Photojournalists tell news stories in visual ways through still and video photography. Whether self-trained or formally educated through a photojournalism degree program, photojournalists need strong creative and technical skills to compete for these in-demand jobs. Read this article to learn more about the field of photojournalism.
Is Photojournalism for Me?
Photojournalists are responsible for still photographs and video that accompany news stories. They create compelling, informative and relevant pictures of newsworthy events for print, Web, television and other forms of media, like social media. Photojournalists need technical expertise in camera equipment operations and digital and video editing software, as well as an understanding of the components needed to produce a good story and how to package that story for multimedia use.
To be successful in this high-paced, competitive field, you must be able to work under tight time constraints and retain a strong eye for detail. You also need the technical know-how to edit images to prepare them for display on various media platforms. A strong portfolio highlighting your best work is typically required when applying for photojournalism jobs.
Many photojournalists work for news companies, magazines, advertising agencies and other news-based businesses. Others are self-employed and may be hired as contractors to supply visual materials for specific projects. Other career choices can include working as a media planner, graphic designer, magazine editor, copywriter or technical writer.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth for all photographers is projected to be below the national average, at 4% for the period 2012-2022, and competition should be expected, since interested candidates outnumber job openings (www.bls.gov). In addition, competition for jobs may be most fierce for photojournalists due to the growth of digital photography and stock photo supplies, as well as the decline in print media. As of May 2013, the median annual salary of all photographers, including photojournalists, was $29,280, per the BLS.
How Can I Become a Photojournalist?
While some professional photographers are self-taught, many employers prefer candidates with photojournalism degrees. Photojournalism may be offered as a major program of study or as a concentration within journalism programs. Certificates and associate's degrees in photojournalism are available; however, a bachelor's degree in photojournalism is the most common level of education recommended for entry-level positions. Most bachelor's degree programs incorporate internships for practical work experience and networking opportunities, as well as courses that allow students to build strong portfolios, all of which can be advantageous for finding work.
Photojournalism curricula typically focus on the fundamentals of journalism concurrently with photography. Journalism courses may instruct students in English, writing styles, editing, print and Web story layouts, interviewing and research skills. Practical courses usually teach students how to take photographs that tell stories and enrich news content, all while covering camera equipment, digital photography, video and still photography, digital editing and film development. Other core courses may include media law and ethics, principles of journalism and communications.
Many schools offer graduate degrees in photojournalism as well, and applicants may be required to submit samples of their work along with other application materials. A master's degree in photojournalism entails typically 1-2 years of more focused, advanced coursework in professional techniques across all media platforms, while a doctoral degree in journalism is a research-intensive program designed for those wanting to pursue teaching and research careers.
Professional certification is another option for those looking to find that competitive edge over other job seekers. For instance, the Professional Photographers of America (www.ppa.com) offers the certified professional photographer credential, which requires passing an exam and submitting work samples for review and approval.