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How Do I Become a Photojournalist?

Photojournalists are visual storytellers who work in sports, news, and documentary production. Some photojournalists are self-taught, but employers often require a bachelor's degree in journalism or communications. While training is an important element, a photojournalism career requires a strong portfolio.

Career Overview

Traditionally, many photojournalists have specialized in an area such as still photography or videography; however, technology has required photojournalists to broaden their skill sets to remain competitive. In addition to strong camera and computer skills, photojournalists must have strong digital production skills, as well as writing and interviewing skills.

Important Facts About Photojournalists

Job Growth (2016-2026)* -6% (for all photographers)
Median Salary (2019)** $37,134
Similar Occupations Architect, graphic designer, video editor
Work Environment Frequent travel, both domestic and international locations

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

Formal Training

Programs teaching the basics of photojournalism can be weekend workshops to degree programs at community colleges, art institutes, and universities. Degree programs may provide both technical knowledge and experience through student-run newspapers, websites, and television stations. School career centers may also provide access to internships and employers. Many schools offer bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism or communications with a photojournalism concentration. Coursework may include:

  • Basics of photography
  • Shot composition
  • Lighting
  • News writing and editing
  • Media ethics and law

Portfolios

Whether you're an experienced photographer trying to break into news, a student seeking an internship or a recent grad applying for your first job, a strong portfolio demonstrates your skills and presents your best work in an organized manner to potential employers. Portfolios may be presented online, as slides, or placed on a CD or flash drive. In any form, a portfolio should display:

  • Technical skills, such as color correction, shot composition, and lighting
  • Journalistic skills, with accurate and informative captioning
  • Images that are best suited to the specific job

Skills Required

Photojournalists often have just one opportunity to get a shot that can make or break a story. While education may provide basic photography and journalism skills, successful photojournalists, from paparazzi to war correspondents, must possess additional abilities, such as:

  • Persistence
  • Speed
  • Flexibility
  • Resourcefulness
  • Ability to handle stress and deadline pressure