Photojournalism in 2022 is very different to what it was a decade ago. The past ten years have taken us ever further from a world of journalism as a full-time job with healthcare and benefits and towards a world where freelancers and crowdsourced photos are now used by many major publications. Along with the shift in the structure is a shift in the cameras, lenses and other equipment required for photojournalism. The emergence of new technology, such as full frame mirrorless cameras, and improvements in existing technology, such as smartphone image quality, have made photojournalism equipment smaller and more portable than ever. In this article, we’ll break down our recommended photojournalism cameras, lenses and other gear.
What to Look and How to Shop
Photojournalists should prioritize the following features and characteristics when shopping for gear:
- Portability, Size and Weight – Photojournalists need to move around quickly without lugging around too much gear. They also need to anticipate moments and put themselves in the right position for the right shot. As such, size and portability are important to the job. The good news is that newer mirrorless cameras and their corresponding lenses are lighter than ever.
- Camera Dynamic Range and ISO Performance – Photojournalists need to document moments in unpredictable lighting conditions. Therefore having a camera with good dynamic range performance is critical. Shooting in a RAW format on a good camera will allow photojournalists to correct most exposure mistakes without damaging image quality. And good high ISO performance will allow photographers to capture images in low light.
- Durability – Photojournalists need their gear to last and remain reliable in any environment. This is why sticking to high-quality, durable gear will often be better in the long run than opting for cheaper or 3rd party gear.
- Cost – With unpredictable shooting conditions, photojournalists have a chance of damaging their gear. So, in general, stick to camera gear that gets the job done but doesn’t break the bank.
Gear Safety and Insurance
As a photojournalist, you may need to go out into the world with your expensive equipment to take the photos that no one else has captured. Your camera is always at risk of damage or theft. You should get secure cases and bags for your equipment, but your safety measures shouldn’t stop there. Make sure you have camera insurance coverage, as there will be risk no matter what you do. Being able to claim from insurance may save your career, as you may otherwise not be able to replace the very items you need for work. Now, let’s get into what equipment you actually need.
The Camera Body: DSLR or Mirrorless
If you’re just starting out, you probably don’t want to spend $5,000 plus on the camera body alone. The good news is that there are excellent mid-level camera bodies that will do the job. You should go for a DSLR or mirrorless camera. DSLR cameras are less expensive now that mirrorless cameras have hit the market, but that doesn’t mean they are inferior. However, DSLR cameras, and their corresponding lenses, are larger and heavier than mirrorless cameras, so if you can afford it, go with the newer mirrorless technology.
Here are some popular affordable camera bodies you should consider:
- Sony A7 Series Cameras: Sony A7, Sony A7R,
- Nikon Z Series Cameras: Nikon Z6, Nikon Z7
- Canon R Series Cameras: Canon R5, Canon R6
Lenses: Zoom or Fixed?
Versatility is key for good photojournalism. For that reason, a good medium range lens is ideal, such as Canon 24mm-70mm Lens, NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S, or Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS. Just be sure to get a lens that is compatible with your camera system.
Fixed lenses provide better quality and lower apertures, but since they do not zoom, they are not as useful for photojournalists. Rather, they are excellent additions to your collection that you can get down the line. However, when you’re on the job, you want to minimize your lens changes, as this can cause you to miss important moments and can expose your camera sensors to dust.
Flash and Trigger
A good on camera flash is important even if you don’t plan on shooting at night. You will need a flash when you are shooting in poor lighting conditions at day, whether this is because of the weather or the low light in a room or under greenery. A great, affordable flash system is the Godox or Flashpoint flashes. (Godox and Flashpoint are the same flash, just rebranded for different retailers). The Godox V1 would be our recommended flash of choice along with a Wireless Flash Transmitter Trigger. Again, be sure to purchase a system for the correct camera brand and system.
Other Gear and Accessories
Besides your camera, lenses and flash, here are other things you might want to consider:
Camera Carrying System – There are many camera carrying systems out there, such as standard neck straps, cross-body slings, and holsters. Find the best camera carrying system for your body and shooting style.
Memory Cards and Wallet – Reliable, fast, and large capacity memory cards will be critical for any photojournalist. Losing photos with low quality cards or missing moments while switching out low capacity memory cards are not acceptable in the profession. In addition, find a good, durable memory card wallet to protect your cards.
Camera Bag – Choose a camera bag that blends in. As a photojournalist, you never know where your assignment will take you, and you don’t want your camera bag to scream “expensive gear inside.
Gear You May Not Need
Large Lighting Modifiers – As on-the-go photojournalists, you may not need large lighting modifiers like soft boxes and umbrellas. You might opt for a set of gels for your flash to match the ambient lighting or a small lighting diffuser. But other than that, keep it simple and versatile.
Tripod – A tripod is rarely used in photojournalism because they are simply too bulky and cumbersome for the photojournalism style of shooting. In addition, many newer cameras and lenses have excellent image stabilization, so you can drop your shutter speeds down very low and still avoid camera shake.
Flash Stand – Your flash will likely be on camera. Or, if needed, you can hold the flash with the other hand for more directional lighting. With the run-and-gun style of photojournalism, you likely won’t have the option to set up flash stands.
Computer and Photo Editing Software – You will also need to consider the best photo editing software to enhance your photos as much as possible.
Despite the changing landscape of photojournalism, there will always be a need for reliable professionals that take high quality and impactful photos. Along with the challenges that come with the changing landscape of the profession come opportunities to use the new technologies to stand out and create images that document history. We hope that this article has been helpful in your journey in photojournalism.