Introduction to Photojournalism
Journalism is producing and distributing reports about current affairs in writing. Photojournalism has the same end goal as journalism, but photojournalists report stories using the camera, rather than pen and paper.
Many people will associate photojournalism with other types of photography, such as documentary photography or street photography. While the photographic styles may be comparable, the aim of photojournalism is different. Moreover, unlike other photographers, as journalists, photojournalists abide by a rigid ethical code as they strive at all times to report the news accurately with their photos while trying not to exploit their subjects.
Photojournalism can be a very rewarding career for those who want to combine their love of photography and journalism. With photojournalism, you can tell important stories.
If you’re interested in photojournalism for beginners, we have come up with a comprehensive guide breaking down photojournalism, with some photojournalism tips to use. In this post we will look at the following topics:
- Types of photojournalism
- Principles of photojournalism
- Photojournalism – How to start
Types of photojournalism
There are many types of photojournalism, as journalism as an ever-growing practice continues to evolve, so we will go over the main types.
Spot news photojournalism
Spot news photojournalists have to cover spot news – that is, events that are unexpected and instantaneous. These could be events such as car accidents, aeroplane incidents, fires, building collapses, natural disasters, robberies and other crimes. If you are resilient in the face of tragedy and don’t mind being called to report at random times, this could be a good avenue for you.
General news photojournalism
General news photojournalism, unlike spot news, is planned coverage. It may seem mundane in comparison to the ‘action’ of spot news coverage, but general news photojournalism is still very important, as photojournalists report on significant, albeit planned, events. If you prefer predictability and shy away from shocking events, general news photojournalism is still a great option.
For those who love sports, and love sports photography, sports photojournalism might just be your cup of tea. There are two kinds of sports photojournalism – the first is sports action photojournalism. This is the kind of sports photography you are likely most familiar with – showing the players in action. The second is sports features, which aim to show the personal side of the sport; for example, the players rejoicing after a game, or a coach crying as his team loses.
If you are a people person, and you have an affinity for portrait photography, portrait photojournalism would be a good fit for you. Portrait photojournalists’ work typically occurs alongside an interview of the subject in a publication. Portrait photography is far more than making the subject look good; it is about humanising the subject and conveying their personality.
War photojournalism is perhaps the most dangerous type of photojournalism. War photojournalists travel to war sites to photograph armed conflict and its effects on people and places. While it is dangerous, it can be very rewarding for photojournalists to cover such important events.
Principles of photojournalism
As we mentioned before, as journalists, photojournalists have ethical considerations towards their photography.
The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) has a Code of Ethics which many photojournalists look to as the foundation for their work. The NPPA states that photographers should try to strive towards these ethical principles:
- Accurately represent your subjects
- Avoid staging photos
- Avoid bias and stereotyping in work; provide complete information and context
- Show consideration and respect for subjects
- Do not influence the actions of the photographic subject
- Do not misrepresent the subjects in the photograph with editing
- Do not compensate persons involved in photographs or in getting a photograph
- Refuse gifts or other favours from those involved in a photo
- Do not purposely interfere with the work of other journalists
Photojournalism – how to start
Now that your curiosity has been piqued, and you know the ethical principles of photojournalism, here are some tips to help launch your career as a photojournalist.
- Keep up to date with current affairs – If you are considering a career in photojournalism, you probably already are interested in current affairs, and that’s significant as good photojournalists know their stories inside and out.
- Consider taking a course – While a degree in photojournalism is not compulsory to become a photojournalist, taking a course can be very beneficial in helping you to develop your photography skills as well as learning about the industry. If a university course is not an option, there are many online courses in photojournalism, too.
- Build a portfolio – Whether or not you have formal education in photojournalism, you will need a professional portfolio to be taken seriously when searching for work. You can build your portfolio by starting your own personal projects, taking a photojournalism internship, and applying for entry-level photojournalism jobs.
- Start your website/Instagram – Not just for the sake of getting noticed, but for personal enjoyment and development as a photographer, it is very beneficial for you to create your website and/or Instagram account showcasing your work. This will also give you the chance to write captions about your photojournalism, which will encourage you to verbalise your photographs and get to know your photographic style and what stories you are drawn to.
- Look for work – Once you’ve taken a class or two, built up your practical experience and a portfolio, you can start applying for freelance work, which many photojournalists do. If you prefer the stability of a full-time job as opposed to freelancing, you can apply for staff photographer jobs at various outlets.
Now you’re in the know about all the practical advice for starting a career in photojournalism, you can start your photojournalism journey!
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