The road into becoming a photojournalist who can earn a living from such a profession is long and often full of obstacles.
Photojournalism is a specialized branch of journalism in which image is a substitute or a main support to the text. In photojournalism, the photos are the main editorial content.
Photojournalists are, hence, an important part of any editorial team working in the broadcast of information and news stories. But generally, photojournalists work independently or within agencies that take care of distributing and selling the images to whom it may concern.
From the days photography was invented; it attracted journalists and the news industry as a medium worthy of interest in the telling of stories. From the moment technological advances allowed for printing photographs along with text, photojournalism has been one of the strong pillars of journalism and the news industry which translated to the importance of having professional photojournalists to take care of this task. Nowadays, you can barely find any piece of news without a supporting image to give it more credibility and to make it easier for the reader to understand the context. Apart from photojournalism supporting texts and articles, there is another type of photojournalism which relies only on images to totally substitute words. In this kind of photojournalism, the photojournalist must be both a photographer and a story-teller. He or she needs to be able to transmit in 1, 2 or 10 images of the events that happened in front of his or her lens in a way which will satisfy the viewer’s thirst for information. This is what makes the task of a photojournalist so difficult to master.
Becoming a Photojournalist
Photo by Efilpera
Learn how to take compelling photos:
Photo by Zoriah
Before you even think of becoming a photo journalist, you need to control every aspect of photography. There is no space for fun and experimentation. As a photojournalist, you have to know exactly what you are doing and you have to be good at it. No one will ever pay you if you supply worthless photos, full of technical and aesthetical mistakes. Furthermore, you have to be able to take compelling photos which will draw the viewer’s attention. You can work on this through compositional techniques, like, point of view, perspective, lines, contrast, subject distance, etc
Learn how to tell a story:
This is concerned with the journalistic skills which each photojournalist should develop in order to survive in a highly competitive field. A photojournalist needs to learn how tell a story through photos. They shouldn’t be mere representations of reality. They have to be able to easily and clearly tell a story to the viewer. The viewer of your photos should be able to understand what it is about without having to read a caption or a description. This is where getting a small course in journalism, attending a workshop, or reading some books, on the construction of news stories can come in handy. Your story telling skills will also be helpful in formulating summaries and descriptions for the different projects you undertake which will make them more sellable to editors.
Breaking into the market:
This task can be though and will require patience and persistence, as it won’t be easy to break into a field full of many more qualified and experienced photojournalists.
You need first to conceive a portfolio showcasing your best work as a photojournalist; a portfolio showing your own style and which will help you in getting jobs. Also, think of building a network of people connected to the journalism field (magazines, TV, internet …) and contact as many people as you can with your ideas and work. You will eventually find someone to hire you and things should become easier once you make the first step. Another way to get that first job is to try to get an internship at an agency or a magazine. This technique will both get you to publish your photos and will also be a great opportunity to learn the different sides of the trade.
The right equipment for the job:
We all know that the camera doesn’t make the photos; you do. But, since you plan on becoming a photojournalist, having the right equipment for the job is crucial. You need to be able to take different types of shots, ranging from general scenes, to extreme close-ups. Also, you need to have equipment you can rely on. You will definitely find yourself in situations where it’s easy to break your camera gear (war zones, disasters, dust, rain, snow, mud, etc). A photojournalist’s gear should be able to bear it all. A starter kit for a serious photojournalist would consist of a Professional SLR body, a wide angle lens, a zoom lens, along with a flash unit and a sturdy tripod. Also, think of always having spare batteries and storage.
Once on the field:
-Be prepared: Know your subjects and study them before embarking on a mission. A photojournalist should learn about the people and the places to be photographed. This will make you perform your task more easily and you will avoid finding yourself in troublesome or awkward situations.
-Get in the middle of the action: “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough”, said Robert Capa. Get as close to your subjects as possible to make your photos more compelling and engaging.
- Anticipate: It’s a skill that once developed will help you in getting always the best shots. A photojournalist has to learn how to observe a scene, think about it and then to anticipate what would happen next. This will ensure you get the right moments.
-Be the first to arrive, the last to leave: Stick to your subject as long as possible, and shoot as many frames as needed. Don’t be in a rush and take the time to give the event you are covering the interest it deserves.
-Sometimes, Pushy is the right attitude: Sometimes you will find yourself, in places where there is a huge crowd and a lot of other photojournalists, and where getting a clear view of your subject can be quite difficult. So, unless you want to end up with a lot of photos of backs of heads, you need to find your way through the crowd and to get yourself at the front rows of the action
You don’t necessarily need a degree to become a photojournalist. The most important things are to develop both your photographic and journalistic skills and to persevere until you reach your goals.