How to Become a Photojournalist in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a photojournalist. Learn about the training necessary, education requirements and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Journalism degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is A Photojournalist?

Photojournalists typically work for newspapers and magazines, and focus on capturing visual images that will enhance or tell a story. They use their photographic and artistic talents to capture images that will appeal to their audience. They often travel to different locations to photograph events, animals, or places of interest. Photojournalists need the ability to understand how lighting will affect their shot, knowledge of equipment such as lenses and filters and how they will alter the image produced, and the ability to use editing software. While photographers may be more focused on a single shot, photojournalists are also concerned with the story behind the images, and often use a series of photographs to convey a story in images.

Degree Required None required, but associate's and/or bachelor's degree helpful
Key Responsibilities Taking photos or newsworthy people, places or events; working with editors to ensure best use of photos, multimedia and video
Job Growth (2014-2024) 3%* (all photographers)
Median Salary (2015) $31,710* (all photographers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Research Photojournalist's Career Duties and Education

Working as a photojournalist requires the ability to capture images that tell stories. These images may consist of locations, newsworthy events or people. Some key job functions you would perform involve using computer applications to edit photos as well as using multimedia and video technology.

Collaborating with editors to make decisions on how photographs should be used is also a vital function of this job. Working within deadlines to submit timely images is also a part of your responsibilities.

Step 2: Complete a Certificate or Degree Program

Receiving formal education is not required to work as a photojournalist. However, completing a certificate or degree program can provide you with more knowledge of the job and help improve your photography skills.

Certificate programs you may consider include those in photography or photography techniques. Courses offered through these programs can help you learn the basics of digital photography and editing software.

You may choose to enroll in an undergraduate degree program to further develop your photography skills. Common programs offered include an Associate of Science in Photography or a Bachelor of Arts in Photojournalism. Undergraduate program courses can teach you about writing and information gathering techniques for the media.

Step 3: Develop a Professional Portfolio

Whether seeking an internship or an entry-level job, having a portfolio can help you gain employment. Photojournalists who are new to the field are advised to start out with stand-alone single photos. These photos should display proper color corrections as well as accurate and detailed captions.

Step 4: Network With Contacts in the Field

To build relationships with other professionals in the field, you may choose to join a photography club or association. A group for photographers may be available at your school or through an industry organization.

The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) offers workshops and seminars to its members that can provide the opportunity to network with other professionals. You may also build contacts by subscribing to photography magazines or newsletters.

Step 5: Seek an Internship and Obtain a Job

You may find out about internship programs through your school's career services department or through the NPPA website (www.nppa.org). Some employers may require completion of an internship program as a prerequisite for entry-level photojournalist positions. You might also consider submitting your photos to online newspapers or magazines to improve your job prospects.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), photographers in general held more than 50,070 jobs in 2014 and made a median annual salary of $31,710 (www.bls.gov). About 3,150 of those professionals worked for newspaper, periodical and book publishers, earning an average annual wage of $45,310.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Reporters, correspondents and broadcast news analysts work in journalism and are also concerned with capturing an effective image to enhance the information they're reporting on. They are required to have a bachelor's degree, and may work with photographers and cameramen to set up shots for their broadcasts or articles. Graphic designers combine computer and artistic skills to create things like logos and focus on producing visual images that can be used in advertisements or magazines. They are also required to have a bachelor's degree. Film and video editors and camera operators utilize many of the same skills as a photojournalist. They need to have a good eye for an effective shot that will convey the impression they intend to their audience, and know how to use editing software. A bachelor's degree is required for a career as a film and video editor and camera operator.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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