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Photojournalist Duties and Responsibilities

Photojournalists employed in any venue perform the same or similar core tasks. We have examined several job listings and found the following to be among those duties and responsibilities most often mentioned by employers seeking individuals to fill this position:

Take Pictures and Videos for News Outlets Working independently or directly for news stations or magazines, photojournalists take pictures and videos to accompany stories or that visually tell a story on their own. Photojournalists employ styles as outlined by specific sources, use appropriate lighting techniques, and are willing to shoot pictures in indoor studios or outdoor locations. They take pictures recording breaking news, sports events, investigative features, or political news stories.

Use Photo Software to Edit and Enhance Images Photojournalists often make use of editing software to touch up or enhance images as needed. They might use software to add or edit sound, crop pictures to fit certain media, or edit pictures to accompany stories.

Maintain Photography Equipment Photojournalists make sure that their digital cameras and video recorders are working properly. They must update equipment or make repairs as needed to capture the clearest and most compelling images needed to support or enhance news stories. They must possess the creativity to incorporate the most updated photography technologies into their assignments.

Attend Editorial Meetings and Suggest Story/Photo Ideas Photojournalists often attend meetings with reporters, editors, and other staff members to add their creativity to current stories, make suggestions for photo opportunities in future stories, and suggest story topics for which they can lend their services.


Photojournalist Skills and Qualifications

Creative, detail-oriented individuals with an eye for images that would capture readers’ attention are often the most successful photojournalists. The following skills and abilities are among those most commonly sought by employers of these professionals:

  • Equipment skills – thorough knowledge of digital camera equipment, lighting equipment, lenses, and other necessary photography tools is essential to photojournalists
  • Editing skills – knowing what to enhance and what to take away from images is an important ability for photojournalists to master
  • Creativity – photojournalists must consistently find creative ways in which to visually depict the stories they are covering to draw readers in and maintain interest in stories covered by the magazine/news station/website they are working for
  • Collaboration – it is crucial that photojournalists work closely with reporters, editors, and news managers to generate story ideas, review images, and assist in choosing which stories would benefit from their photography skills
  • Organizational skills – a photojournalist might spend anywhere from a day to a week shooting images in various locations, for various stories, and it is important that they maintain organization of their images and corresponding stories
  • Time management – often being involved in breaking news or current stories, photojournalists must be adept at keeping to schedules and delivering edited images for stories in a short period of time
  • Flexibility – stories do not often break at any set time; photojournalists have to be available at different times and days; their schedule must be flexible to accommodate the last-minute needs of their employers

Photojournalist Education and Training

Many employers seek candidates for photojournalist positions who hold a bachelor’s degree in journalism or communications. The completion of photography courses at a community or vocational college, such as those offering courses in photography techniques, design, and equipment usage, can be helpful and are sometimes required by some employers. Often, a photojournalist might be asked to produce a portfolio; this useful employment tool can be created by apprenticing or working for an experienced photojournalist or photographer for a time before embarking on this career.


Photojournalist Salary

Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) describes the median annual salary for all photographers, including photojournalists, to be $34,070. Those earning in the 10th percentile make $19,110 annually, while top earners realize a yearly salary of $76,220. Photojournalists employed by newspaper, periodical, and other publishers see a mean annual wage of $46,670, while those in radio and television broadcasting make slightly more at $49,230. Annual mean salaries for this type of work is reportedly highest in states such as the District of Columbia ($63,750), New York ($61,530), Massachusetts ($60,130), and California ($51,080); notably, where many top newspaper and magazine publishers, as well as news media, are located. With the decline in print news expected to continue, the BLS reports an expected 34 percent drop in the employment of photojournalists through 2026. However, this decline can be offset by the need for photojournalists for electronic and video media. In addition, the employment rate of freelance photographers is expected to rise 12 percent over the same time period, expanding the possibilities for self-employed photojournalists.


Photojournalist Helpful Resources

The additional resources below shed more light on what it takes to become and work as a photojournalist. If you want to learn more about this exciting career, click on the following links:

National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) – The NPPA offers networking and training opportunities, as well as conferences, workshops, and competitions. It provides a great outlet for photojournalists to mingle with other professionals and improve and hone their skills.

American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) – Founded in 1944, the ASMP offers photojournalists webinars, podcasts, forums, current news, and professional advocacy.

Storytelling for Photojournalists: Reportage and Documentary Photography Techniques – Capturing a photojournalistic image is more than just pointing the camera at an opportune time; use the book to find details about idea development, proper equipment choice, cultural issues to consider, and more.

Photojournalism Now – A website containing current photojournalistic images along with commentaries, interviews, and articles.

PDN Pulse – In the photojournalism section of this photography blog site, you’ll find articles offering insight into best practices, professional tips, current news, and other relevant information for photojournalists.

PHOTOJOURNALIST: The Life Story of Ara Guler – What better way to find out about any career than to examine the professional life of one who has succeeded at it? This book explores the techniques, accomplishments, and images of the award-winning photojournalist.

Photojournalism: The Professionals’ Approach (7th edition) Review interviews with professionals, information about photojournalism in social media, case studies, and business practices for photojournalists in this comprehensive and insightful book.