How To: Photojournalism Techniques

If a photographer is interested in taking images for news and feature stories, they can call themselves a photojournalist. There are several ways someone might begin a career in this area, and it helps to understand the key differences among them.

Firstly, if a freelance photographer tends to create images that match “human interest” stories, they will fall under the “feature” category of photojournalism (for example, if they cover the local county fair or take the photographs that accompany a story about a local hero, these are classic examples of feature images). If they are going to cover current events and “hard news” in a photographic manner (for example, a raging forest fire, soldiers in combat, or a current political scandal) then they are definitely a “news” photojournalist.

Do the differences mean that someone cannot work in both of these areas? Absolutely not, but it is important to make the distinction because a lot of photographers have to get a proverbial “foot in the door” in order to get consistent work, and knowing exactly which pictures to go after will make a lot of difference.

How to Sell Your Photojournalistic Work

Photojournalists will have a great many ways to sell their work. For instance, they can contact their local newspaper office with offers of specific images. They might also seek work with national and local magazines. There are plenty of websites that are eager to obtain good photojournalistic images as well, and even some of the stock photo sites have headings and sections dedicated to this type of work.

Photo by Hamad AL-Mohannna

Essential Equipment

The equipment necessary for someone to practice this type of photography is somewhat expansive, and it is best to consider a more universal lens that offers speed, and the option for transitioning between telephoto and wide angle easily. A photojournalist would want this simply for convenience. Just imagine trying to attend a political rally with several cameras hanging from your neck, or trying to capture some sort of group activity with an inappropriate lens. This means that something like a 24-70mm might be a good idea, as long as it also provides a substantial aperture (such as f2.8) to allow it to be as “fast” as possible.

Depending upon the nature of the work, a photographer might also consider purchasing an ND (neutral density) or polarizing filter to help with overly bright conditions, or they could even consider a lens hood to prevent flare from ruining an image that can only be taken from a single angle.

Many photojournalists will also carry good strobe lights or independent flash units for the ultimate in control, and some also make a point of also having a sturdy tripod in the ready too.

Most photojournalists end up with an enormous number of exposures as well, and this means that their DSLR camera should be able to operate in a “burst” mode. This allows multiple images per minute and prevents the dreaded digital “refresh” delay from forcing a photographer to miss a shot. Currently, there are cameras that allow burst to happen even when the photographer is shooting in RAW.

Photo Editing Software is Mandatory

This leads to the need to mention photo editing software (and workflow software too). It is unlikely that even the best photojournalistic images appear in print without some sort of “clean up” or editorial work being done. This might be as simple as an adjustment to brightness or a quick crop, but it still means that a photographer will need to have access to a good program for doing it. Naturally, the Photoshop software tends to be the one of choice, but there are many other options as well. The Adobe software also offers the Lightroom program, and this is being used by many freelance professionals to help manage their workflow and free up some of their time.

Just consider that any professional photographer is going to dedicate around 70% of their average workday to things not related to the actual taking of photographs. They might spend a few hours cleaning up and sorting images, they might have to dedicate time to their website and their online sales, and they probably have to give a bit of each day to things like bookkeeping and correspondence. This doesn’t even take into consideration any marketing efforts like social networking. So, any software that can help reduce the amount of time spent “improving” or completing a photograph is going to be remarkably helpful.

There is a great deal of “overlap” between photojournalism and other types of photography. For example, sports photographers, those who do portraiture, and even nature and wildlife photographers might find that their work is snatched up by organizations and outlets that usually fall under the photojournalistic headings. This is a great opportunity to spread the word about the quality of your work and to begin working with news organizations that will help you to obtain your goals of working as a full-time, freelance photojournalist.