You probably agree with me that when we start in a new market it is always good to search for information about it, to know the most common practices in order to ensure that you will succeed in this new journey. Likewise, even photographers who have been working in photojournalism for some time need to seek improvement whenever possible and necessary.
However, this article is for those who are trying to improve their photography skills to invade the field of photojournalism. Maybe you’re not planning to end your day in other photographic styles, but a little extra income from your photography each month doesn’t hurt anyone, does it?
Below is a list of tips to help you get your best photojournalism images with your digital camera and in the public eye. See how you can take advantage of each one to perfect your work on a daily basis. We divide the article in two, as there is so much to soak on about the subject. The second part, can be followed here.
Now, let’s get on with it!
Like any other field of work, establishing a career in photojournalism takes time and effort. It’s a competitive business, controlled by publishers who are often bombarded with work and involved in a certain amount of subjectivity. In other words, even if you love your photos a lot and find them perfect for the next issue of your city’s magazine or newspaper, other people may not agree.
Tips to help on the field of photojournalism
1 – Do your research
The first tip of all is that to be successful in photojournalism, you must not only be a photographer, but a journalist above all. This means you need to know who, what, when, where and why of the things behind every shot you take.
Never underestimate the power of good research. The more you know about the subject, the better prepared you are to photograph it. Also, it is worth being a proactive photographer, instead of waiting for the perfect moment, create your own projects and send them to your editor.
2 – Go to school
It’s not too complex a scientific theory, if you want to pursue a career, getting a degree in this field is usually the best choice to start with.
However, unlike many careers, photography does not necessarily require a high academic degree to be successful. Photographers without any degree in photojournalism also achieve incredible results, but you may want to have at least some courses to include in your resume.
Ultimately, your photos speak for themselves, so it doesn’t really matter if you don’t have that degree. A strong portfolio of images will speak louder than any certificate attached to your office wall, for example.
3 – Pay attention to the content
Although it is important to look for ways to make an image aesthetically pleasing, you do not want to lose sight of the content of the photo. Not capturing details is the biggest mistake in photojournalism that can happen. A news photo is driven by content, your focus should be on getting the facts and making sure the image is accurate. If you focus on whether an image is beautiful or not, it should not be at the top of your list of priorities. If you are able to find a balance between the two, however, you will be at the forefront of photojournalism.
4 – Focus on People
It is always advisable for those who try to reach the top of photojournalism, to take pictures of people. Photojournalism is basically the visual documentation of what is happening around us. Nothing illustrates this more accurately than the photographs of people in their daily routine.
What I mean is that when taking pictures of a disaster you should not just focus on the dramatic event. In the most recent event, the dam burst in Mariana, we saw several images illustrating the mud, the dirt and all the destruction caused. However, the good images for photojournalism would be those with the camera focused on the people, showing the impact that this tragic event had on the inhabitants of that region.
A photo of a person trying to save their belongings from the mud, or trying to recover what little remains from the flood, will certainly be more exciting than an image of mud and nothing more. At least that is the case in the world of photojournalism.
Moreover, more information can be derived from photos like these. Document the people affected by the events you photograph and you will be one step ahead of most other amateur photojournalism professionals.
5 – Talk to people
When you are taking pictures, get out of your car and walk around the scene a bit. Try to meet people, talk to them and ask. You may be surprised at how many unique stories and unpublished ideas for photojournalism you can get just by being curious. Conquering a unique story is a quick way to impress an editor and catapult your career in photojournalism, but you won’t get there locked away in your car or photographic studio.
6 – Learn from the experts
Keep an eye on photojournalism professionals while they work. Check how they get their photos and try to learn some things. Even simple things, like a notebook and pen that you carry with you to write notes and names, while on a mission, is able to give you an advantage. They are professionals for a reason, so you can learn a lot by copying their practices.
The best opportunity to learn is at photojournalism events, where there are several experts photographing what happens in real time, the next day, look at the work published in the newspaper or website where each of the experts work. You can learn a lot by doing this on a regular basis.
7 – Pay attention to the subtitles
Concentrate on writing good subtitles. A striking difference between amateur and professional photographers is that experts have mastered the art of collecting information about their photographs. If you can’t get the facts in detail, and record them in a clear, concise and accurate caption, you won’t have much success in the photojournalism business.
8 – Be unique and sincere
Photojournalism is something serious, so you have to take accurate photos. Your job is to document an event, not create one. Images that are not real will ruin your credibility. One of the main rules in photojournalism is never to interfere or influence a news event. You should also never ask a person to do something again or set up a shot in a misleading way.