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How to Become a Photojournalist

By Michelle Ecker on October 25, 2017

How to Become a Photojournalist

Are you interested in pursuing a career in photojournalism? When it comes to photographers who are specifically interested in telling their viewers an exciting, meaningful story through every image, this specific niche of the industry is an especially gratifying one.

However, there are a number of things about this career worth exploring before making the decision to dive in. To help you get started, we reached out to Hal Buell, who was the Director of Photography for the Associated Press for 25 years, and who is currently on the Board of Directors of the Eddie Adams Workshop. We asked him to share with our students what he felt were the most important traits all aspiring photojournalists should have:

“Above all to be curious, and you must possess a desire to know what is happening in the world around you. A very successful commercial photographer I knew for many years would accept a week-long assignment but take no pictures for the first two days. He just asked questions, toured the areas of the company to be photographed, and learned all he could about the business. He sought knowledge about what he was to photograph.

An editorial photographer is not an artist, but essentially a journalist. But that does not eliminate a respect for the artistic and the elements of composition, lighting, color, etc. That will help make interesting, compelling photographs. There is a balance required to tell the story, not your story, while at the same time putting enough of yourself in the photography to make it unique, informative, and accurate.”

If you’re new to photography altogether, before you go any further down the road towards a professional career in photojournalism, it’s absolutely crucial that you start becoming extremely familiar and comfortable navigating all the functions of your digital camera. Especially if you want to pursue shots of high intensity, fast-paced events like political rallies, protests or live events, you’ll need to be able to make all necessary camera adjustments in a flash so that you can capture all that live energy and excitement on the fly.

To truly understand your equipment inside and out in a way that will benefit your photojournalism career, first we recommend mastering all the functions and adjustments on your specific camera. After that, if you have a collection of lenses at your disposal, learn their best uses. Come up with possible compositional scenarios and locations in your mind, and learn to quickly select the most appropriate, effective lens to use at such a moment.

We were also lucky enough to speak with Kevin Kushel, who was the Director of the AP Photo Library for nearly a decade, as well as the General Manager at Bruce Coleman. He also told us what he thinks you should consider before getting started:

“Be cognizant of the solid commitment called for in order to be a working photojournalist. Understand that it’s an all-pervasive lifestyle, demanding attention and responsibility to a round-the-clock, on-demand master. If you’re doing your job, there will be many instances where you will have to deal with things unexpected and difficult.”