The image of a person in a flak jacket shooting photos in a war zone might be one of the first things that come to mind when you think about the life of a photojournalist -- but while that certainly can be part of the job description, it's much more common to find photojournalists in and out of a domestic newsroom. On a typical day for a typical photojournalist, you'll find him researching stories, shooting with sources and editing his work.
At the start of a workday, a photojournalist meets with other members of the news team. Working with reporters, producers and editors, the team decides the day's stories and determines where the photojournalist will shoot photos or video. Some videographers head out "in the field" with a reporter, while others are assigned to shoot video or photos on their own, sometimes gathering details of the story to share with writers or producers who work in the newsroom. When a photojournalist is working in a crisis or wartime situation -- either as a freelancer or on assignment from a news organization -- she'll often start her day by having her own informal editorial meeting, deciding how she'll spend her day.
Working with Sources
After he's gathered all the tools he'll need for the day's jobs -- and assured everything is in good working order -- including cameras, memory cards or film, lights, lens cleaners and tripods, the photographer will go out into the field. If he's working with a reporter, the two will work together to decide on the best angles for shooting subjects. Whether he's alone or part of a team, he'll need to develop rapport with sources to get the best product possible. That might include spending time talking with the source, or in sensitive situations, finding ways to amend the photos to protect a source's privacy.
With the photos or videos shot, the next step is to edit them for publishing in a magazine or newspaper or for broadcast on TV. In a larger newsroom, photographers might hand their work off to an editor to assemble into a cohesive video story or to decide which photos will make the publication. If she's working as a freelancer or on a foreign assignment, the photographer might edit the photos or video on her own and then send them to the news organization via email or satellite phone. In a smaller newsroom, a photojournalist might also be responsible for adding the photos or video to the newsroom archive.
Preparing for the Profession
Like other journalists, photojournalists need to be detail-oriented, creative, adaptable and have good communication skills. Also like other journalists, they'll typically start out by earning a bachelor's degree in communications, journalism or photography. To gain the skills and experience needed to succeed, a photojournalist will pursue internships at magazines, newspapers or broadcast stations. Increasingly, photojournalists also maintain their own blogs or websites that highlight their work. As of May 2013, photojournalists in radio and TV earned an average annual salary of $43,290, while those in newspapers and magazines earned $43,090, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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