speaker New Gingrich's 2012 presidential campaign in South Carolina.

Being an editorial photographer requires going where the story is, regardless of weather, and we often end up working in less-than-ideal conditions (sometimes, some of the most harsh conditions imaginable). Here, I’m getting soaked by rain on the campaign trail in South Carolina covering former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential campaign. Gingrich won South Carolina’s first-in-the-South primary, becoming the first Republican presidential candidate since 1980 to win the Palmetto State primary but go on to lose the GOP nomination. (© 2012 Billy Suratt)

Why editorial photography is unique

Editorial photographers are a different breed because we’re accustomed to shooting for publications with high quality demands and firm deadlines — there’s no such thing as waiting for a photo when it’s time to roll the presses. We have to do it in some of the most harsh and varied conditions imaginable, too.

I’ve been photographing stories of regional and national interest for some of the world’s largest (and smallest) publications for parts of three decades, so I have the skill and experience needed to pull off most any assignment.

My editorial photography specialties

Here I am photographing a Mennonite funeral from atop an RV, one of many unique experiences I’ve had in the past two decades as an editorial photographer for national and international publications. (Photo © 2010 Carmen K. Sisson/Apex MediaWire)

I’m as comfortable shooting a press conference as I am a Super Bowl (I’ve already covered two) or anything in between, but my editorial specialties are politics and political photography, sports photography and concert photography. I also have a passion for covering issues in the transportation and public safety sectors, along with valuable expertise, experience and contacts in both areas.

How many photographers do you know who’ve shot in the back of a moving ambulance or embedded with rescuers on drowning recovery operations? How about gaining nighttime access to a major military base to photograph tornado damage, or shooting inside the cargo hold of a wide-body jet airliner on the ramp at one of the busiest airports on the Eastern Seaboard? I’ve done all this and more.

In addition to countless other assignments, I’ve covered five presidential campaigns, four major Senate races and more congressional, gubernatorial and local office campaigns than I care to remember. I’ve been fortunate enough to photograph all three presidential aircraft (Air Force One, Air Force Two and Marine One) and I’ve even photographed a sitting president and vice president together outside of Washington — an extremely rare opportunity due to security concerns.

Among other ongoing projects (one on the rise of the Tea Party in America), I’m currently working on a long-term documentary project on the transportation of coal, tracing the Appalachian mineral’s journey from its underground origin to consumption at its final destination, along with all modes of transportation it encounters along the way.

These are just a few highlights from my nearly two decades of experience as an editorial photographer; there have been many, many more.

Photography equipment

I use Canon EOS digital SLR camera equipment almost exclusively, primarily the EOS 1D Mark II professional camera body. While the Mark II may be an older camera, its 8.2 megapixel file output (3,504 by 2,336 pixels) in the hands of an expert at digital capture is more than sufficient for most clients’ needs. In addition, the rugged build quality and design of Canon’s flagship camera series helps ensure I always come back with the shot.

Would you want to trust an important assignment to someone shooting with a Walmart camera?

I’m lensed from 16 to 400 millimeters, all f/2.8 or faster, and have both remote camera and arena lighting capabilities utilizing Pocket Wizard radio slaves. I also have one set of Pocket Wizards with a custom channel issued exclusively to me by the manufacturer, thus ensuring I can find an open channel at even the largest media events, such as the Kentucky Derby, NCAA Final Four, World Series or Olympics.

My lighting kit includes four Paul C. Buff White Lightning X2400 monolights (1,000 actual watt seconds, 1/6,400 minimum duration), two Lowel Omni-lights, two Lowel Tota-lights, three Chimera medium softboxes (two for strobes, one for video) as well as an assortment of other light modifiers, stands and grip gear. I’ve also invested in a portable power system which gives me the power and flexibility to light portraits literally anywhere on location, whether it be on Lake Cumberland, in the middle of the Daniel Boone National Forest or even in outer space if you’ve got the travel budget to get me there.

Quite simply, I’m equipped to light anything from a quick-and-dirty portrait to a network television interview.

Video equipment

Please note that while I’m a competent videographer, I don’t currently own pro video capture equipment. I once owned a full broadcast-quality gear kit, but sold it after concluding it wasn’t worth the investment in my market.

I plan to add professional video capture capabilities back into my repertoire at some point in the future, but for now you’d be better off going with another photographer if your primary need is video. Feel free to contact me if you’d like some videographer referrals.

Editorial photography experience

The first assignment I ever photographed for The Courier-Journal in Louisville was the A-1 lead. My editorial photos have run on the front pages of Kentucky’s two largest newspapers and in the pages of some of America’s largest and most respected news, sports and entertainment publications, including TIME, The Wall Street JournalGQ and ESPN: The Magazine.

My news photos have also appeared in a lot of publications I’ve never heard of (and will probably never even find out about) because I used to shoot for wire services. However, I refused to shoot for the wires anymore after they started lowering rates and coercing naive photographers into signing contracts many of them didn’t even understand — contracts designed to rob photographers of the industry-standard copyright ownership we’ve been entitled to since photography was first invented.

Now, I shoot primarily for Apex MediaWire (my agent in the U.S. newspaper market), Alamy and ZUMA Press (my photo agencies handling syndication to magazines and other outlets, both editorial and commercial).

Does it sound like I’d be a good fit for your next editorial photography project? Contact me today so we can discuss it.

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