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PAN Interview: Jon Mills – Picture Editor at SWNS – how the agency landed the best photo usage on Glastonbury lead up week

Photo: The SWNS photo desk team – Jon is on the left – …spot his speed graphic camera behind him on the gear shelf – just in case he gets called out!

On the lead up to the Glastonbury Festival this week PAN noticed the photo department at Bristol UK based independent news agency SWNS were landing some serious photo usage through the main national newspaper websites and over social media. Picture Editor Jon Mills was reporting on his photographers progress and image usage via his Twitter feed @jonmillsphoto …So dropped him a line yesterday to find out how this one agency were so ahead of the news stream on Glastonbury.

PAN Interview: Jon Mills, Picture Editor SWNS

How many years has SWNS been covering Glastonbury?
SWNS has been sending photographers to Glasto since the late 1980’s

How many photographers are covering the festival for the agency?
We have two photographers – David Hedges and Adam Gray – at the festival. Alastair Johnstone was bouncing around at 5000ft doing the aerials today

How many SWNS staff photographers, how many freelance?
All three are staff – we’ve got 20 staff photographers in total – but I expect I’ll get a few freelance submissions which are always gratefully received

How did you get clearance for the ariel shots we spotted first on the Mail Online
This year because of the good weather we were able to fly above and around the aerial exclusion zone. Not easy for the photographer but Alastair did a great job.

Photos: Aerial view of the sprawling tent city which has arisen from the Somerset countryside for the Glastonbury Festival, June 25 2015. See SWNS story SWGLASTO; With a population bigger than Bath, Reading and Oxford, 175,000 revellers have crammed into the 900-acre Worthy Farm for the five-day event, which will play host to more than 2,000 acts across dozens of stages. An army of 40,000 security guards, litter pickers, stewards, volunteers and retailers will also spill onto the site over the next few days. © Alastair Johnstone /

SWNS appear to have landed the main early online festival image usage, how have you achieved this?
We’ve got good links with all the news websites, we’re competitively priced and there’s a real emphasis on pushing the images out quickly. Honestly though it’s down to the photogs’ they’re working hard and doing an amazing job.

Do you sell the photos directly or do you rely on picture desks picking up the feed via the wires?
It’s always brilliant to see our images getting used and we’re grateful to everyone who chooses them. We have a morning list to let people know what’s coming and an afternoon mailout highlighting our best shots but more than that we let the pictures speak for themselves.

What are the challenges faced by photographers working at the Glastonbury?
According to Adam’s iPhone he walked 30kms yesterday lugging all his kit around. I’ve done Glastonbury as a snapper myself a couple of times and I know it’s hard when it’s sunny – when it starts to rain it’s really tough. That said no-one complains it’s such an incredible experience. In recent years there’s wifi and 4g EE which makes a massive difference.

Do you send photographers out with photo briefs?
Both Adam and David have done Glastonbury before, they know what’s needed better than I do. My only guidance is not to worry above average pictures, concentrate on taking great ones – and have an amazing time, happy photographers take the best pictures.

Photos: The sun sets over the festival site on the first evening of Glastonbury 2015. June 24 2015. See SWNS story SWGLASTO; Glastonbury is the largest greenfield festival in the world, and is now attended by around 175,000 people requiring extensive infrastructure in terms of security, transport, water, and electricity supply. The majority of staff are volunteers, helping the festival to raise millions of pounds for good causes. ©

How would a photo desk get your images?
We do the usual FTP feed thing but we also have a web based wire –

Have any photographers gone AWOL at the festival?!
Haha. I’m sure find time to have a drink and watch a band they like. We’re really lucky though our photographers love seeing their pictures get published so we’ve never had anyone go AWOL.

Your best photo from this year so far?
I love great images and we’re lucky we get loads of them – some of our best are at SWNSimages hero board on Pinterest

Whats new at the Photo dept at SWNS?
This year we’ve got a news video editor to ramp up our moving footage offering. We’re building a new CMS to streamline syndication and package our content better. The industry is changing rapidly and it’s a challenge to keep up but digital means we can reach more people, with more pictures and rich content than ever before.

• View Jon’s own photography here
• Follow Jon on Twitter @jonmillsphoto
• View more of Jon’s Camera’s …”my own little camera museum”
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