Photojournalism Career Information and Job Duties

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a photojournalist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and job growth expectations to find out if this is the career for you.

Photojournalists have the unique opportunity to tell a story through their pictures in connection with current news features. Whether working as a freelancer or directly with a particular news company, this position doesn't require a higher education degree. While it's a very competitive field, photojournalists can display their own personal touch by building a portfolio to show future clients.

Essential Information

Photojournalists take informative images of news events around the world for video and print media. Whether working independently or with a news agency, photojournalists must have an artistic eye and technical expertise to produce competitive, high quality photographs or videos. Many have a bachelor's degree in photojournalism or a relevant field and build a portfolio of their work while in school.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in photojournalism or related field
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 3% growth for all photographers, but a 41% decline for newspaper photographers
Mean Salary (2015)* $40,280 for all photographers, $45,310 for newspaper, periodical, book and directory publishing photographers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Career Information

Photojournalism is a competitive field, and while some professionals are self-taught, many earn a bachelor's degree in photography or journalism. Formal training allows students to gain essential technical skills, develop individual style and build a portfolio to prepare for the workforce. Degree programs also provide opportunities to gain practical experience through internships or school news organizations.

Graduates often start out in an internship or assistantship with a news agency, through which they can make contacts in the field and may find full-time employment. Publishing as much work as possible, often without compensation, is also important to building a photojournalist career. Published work enhances portfolios and provides an advantage over others in applying for jobs.

Employment Options

Over half of all photographers, including photojournalists, are self-employed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Some photojournalists choose freelance work because they prefer the flexibility. They sell and market their work directly to news media outlets or are hired as contractors. Employers may prefer to work with freelance photojournalists for specific assignments or on a contract basis rather than maintain a full-time staff.

Photojournalists working full-time for news agencies often focus on a single aspect of the news, such as sports, politics or entertainment. These photojournalists may work alongside reporters to find and research stories and ensure full coverage of newsworthy events.

Job Duties

Photojournalists need sufficient technical knowledge to be able to set up shots, choose the best type of film, select appropriate filters and alter the lighting to achieve the desired effects. They also edit their photographs using computer software programs like Adobe Photoshop, which involves touching up images to improve overall quality. They must be able to think and act quickly and position themselves at the most opportune places. Photojournalists must also be able to work under pressure and meet given deadlines.

Employment Outlook

The BLS predicts there will be just 3% job growth for all photographers over the 2014-2024 decade, with an especially steep drop for newspaper photographers. Photojournalism is a popular field and candidates face intense competition for jobs, according to the BLS. The increasing use of the Internet and digital photography means more people are posting their photos online for public use, which is cutting into opportunities for freelance photojournalists.

Even though the job outlook isn't very high, most photojournalists make up for it through freelance work. With its flexibility, this type of job provides a chance to try new experiences and build a repertoire that could potentially lead to larger opportunities with bigger news stations.

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