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Careers in Photojournalism

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in photojournalism. Read on to learn more about career options along with information on job duties, education options and salary.

What Are Career Options in Photojournalism?

Photojournalists are visual storytellers. They capture images to tell news-related stories. Their work can be in the form of still photographs or videos and can be either film-based or digital. Photojournalists cover trending issues and important events both locally and globally. Career options include newspaper photojournalism, broadcast photojournalism, and self-employed or freelance photojournalism. Newspaper photojournalists work for newspaper publication companies, and broadcast photojournalists work for radio and television broadcasting corporations. Self-employed photojournalists work as freelancers and are not committed to any particular company.

The chart below provides more detail related to these careers.

Newspaper Photojournalist Broadcast Photojournalist Self-employed Photojournalist
Degree Required Bachelor's Bachelor's Bachelor's
Key Skills Shooting still photos of newsworthy people and events, camera mastery, selecting photos, meeting deadlines Shooting video of newsworthy people and events, editing videos, meeting tight deadlines Shooting photos and/or videos, creating and maintaining relationships with those who buy your work, running your own business
Job Outlook (2018-2028) 30% decline (for newspaper photographers)* 6% decline (for all photographers)* 10% growth (for self-employed photographers)*
Mean Salary (2018) $49,680 (for newspaper photographers)* $50,200 (for broadcasting photographers)* $42,770 (for all photographers, data not available for self-employed photojournalists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will My Photojournalism Job Entail?

As a photojournalist, you may travel throughout the world or work locally, documenting people and events through photographs. Your goal will be to take pictures that convey a story. This work will vary significantly; for example, you may cover a local community meeting or a foreign country's civil war. The latter can involve a diverse set of skills, including an aptitude for cultural sensitivity and personal safety.

When taking pictures, you can be in the field or on the road for long periods of time. You'll need to purchase and carry with you potentially expensive photographic equipment. Photojournalism can involve working in dangerous situations, such as war zones, where you may not be warmly received. To pursue a story, you may need to be assertive and aggressive, as your intended subject may be reluctant to appear on camera.

You can work with traditional film photography or digital photography. With film, you'll be required to work in a darkroom, developing photographs by hand. Digital photography will require you to master software used in editing photographs, and you can expect to spend a lot of time in front of a computer.

Where Can I Work?

You can be employed as a photojournalist by an organization, or you can work as an independent contractor, submitting your photos to whoever is willing to purchase them. Possible employers and buyers include newspapers, magazines and television news stations. You could also sell a collection of photographs to a book publisher for publication. Some museums feature exhibitions of photojournalism as well. While completing your degree, it may be helpful to pursue internship opportunities at newspapers or magazines, allowing you to get a feel for the industry and whether you'd like to work in it.

What Could I Earn?

Photojournalism can be a highly competitive field with minimal compensation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, photographers earned a median annual wage of $34,000 in May 2018 (www.bls.gov). This field included photojournalists, as well as studio photographers, fashion photographers and numerous other fields. Photographers working in the newspaper, periodical, book, directory and broadcasting industries had a mean annual wage of $49,680.

What Types of Degree Programs Can I Consider?

To work in photojournalism, you typically need to hold a degree in photography or photojournalism. Though you generally only need a bachelor's degree, you can also pursue this subject at the master's level. Photography programs offer you the opportunity to learn about the field's artistic and technical aspects. You may study various topics, such as photography history, lighting and color theory. These programs often cover aspects of film photography, like film developing, and digital photography, such as software-based editing.

Undergraduate photojournalism programs are most often offered as concentrations within journalism or mass communications programs, while many colleges and universities offer graduate programs devoted exclusively to photojournalism. Therefore, an undergraduate program may include coursework in reporting, newspaper layout and other facets of journalism. Your photojournalism coursework might detail the history of photojournalism, portfolio development and ethical issues. Graduate programs will typically require a background in formal photography education, and you may be required to include a portfolio of your work for admissions.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

You may consider a career in graphic design if you have a bachelor's degree already. Graphic designers help companies engage consumers with captivating designs and layout of their marketing materials including brochures, newsletters or logos. As a visual storyteller, you may also consider a career on television. You can be a reporter, correspondent or broadcast news analyst. Reporters and correspondents inform the public of the latest news or trends. Broadcast news analysts, on the other hand, interpret news stories to better educate the public about issues that concern them. These career options require a bachelor's degree as well as artistic ability and interpersonal skills.