A photojournalist captures and presents the images that shape the news. They are, above all, storytellers. In order to become a photojournalist, you’ve got to be able to convey not only the story, but the emotions that go with it. Few other media has the ability to cross all language and cultural barriers the way a good photograph can. If photojournalism is your passion, the following is a guide to how you can get started on your career.
1. Get the Proper Education
The majority of news publications will require a journalism degree as well as some formal training in photojournalism. Some schools do offer specific photojournalism degree programs, where you could take journalism as a minor. Along with classroom training, students will receive hands-on instruction in the use of their equipment, as well as image editing, printing, and publication software in computer and photo labs. Check out our journalism schools and request information to get started on your career.
Here is a sample of courses you might take:
- The Photographer and Photoshop
- Website Design for Photographers
- Editorial Photography
- Legal Issues in Photography
- The Photojournalist’s Eye
- Freelance Photography
- Digital Imaging Photography
2. Build a Portfolio
This may seem obvious, but you’ve got to take pictures. Lots of them! Wherever you go, you should take your camera with you, aiming for 50-100 photos a week. Use your best photographs to represent your work in your portfolio, focusing on ensuring that your photographs speak to a diverse audience. Your instructors can help you put together your portfolio, both online and in print. A good portfolio can help you secure an internship or entry-level job.
3. Publish Your Photographs
Create your personal website. For very little in startup costs, you can purchase a domain name (we recommend your working name). Contact local newsletters, school newspapers, trade magazines, and community newspapers, and show them your photographs. If you took pictures at a local event, contact the media and offer them the use of one of your photographs. It’s critically important to advertise your product. In the beginning, you may not receive pay, but as more and more of your photos make their way into publication, you can begin to charge a fee for them.
4. Invest in Quality Equipment
At a minimum, you need a good-quality digital camera, a computer, and photo editing software. You can often find used equipment if cost is an issue. Instructors can make recommendations on a good source for reasonably-priced equipment.
5. Continue to Refine Your Photography Skills
Not only do you need to work on your picture taking to become a photojournalist, but you’ve got to develop your ability to edit and publish your images online. Quite often there is no photo editor in between your picture and publication, so you’ve got to have the skills to make your photos publication ready. That includes the ability to write copy, captions, or headlines to accompany your work. Be sure to take journalism courses that will give you the skills you need.
6. Make Contacts and Network
While you are still in school, volunteer to take pictures for the school yearbook, newsletter, or website. Email local news reporters and broadcasters and ask if you can job shadow them. An internship is strongly recommended, and your professor should be able to make recommendations and help you get connected. Internships are the best way to get experience on your resume and is an important first step to become a photojournalist.
7. And Finally, Don’t Give Up
Ever hear the old sales adage “It takes 10 no’s to get a yes”? This applies to your career as well. You’re going to hear no. A lot. Don’t let it discourage you. As with anything, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth pursuing.