How to Become a Photojournalist
Photojournalism is a type of journalism that uses photography to report stories for the news and magazines. It is a highly competitive career that can take years of hard work to achieve success. Becoming a photojournalist, however, is not out of reach. You just need to have a passion for people, stories, and photography. Persistence is also an important quality to have. To become a photojournalist, learn about the profession, begin a career, and once you achieve becoming a photojournalist, further your career.
Learning About Being a Photojournalist
Research famous photojournalism.First, learn what photojournalism is, what it involves, and what successful photojournalism looks like. Photojournalists get out in the world and take pictures of developing stories, events, and people. To be a photojournalist, you must be knowledgeable about photography and have a good eye for capturing moments. Some famous photojournalists to look into are Philip Jones Griffiths for his portrayal of the Vietnam War, Dorothea Lange for her covering of the Great Depression, and Margaret Bourke-White for her portrayal of WWII.
- A few modern photojournalists to look into are Lynsey Addario, Tim Hetherington, and Corey Arnold.
Study photography.It is important to learn about and excel at photography. You can learn about photography by studying it on your own, with educational books and articles, online, with YouTube and other free classes, or by signing up for photography classes at your local college. You don’t have to have an expensive, fancy camera at first, though you will need it eventually. Anything that can capture a picture, even a smartphone, is okay to start practicing photography with. Practice everyday.
- Take walks around your town or attend events where you can practice photographing people and stories.
Get all of the necessary equipment.Eventually, you will need all of the necessary equipment to become a photojournalist. You don’t need to purchase the equipment until you have learned a bit about photojournalism and photography and are sure that this is the career that you want to pursue. The type of equipment you will need to invest in are a quality digital camera, a computer, and photo editing software (like Photoshop).
- All of this equipment can cost thousands of dollars. Plan ahead of time and save up before purchasing equipment.
- You can look into renting cameras and laptops if you can’t purchase them right now.
- If you are in school, see if your school loans out equipment and allows you to download software for free.
Learn how to examine prints and copy images.Learn how to scrutinize and criticize images from your camera. At this point, you should know a little bit about photography. After you take pictures, look at them and see which ones work and which ones don’t. Ask yourself why some pictures are successful while others aren’t. It could be the composition, lighting, and subject that are right or wrong. This is very important to be a photojournalist and you must know how to do this.
- Ask other photographers and/or photojournalists to give you feedback on your photos. If you don’t know any personally, upload your photos to internet photos and ask for feedback. Watermark your photos so that they don’t get stolen, though.
Build a portfolio.Once you have taken enough pictures, begin building a portfolio. You should be taking around 500-1000 photos a week. A portfolio should comprise of your very best work. Try to put together a portfolio with a range of subject matter, compositions, and coloring. Create a digital portfolio that can be accessed online and a print portfolio that can be carried with you.
- A few free online portfolio sites are Behance, Coroflot, and DROPR.
- The portfolio should have pictures of anything you think the boss/manager would like to see (e.g.; children playing, car traffic, cookouts, etc.)
Get your education.A ceremonial education is often required for a good photojournalism position, and even if not, a degree strengthens your resume. An education can help you grow as a photojournalist, learn to problem solve, and learn to take criticism. Once you have built up a portfolio, apply to a college for a photojournalism degree.
- Your photos will speak for themselves. A degree is not always necessary if you take outstanding photos.
- If you can’t go to a two or four year university, consider taking some courses at a community college.
Beginning a Career in Photojournalism
Connect with other photojournalists.If you go to school, make connections with every photojournalist you meet. Get involved with school’s newspaper, and offer to take pictures for any newsletters, websites, or yearbooks. After you have left school, do your best to connect with photojournalists. Research and attend meet-ups in your area. Reach out to photojournalists that you find inspiring.
- Just as it is with many careers, photojournalism is sometimes about who you know. Making lasting connections can only benefit you.
Look for internships.Internships are the best way to gain experience and build your resume. It’s far more likely that you will be able to land a job if you’ve had an internship. If you’re in school, ask professors for recommendations and advice about where to apply. Look up internships on the internet and apply to as many as possible.
- Keep in mind that most internships pay little to nothing and are very competitive, especially for larger magazines and newspapers.
Learn about freelance business.Choosing to be a freelancer is more and more common, especially with the rise of social media. A freelancer signs contracts to either do one job for a company, or work for a company for a specified amount of time or projects. Photography itself, especially as an independent art form, is primarily freelance. Learn how to market yourself and make connections. A solid network foundation will attract more work.
- It is helpful to learn about business if you are considering freelance work. You can look up information online about it, or take a class at your local community college.
Get a placement with a magazine or newspaper company.Eventually, aim to work at a magazine or newspaper (if you don’t want to stick with freelance). A secure job with a magazine or newspaper is a photojournalist’s dream. Consider the type of work you do before applying to jobs. Is your work better-suited for a magazine like National Geographic, or would it be better for a newspaper like The New York Times? It may take a lot of applications to secure a job, but don’t give up.
- If you don’t have luck getting a job with a bigger newspaper of magazines, start small by applying to local magazines and newspapers for positions.
Furthering Your Career in Photojournalism
Get out in the world.Go to as many events as possible. Takes walks or transportation systems around cities. Notice the life and moments that happen. Meet people, talk to them, and ask questions. Get used to being outside of your home for long hours.
- Ask people for permission if you plan to use a photograph you’ve taken of them.
Get fit.It is also helpful to fit. Being a photojournalist is very tough and rough work. It is not only just taking pictures. You have to be on your feet and you have to be able to support big equipment, as you have to move around a lot in different locations.
Keep a notepad with you.Take notes about what you see out in the world. When taking pictures, document the time, place, people, feeling, and area. It is important to know when and where the photo was taken, as well as knowing what was happening. You can use that information to give to writers, or to make up your own captions.
- Writing captions is an important part of journalism. Practice writing them along with your photography.
Invest in stories.Instead of looking for photos that look cool or pretty, focus on the people. Focus on their stories. Photojournalism isn’t just about the art form of photography--it’s about capturing a story. Train yourself to notice when the right moment to take a picture that will capture the story is. Focus on capturing an angle to the story that is unique.
- Sometimes, you may have to take photos of people in difficult situations. Decide on your moral code when it comes to taking pictures at difficult moments.
Create a website.It is important to create a website for yourself, especially in today’s society. Some websites allow you to make a free website, but it is better to eventually buy your own domain name. Domain names aren’t all that expensive, especially if you catch the provider during a sale. On the website, provide an “about me,” portfolio, and information about how to get in contact with you.
- Some webs hosting companies that you can make your own website on are Squarespace, Wix, and GoDaddy.
Showcase yourself on social media.Displaying your work on social media is absolutely necessary. Never shield your work like a piece of fine art--it prevents you from business. You should, however, protect your work with watermarks and copyrighting. Join social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. LinkedIn is another helpful website to join, as it aims to connect professionals.
- Consistently upload your work to social media sites. Make posts a few times a day.
- Follow other photojournalists in hopes of them following you back.
QuestionCan a science student become a photojournalist?Top AnswererAnyone can.Thanks!
QuestionIs a degree important in photojournalism jobs?Top AnswererAs with most anything, a degree is always useful. But you don't usually need one to become good at what you do. All you need is to find that first employer willing to teach you the ropes and convince them that you're the right person for this job.Thanks!
QuestionTo where do I take my photos?Top AnswererYou gather them in a portfolio and send them to newspapers, magazines, publishers, editors, etc. Ask politely to send you feedback and ask if they have an opening for you.Thanks!
- Keep up-to-date on the new technology of scanning, printing, and picture quality. Read articles online and talk to fellow photojournalists about the craft.
- Always meet the deadline or turn in work before the deadline. Never after. It is crucial to make your work punctual.
- Join the National Press Photographers Association for sessions, linkage, and other opportunities.
- You might have to go on dangerous trips for photojournalism, so be very aware of your surroundings.
- Rejection is common and expected in this field. Don’t get discouraged if your work isn’t getting recognized after even years of trying.
Video: How to be a Freelance Photographer — Helena Price
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