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So you have a camera and want to be a photojournalist? I think that’s great! Photojournalism is one of the most important aspects of modern society. Without photojournalism, many of the most important changes in human history may not have ever happened.
Photojournalism can only really be good and effective when done well. Here are some tips and ideas for how to be a photojournalist that you can start as a beginner photographer.
Please note that becoming a working photojournalist with a media outlet will often require a degree or other extensive training. But not every image distributed as photojournalism is taken by a degreed full time journalist working for a major media outlet. There’s room for you and your images.
Some of our photojournalism tips involve equipment choices, others cover photojournalism techniques.
Tell A Story
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The entire existence of photojournalism depends on journalism which is spreading news and information. If a person looks at your image and is informed about something, it could be photojournalism. What is photojournalism without the story?
The action, location, or subject should be able to be discerned as conveying this information with a minimum of added words of commentary. Sometimes this could require a series of images in order to tell the story adequately.
Your skill as a photographer will help you to develop this photojournalism skill. You are already making images that tell a story of some kind, even if the story is simply “pretty flower.” Just take that a bit further and look for ways to include the viewer in the photo somehow.
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Except for certain images like the Tiananmen Square tank standoff, most photojournalism images will be some sort of closer view than standing off in the distance while taking pictures.
Making use of photojournalism techniques, this may mean getting physically closer. Be sure to take adequate precautions to protect yourself and your equipment. I like the sling-pack style of photographic equipment bags such as the Freelance™ photo and drone tactical sling-pack from Hazard 4®
First off, it’s a sling-pack, which I highly recommend for photojournalism. A sling-pack lets you carry a fair amount of gear comfortably with its large Molle covered main strap.
The design allows for quickly moving the bag into position to access your gear so you never have to take off the bag and put it down somewhere, it can stay attached to you. Perfect for getting up close near the action.
The Freelance™ is great protection for your cameras and lenses since it is built around a thermoformed shell and includes a padded interior and moveable dividers. The HardPoint™ mounting system gives you multiple places to attach your other photographic equipment.
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You may not always be able to get as close as you might prefer, so using a telephoto lens becomes a great option. For the full frame DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, a fast telephoto zoom lens in the 70-200mm f/2.8 range becomes a valuable tool.
A zoom lens gives you versatility to choose focal lengths, telephoto brings you apparently closer to what is being photographed. A fast lens affords you even more options in regards to exposure settings and depth of field techniques, plus you gain the added benefit of many of these fast telephoto zooms being professional quality, rugged and very sharp.
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Being aware of what’s happening around you is paramount for a journalist. Learning how to be a photojournalist, you will find that the more comfortable you are with your camera gear and with basic photographic tips and techniques, the more you will be able to focus on the possible news going on as you’re out and about.
You may be going to a specific event or area, looking for a story to capture. This will require you to really be alert. You already know there is the possibility of a good photojournalism story, now you need to be extra alert to all the nuances of what’s happening.
Pay attention to the background noise. That chatter just might be a clue as to where to point your camera. Besides the voices of other people, keep an eye out for anything in the surroundings that could be your next image.
Keep It Sharp
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Sharply in focus, that is. A blurry shot of the most important moment of this month isn't likely to get picked up by Reuters or the AP, unless you’re absolutely the only person there at all with a camera. How likely is that scenario with the ubiquitous smartphone in everyone’s hands?
So you will need to practice your focusing techniques. Know what your camera autofocus can do, how to control it, and when to focus manually. Henri Cartier-Bresson mastered the photojournalism techniques of prefocusing and capturing the peak of the action or the decisive moment.
Those photojournalism tips play a huge role in being able to capture images that tell a story and tell it well. The decisive moment also takes into account subject motion and good hand holding techniques. We’ve covered all of these in other articles on this website.
Shoot A Lot
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You won’t be able to carefully plant yourself somewhere and set up for the one perfect shot in most cases. Taking a lot of pictures is going to help you get into the flow as well.
You don’t really want to just keep shooting without any thought, but if one image is going to be used somewhere, it couldn’t hurt to have a variety of images to choose from.
This is one of the cases where shooting in JPEG may actually be preferable to camera RAW, since their smaller size won’t fill up memory cards as fast, plus, the JPEGs can be shared immediately if necessary, no processing required.
Edit To Find The Best Image
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If your own image doesn't grab you, it won’t capture attention from someone else either. Look for image issues, such as bad focus, subject motion, deep shadow, burnt out highlights, uncomfortable composition or camera angle, or anything else that detracts from the image.
Just because we’re capturing news doesn’t mean that just any image will do regardless of quality. If given the choice, any news editor will choose a well exposed, sharply focused image over a lower quality photo.
How To Be A Photojournalist
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There are many things to consider as you take your first steps towards being a photojournalist, these photojournalism tips are designed to get you up and running. Keep taking your camera with you, keep looking for a good story, and do keep safe, too.
If you find this world of photojournalism to be something worth entering, build on these ideas and keep practicing. You may also find yourself wanting some more education concerning how to be a photojournalist. Online schools and courses exist for free or low cost from numerous sources.
Who knows, we might be seeing and talking about one of your photojournalism images next.