How to become a photojournalist

If you believe that a picture is worth a thousand words and you like to get right to the heart of the story, photojournalism could be the career path for you. Is it really that simple? Hopefully, this short guide on how to become a photojournalist will answer that question!

Even though you don’t need a qualification to become a photojournalist, it’s still highly competitive so don’t get disheartened if you aren’t able to go directly into the industry during your first year. Be sure to save some of your best photography and print it off online to use as a portfolio. Why not build out your portfolio in a large A3 Hardcover photo book to showcase all of your best shots? Photo books can be quickly duplicated online and make a great gift for Dad. Alternatively, if you are a freelancer in photo journalism you can hang all of your best pieces of work on a canvas in your office to impress any client.

In essence, a photojournalist is exactly what it sounds like; they break stories, offer compelling narratives and spread news, all through the medium of photography. By capturing human moments, editing them and presenting them to the world, they become visual storytellers, covering a variety of different subjects for a variety of different clients. While most photojournalists work as freelancers on behalf of print or online publications, there are in-house roles that put you in control of the story you trying to tell.

What sort of salary can I expect as a photojournalist?

As with any predominately freelance role, the salary expectations for photojournalism can differ wildly depending on your experience, the publication you’re shooting for, and the quality of your work. Freelance photojournalists can effectively set their own rates, though this will correspond with the relevance and profile of the story as well as the quality of the photography. Picture libraries and agencies can pay anywhere between £75 and £180 for a single picture, while more experienced freelancers, working on behalf of a publication, can negotiate a flat fee for their services.

How do I become a photojournalist?

Unlike other photography careers, the route to becoming a photojournalist is relatively straightforward. While there’s no hard and fast rule for breaking into the profession – you’re not even strictly required that you have any formal qualifications – there are several steps that you can take to make your dreams of becoming a photojournalist a reality:

  • As previously stated, it’s not essential to have any form of formal qualification in photography. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t help. If you want to give yourself the best chance of forging a career in photojournalism, and equipping yourself with the necessary tools, then doing a bachelor’s or master’s degree is a good start.
  • After you’ve received a qualification, securing an internship or apprenticeship in photojournalism at an established publication is a great next step. By effectively being on the job, you’ll learn the ins and outs of the industry and get some priceless tutelage from experienced professionals in the field. It can also be a great entry into a full-time position, or just give you the opportunity of networking with future clients.
  • One of the best things you can do to improve your chances of becoming a successful photojournalist is build a portfolio. By showing off your best work from paid or unpaid shoots, you can show potential employers your tone, style and brand of storytelling.

What qualifications do I need?

If you have the essential skills of photography and picture editing, you really don’t need any formal qualifications to make it as a photojournalist. Outstanding work is always likely to sell, regardless of the certificates on your wall. However, if you want to work for an established organisation, say a magazine, newspaper or blog, you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree in a related subject. This could be photojournalism, journalism or photography, as long as it is in some way related to the job, you’ve always got a shot.

Who are the best known photojournalist?

The art of photojournalism has given rise to some of the most enduring and iconic images of the 20th Century, as well as some of the most prolific photographers. If you want to become a professional photojournalist, emulating these famous masters is a good start:

  • Phillip Jones Griffith
  • Robert Frank
  • Stephanie Sinclair
  • Tomasz Gudzowaty
  • Henri Cartier-Bresson

Got an eye for a story and a talent for photography? Why not give photojournalism a try!

Last modified: 11months ago


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