Between You and MEdia… with HughE Dillon

As PR professionals, we all know the importance of building meaningful relationships with members of the media – reporters, producers, assignment editors, etc. But how does that happen, and where do you start? 

In this new section of the PPRA blog, PPRA members will share insight, tips and tricks, and fun facts learned from members of the media through informal interviews. You won’t have to wait for our “Media Mingle” or “Editors Panel” to get your tough questions answered and connect with the media. Our goal with this blog section is to continue engagement with our media counterparts in an informative and fun manner. So, between you and me – enjoy!

For more than 10 years, photographer HughE Dillon has made Philadelphians feel like celebrities with his event photos. From fundraisers to birthday parties to movie shoots, HughE has covered it all for his blog Philly Chit Chat and for outlets across the city as a contributor. Learn how HughE turned his passion for photography into a full-time job in this interview by PPRA member Alexa Johnson.

How did you get started as a “Society Photographer?”
I saw the publicity my blog generated in 2007 as I wrote about celebrities I photographed in Philly as well as in NYC, and various things I saw in Philadelphia while walking around. I thought ‘I bet this kind of media would be great to shine a light on charity events.’ At the time, magazines weren’t online yet, and only published once a month. The Inquirer published their society column every Sunday but it seemed to me they were only focusing on major society charity events with the same people. I wanted to create something that would highlight everyone, from the person who paid $10 to attend a charity event at a bar, to someone who paid $10,000, and as many folks from all walks of life as possible.

During the years 2007 through 2010, I covered the events for fun and content for my blog. Then I was laid off from my paralegal job in December 2010. With the support of my husband, I decided to try and monetize my blog. I announced to my readers that I had lost my job and now would become a party photographer, where people would hire me to shoot events and I would create content for my blog and place “one shots” from the parties in the newspaper as I had started to work with Michael Klein and Dan Gross by this time. It was an immediate success. People hired me, companies advertised on my blog and I didn’t have to look for another paralegal job. A few months after starting my business, Fox 29 and Philly Mag approached me to create content for their outlets in July 2011. A few years later, I got my own columns in and Metro Philly where they paid me for the content.headshot1

Who/what inspired you to pursue a career in media/photography and what keeps you inspired?

I was a fan of longtime Inquirer society columnist Ruth Seltzer and then David Iams. Philly Daily News’ Stu Bykofsky, Harriet Lessey, Dan Gross. The NY Social Diary and NYC society photographer Patrick McMullen (I always tweet at him that he’s my mentor in my head. He never responds, LOL).

What’s your most favorite event you’ve photographed?
Every single Diner en Blanc event has been very special. All the Big Brother Big Sisters Fashion Touchdown fundraiser where the Eagles players and their wives walk the catwalk with the latest fashions. I also loved shooting Virgin America’s First Philadelphia flight party in 2012 at the Palamor Hotel with guests like DJ Jazzy Jeff who spun for guests like Glenn Howerton, Amber Rose, Penn Badgley, Zoe Kravitz, The Roots, M. Night Shyamalan and lots of fun people from Philly.

What advice would you give PR professionals looking to work with you? How do you work best together?

As for PR professionals, I need them to understand that I created a nontraditional media business model where I shoot party photos, but the PR/Event/Business pays me to do so, and not the media outlet. The media doesn’t pay me. Clients should also keep in mind: I only need 90 minutes to two hours to shoot an event; and I always suggest the client keep their own house photographer because my photos are not returned to the client for at least 90 days.  My media outlets want the “exclusive” content first and each of them gets their own set of photos. The media outlets have the final say on editorial an d what runs.

As of 2020 I have 8 daily columns: Philly Style Magazine, Philly Voice, Philly Business Journal, Mainline Media News, Philly Mag, CBS3Philly, Fox 29 and Philly Chit Chat; occasionally my photos are placed in NBC10, Mainline Today and Jewish Exponent.

How many pitches a week do you receive?
About 400. During the months of September to December, and March to June I have to be hired to guarantee I cover your event. The other months (Jan, Feb, July & Aug) I’m less busy now so I might cover an event that isn’t a client and will put in a media outlet. For most pitches I try to promote them on one of my social media outlets, even if they’re not clients.

How do you step away from the 24-hour news cycle? What do you do outside of work?
I like to birdwatch, although I have no idea what the bird’s names are, I usually just tweet out “Oh, I saw a nice red one today, here’s a photo.”

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