Photographer Interview: Chester Higgins Jr – Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of my interview with photographer Chester Higgins, Jr. Read part 1 of my interview and see some of Chester’s elegant black & white portraits.

D&B: Why did you decide to remain with The New York Times for this long?

CH: The NYT is the most influential newspaper in the world. Working at the NYT offers me the daily opportunity to exercise my eyes with each new assignment. It gives me a unique window into the various levels of our society. I love my job. The constancy of having such a job gives me the financial freedom to save and do the research necessary to execute my personal projects.

Copyright Chester Higgins, Jr.

Q. What advice do you have to give on the business side of photography to aspiring photographers?

CH: I believe that in order to make a living as a photographer, you must see yourself as a business. Your skill is your eye. Your product is your images. In order to make money, you have to find your market. That means finding who or what entity is willing to pay you for your skill; there is immense competition so you need to do something to stand out from the crowd. Finally, there is the issue of getting paid. This requires more skills: knowing how to make an invoice and calculating what you think your labor is worth as well as your expenses.

D&B: What advice would you give young photographers who want to publish their own books?

CH: Think e-books or electronic publishing. Publishing is so insular, the competition is so fierce and the printed form is dying. Given the rise of the internet, the printed form is losing ground to the electronic form. The future is virtual. The web has made publishing more democratic and broadened the potential audience reach for self-publishing. It’s a new world.

Copyright Chester Higgins, Jr.

D&B: What has been your best tool for marketing yourself and your work?

CH: Effective marketing tools vary. It’s good to have handouts of various kinds. First is the business card. Second, I often give out postcards of some of my important images with contact information; anywhere images are published is good promotion. Finally, I’ve created a very robust website ( to tell my story; the site includes an image bank showcasing my images. A website is a great tool, because it’s a 24/7 worldwide operation.

D&B: Are Model Releases important?

CH: With images of people, not having a model’s release legally limits your ability to take advantage of the potential commercial use of the photograph and exposes you to lawsuits. I encourage everyone to use them. I always carry copies of model releases just in case I need them. It’s a good habit to develop.

D&B: In your opinion, is there job security in photojournalism?

CH: Not really. The landscape has changed dramatically in several ways. First, there are fewer print outlets. The web has become the new display forum. Secondly, freelance contracts are often horrible because the client usually wants to own all the content while avoiding proper payment. (See American Society of Media Photographers.) Finally while on assignment, if any physical harm or liabilities arise, you as a freelancer receive no financial backup from your employer. Essentially, you assume all the risk and receive little gain. (See Photo District News.)

Copyright Chester Higgins, Jr.

D&B: What are your views on posting your photographs on social media sites, such as Facebook and Flickr?

CH: Legally, this is not a good idea. Using a public social media site to post your images exposes you to copyright abuse. It’s not a good idea to post more than three images; you can use these few images to refer viewers to your website. And on the website, make sure you have an obvious notice that states that your photographs are copyrighted.

D&B: Is copyrighting a photograph important?

CH: Legally, the laws cover all productions of artists as copyrighted material. However, you’re not entitled to any damages for copyright infringement unless your work is registered at the U. S. Copyright Office. To understand this issue, visit the Copyright Alliance.

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