Lobster: Hi Dustin! Thanks for being with us! Please tell us all about the Photo Director’s job.
Dustin: Hi! Super excited to be talking with Lobster about Mashable and my role on the team! Photo Director at Mashable is a uniquely interesting job as it requires working across various mediums in nearly all areas of the editorial department. Right now, I coordinate an amazing team of two photo editors and two illustrators/designers who are tasked with creating visuals for a breathtaking variety of stories ranging from breaking news to animated shorts, dataviz to photo driven essays.
Lobster: How does your day look like?
Dustin: A common day for me and my team could involve building a LEGO infographic in the morning, shooting the Apple Watch at noon, then publishing a big photo story on Mexico’s ‘Disappeared’ in the evening.
Lobster: How do you collaborate with and within various teams in Mashable NYC?
Dustin: My role is largely coordination, direction and production. If we need to find a photographer to shoot a drag racing Tesla (Luke Johnson in Florida), then I’ll help figure that out. Other times, it’s just sitting down with our watercooler and entertainment departments to plan for an upcoming event. Sometimes it’s brainstorming how to problem-solve the mechanics of an interactive graphic. A lot of people lend a hand to get a story published making every experience collaborative.
Lobster: Is working with images in any sense comparable to working with writing?
Dustin: This is a really tough question. On one hand, they are completely different; on the other they are both trying to do the same thing: tell a story. The goal of great writing is to paint a picture for the reader, while the goal of great photography is to show the story without words. But excellent storytelling requires both forms (and video as well). People don’t experience life as only text or only images, so why should we tell stories in only one medium?
Lobster: Agree, we believe in multi medium storytelling too; that’s why we integrate video platforms alongside photography, and even audio and thinking about text. Tell us about your biggest challenge at work. What would your teams be furious about?
Dustin: Phew, our biggest challenge at work is hands down illustrating ideas. It’s relatively easy to take a picture of the newest gadget that we’re reviewing, but finding art for a story on the quarterly earnings of Facebook, now that’s not easy.
Lobster: Actually, how did you come up with the idea to become a photo editor in the first place?
Dustin: I often tell people I like to think of myself as a megaphone. Other people have the imagery, the stories, that need to be shared and as a photo editor I can help spread that message to as large an audience as possible. Mashable’s readers come from such a wide background and have such a varied set of interests that I’m able to tell a whole spectrum of stories whereas other companies I’ve worked for have a limited bandwidth of operation.
Lobster: As a photo director, which tools do you use to find photography and photographers? How do you discover new talent and events? What has specifically worked for you? Any online tools you could recommend to the up-and-coming photo editors?
Dustin: Imagery acquisition is obviously the hardest part of the job (and the most rewarding). We utilize everything from the standard picture agencies (Associated Press, Getty Images, Corbis, European Pressphoto Agency and others) to new media (Instagram, Tumblr, VSCO, etc.). For finding photographers, I find myself almost exclusively using Blink which makes setting up assignments exceptionally easy. With new tools becoming available on an almost monthly basis, it’s important for up-and-coming photo editors to engage with photographers on all platforms, but nothing will ever top the simplicity of sending an old-school email. If you discover a photographer you like, – approach them and start a conversation. The more people you connect to, the stronger your storytelling network becomes.
Lobster: Thanks, Dustin. We’ll be back with more quirky questions on your attitudes towards social media content.