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The Life of A Photojournalist

Updated on September 23, 2015
LuisEGonzalez profile image

I enjoy photography and have been doing so professionally and independently for over 30 years. | Source
This work is in the public domain in the United States
This work is in the public domain in the United States | Source | Source | Source

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So taking photos seems like an easy thing to do, with today's technological advances in the digital format this seems to be true.

Almost anyone can capture an image and then edit it with any of the many photo editing software programs that are available today.

Yet photography is still one of the most competitive and one of the hardest career choices in which to make a living. One must really have a deep love for photography before undertaking it as a profession.

But don't despair, there are some branches of photography that can be monetarily rewarding and one in which you can be certain that the work atmosphere will never be a dull one.

Photojournalists often must be ready at a moment's notice and ready to drop everything and travel just as quickly. They must often perform their work in hostile environments, in remote areas and often capture images in very volatile situations,

They also face many challenges to equipment and body. Almost any year you read about a photojournalist losing his/her life while covering an assignment.

This photographic genre is one of the most stressful professions in the world. The average salary for a good photojournalist is about $43,000 per year. A recent study conducted by CNBC ranks photojournalism as the 4th most stressful job in America.

"Stress score: 47.09 Average annual salary: $43,270* Hours per day: Varies

Much like newscasters, photojournalists are expected to be on the front lines, with a job description that requires them to enter some of the most dangerous, remote or volatile places on earth. Many are on call 24 hours a day. And when news breaks, the photojournalists may have to mobilize with extremely short notice and stay on assignment for extended periods of time." CNBC 2011

But this is very far from an air conditioned, lunch hour 9 to 5 job anywhere in the world. Yes they get to visit locations that many of us will almost never see, but hardly ever will they be on location to photograph sights and tourist attractions.

Why then do these men and women keep doing this day in and day out? Because they all share a deep love for their profession and truly believe that their work provides some level of assistance in making our world a better one.

The hope is that by photographing images which can provoke change, the powers that be will act and change the many things which seem wrong in today's society and this belief is often the main driving force behind their work.

Starting in the business is not easy, but a good start is to begin by photographing and covering local events, political rallies, social happenings, local disasters and so on and this is most often done on a freelancing basis.

The first thing to do is to compile a good quantity of selected quality images which are technically sound. Beginners should approach local publications, editors and submit their work, preferably face to face with a good portfolio by their side.

If you are a photographer that has just covered a local disaster, for example a hurricane, you can be certain that you are probably the only one, or at least one of the few ones, with quality shots of that event. Editors will often offer to purchase those images from you and this gives you the opportunity to start building your reputation as a photojournalist.

Remember that the majority of photojournalists are not on the payroll of most news media outlets, but do have a working relationships with its editors and regularly submit samples of their work. This relationship often leads editors to ask you to cover certain events if they suspect that a newsworthy situation will develop.

It is up to you to make it to the location, keep a good eye open, be ready for anything and when the moment comes capture as many quality and technically sound images as possible. If not, then you have just wasted a golden chance to impress the editors who put their trust on you as well as failing to make a buck.

You must also develop a good writing style as many editors, actually the majority of them, will ask for notes or a short story to accompany the images. At the very least you have to take notes detailing the time, place, image number, any participants names or information and some aspects of the shot. It also helps to record the technical aspects of the shot, such as the camera, film, shutter speed, flash or not, film speed, and aperture.

One must also learn to become detached from their subjects. You will face situations that tear at your heart and test the limits of your morality, but the photographs need to be taken anyway. This does not signify that photojournalist are not human or that they lack even the sightless bit of humanity.

There are many instance where photojournalist have interfered and assisted victims as much as possible; from rescuing them from harm to feeding a starving child at a famine devastated area to transporting them to the nearest hospital or medical facility, such as United Nations disaster locations.

But these are the same acts that will often put the photojournalists in harms way as the focus of the perpetrators now shifts to them.

Photojournalist many times form bonds with other photojournalists when covering such events. It is not uncommon for several photojournalists to take turns photographing a scene while others keep a watchful eye, they often travel to and from locations together and will more than likely stay at the same hotels or shelters while working a story.

It is not rare to find photojournalists that specialize on one type of event informing others that do specialize in such events about possible photo ops. This type of comradeship is rare in today's business world, but it is nevertheless one of the many facets relating to this photographic genre that makes their work relationships so strong and long lasting.

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0 | Source
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0 | Source
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0 | Source

The next time that you come across an image that stirs up your emotions, makes you wonder, or moves you take action while at the same time provoking your senses.

Don't be so quick to question the photographer's motives or if the image leads you to ask why the photographer didn't save the person or at least intervene, ask yourself what you would have done if faced with the same challenges.

It is enough that by seeing this image you and many others are not only aware of the events that go on possibly many miles away from your comfortable abode, but you might now be moved into taking action, no matter how small, in order to precipitate a change. That is the true purpose of photojournalism.

Many more photography articles with tips, ideas and suggestions for new projects! | Source

© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • glowingrocks profile image

      glowingrocks 6 years ago from New York

      Thank you for making us aware of this subject.Up vote

    • profile image

      Lynn S. Murphy 6 years ago

      Thanks for putting me behind the scenes of these unsung heroes.