A photographic journalist is different from your garden variety news writer in that the photographer uses pictures to tell the story. He may work for a newspaper or wire service, or opt to work as a freelancer, selling his newsworthy pictures to various publications. Becoming a photographic journalist is about more than knowing how to take pretty pictures; it is equally important to understand the technical aspects of creating a solid image.
Determine whether you will get a formal education or become a self-taught photographer. A formal education can teach you about the technicalities of photography, including knowing your way around various types of cameras and how to use supporting equipment to get the best possible news photos. An educational background can also teach sound tenets of journalism, so you understand how to spot the impactful news shots. However, a lack of a formal education doesn't have to stand in the way of a career as a photojournalist. Experience and raw talent can substitute, particularly if you have a natural eye for news. Having an eye for news means considering what important information or significant moment you can convey through your photos that readers should know.
Gain as much experience as possible with journalism outlets. You may have to start out as an intern or unpaid freelancer as you get more experience and on-the-job training, but the experience will be invaluable, particularly as you work with seasoned photographic journalists. Query local media outlets to see which might give you a shot as an intern or freelancer to get your feet wet.
Gather equipment. If you get hired as a freelancer by a media outlet, you are expected to have a decent cache of equipment. This in turn prepares you to use staff equipment should you get hired for a full time gig. Not only should you gather various types of cameras -- from point-and-shoots to sophisticated digital models -- but also software for editing photos, accessories such as sunscreens, back drops, lenses, camera bags and more. The more equipment you have, the more prepared you are no matter what kind of story you are shooting.
Develop a sense of solid news photography. Boring shots don't make the front page; significant, action-oriented ones do. The more you can catch your subjects in action or in the midst of a significant moment, and the more the picture is powerful enough to stand on its own, the better a news photo it is. Look at other examples of solid photographic journalism, such as the front page, where the centerpiece photo is key to illustrating what is arguably among the most important stories in the paper for the day. Peruse the sports section for action-oriented photographs to view characteristics of those photos. Check out the leisure section for examples of features shots, in which their pre-planning and setup are entirely different beasts.
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