A photojournalist is a news photographer who specializes in capturing images of important people and events for news agencies, magazines, newspapers and other forms of media. The main objective of a photojournalist is to use their photography and reporting skills to communicate stories and ideas through pictures. Like other kinds of photographers, photojournalists combine technical expertise with knowledge of their subjects and environments they are photographing.

Photojournalists may serve as full-time salaried employees for a publication or on a contract basis for a media outlet. Some in the profession are self-employed freelance photojournalists who receive assignments from a variety of clients. If you have the determination to succeed in this exciting field, earning a photojournalism degree and receiving hands-on photography and media training can help you advance your career goals.

To become a photojournalist, an individual should develop professional skills and industry-relevant knowledge through opportunities like:

  • Earning an advanced degree in photojournalism from a college or university
  • Working in the photo department of a news organization or media outlet as an intern, assistant or part-time employee
  • Connecting with photojournalism trade organizations or online groups

Although most photojournalists rely on digital technology, some assignments may call for using traditional silver-halide film cameras. Whether using digital or traditional picture-taking methods, a photojournalist needs expert knowledge of camera operations and various photography techniques.

Individuals in this profession should also know how to use numerous lenses, lights, filters and tripods. Familiarity with photo editing software or film processing will also benefit photojournalists.

Photojournalist Job Description

The photojournalist records, preserves and distributes newsworthy images designed to accompany written stories or appear as standalone news photos. To achieve professional success, photojournalists must possess an understanding of photography and journalism practices and principles. They should understand how to complete assignments under a variety of challenging conditions, including crowded or hazardous environments, or rapidly changing situations. Due to the unpredictable and deadline-oriented nature of news reporting, photojournalists should be flexible and resourceful, and have excellent eyesight and reflexes.

Salaried photojournalists typically work with editors, writers, reporters and other professionals within a news organization. Contract or freelance photojournalists often work independently and report to a specific editorial contact. A photojournalist may receive assignments in advance of a scheduled event or suddenly when breaking news develops.

Photojournalists can work in various settings, including:

  • Newspapers, magazines or journals
  • Wire image services
  • Media outlets or news agencies

Some photojournalists focus on specific departments or journalism “beats,” such as sports, news, entertainment, lifestyle and travel.

Photojournalist Salary

The continued evolution of internet technology should make it easier for freelance photojournalists to connect with prospective employers and share their work digitally. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, photo journalists in the top percentage of the industry earned annual salaries of more than $62,430.

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