If you want to take pictures and videos that tell moving and captivating stories, you can consider a career as a photojournalist. In this profession, you will have the opportunity to take pictures of worthy news stories as they unfold. You will be sent to various locations within the country and abroad to cover topics that impact the social, economic and political lives of people. You will be pitching ideas for news to your editors during meetings. You will also be responsible for putting the captions and descriptions to your photos or narrating the events in your video clip before sending them to the news agency. If necessary, you will also be using software like Photoshop to edit pictures. In all your work, you must uphold your responsibilities as an ethical news photographer. This means ensuring that all the pictures you take are authentic and not altered or copied from another.
Photojournalists can be thrust in difficult and challenging situations. You can be asked to cover natural disasters, calamities, wars, riots and civil unrest. Unlike other photographers that are only tasked to cover still shots, your work involves taking dynamic pictures. As such, the difficulty level of taking the best images that will capture the reality of the moment is often very high. Just a momentary distraction can make you lose a critical shot.
Because of the demands of the profession, photojournalists need to be active and alert. You need to have a keen eye for detail and the decisiveness to get the shot when you know that the time is right. At times, taking the perfect shot entails being put in precarious—and often, dangerous—situations. Together with the heavy camera equipment you will be bringing and the realities of the moment, you need to be physically fit and healthy to be successful in this profession. You also need to be artistic and possess excellent technical knowledge of the equipment you are using to be able to produce the pictures that will evoke a reaction from your readers.
Why Become A Photojournalist
Photojournalism is not for everybody but for those who are so inclined, it’s a very fulfilling career that gives you the chance to report events to the world through the lenses of your camera. A fascination for current events is also another reason for becoming a news journalist. Those who don’t want to be tied to a desk will find the lure of working outdoors as the motivation behind pursuing this degree. It’s also an ideal job for those who want to earn a decent living as a freelancer.
Photojournalist Work Environment
Photojournalists can work for news agencies and other news organizations. However, many of them are freelancers who earn a living by selling their pictures to media firms and stock photo companies around the world.
Photojournalists must be ready to work any time a news story breaks out. When they are caught in the middle of the action, they can expect to work for as long as the event continues. Thus, the hours in this profession are long and uncertain. They can work both indoors and outdoors in all kinds of weather conditions. They may have to juggle multiple projects under very close deadlines and may be exposed to highly-charged and life-threatening situations. As such, it’s a profession that’s very stressful.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics does not gather wage and other employment data specifically for photojournalists. However, it does have wage information of photographers in general. The May 2013 Occupational Employment and Wages report of the agency revealed that the mean annual wage of photographers is $37,190. This translates to a mean hourly wage of $17.88. In 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the photographers in the District of Columbia were paid $33.15, the highest hourly median wage earned by photographers.
Photojournalist Career Outlook
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics does not paint a rosy outlook for photojournalists. In the ten-year period covering 2012 to 2022, the employment rate of photographers in general is set to grow 4 percent, a rate that is slower than the average of most job types. But for news photographers, there will be a decline of 36 percent in that same period in their employment rate. They will be affected by the declining newspaper industry. While photojournalists are still able to market their pictures over the Internet, they will still face competition from amateur photographers and hobbyists who can take good pictures now that sophisticated cameras and equipment are made more affordable.
Photojournalists can still stay ahead of the competition by not only taking good pictures but also by possessing out skills in addition to photography. This includes editing photos using image-editing software programs and learning how to capture and edit videos for Internet sites as well. The growing use of the Internet will still contribute to the need for photojournalists but the best prospects are for those who have honed their skills on the Internet and can work on its many platforms.
While there are no strict educational requirements for those who want to be photographers, photojournalists typically obtain a bachelor’s degree in photojournalism, journalism, photography or a related degree. A specific program in photojournalism would really help the aspiring news journalist because it covers topics on basic media photography, investigative reporting, photo editing and visual communication. It also enables students to create their own portfolio of pictures that they can present to prospective clients. This is done through assignment, projects and internships.
In addition to their degree, photojournalists must know their camera and other equipment intimately. It is still possible to become a photojournalism even if they have another undergraduate degree than the ones mentioned above. However, they should still have the technical knowledge to operate cameras and have the artistic eye to get good shots on the field. It is also important to maintain a portfolio of pictures that one has taken so that a prospective employer will be able to see the quality of one’s work.