Photo Journalism: The 10 Reasons to Consider the Career

Have you ever come across a picture that stayed in your mind for a long time; one that made you stop and think and probably share it with others? A photograph that makes you ponder is the work of a photojournalist. They create visual images that accompany stories we read and greatly impact readers. Photographs offer us an insight into the mind of the writer or reporter and offer a chance to witness events and places for ourselves–the plight, joy, pain or excitement of the subjects in the photo. Photo journalism is what makes all this possible.

In the early days of media and news reporting, people only had written accounts of what was happening in other places of the world. Photo journalism took shape and grew when reporters started bringing cameras into war zones, and documenting the lives and conditions of the people involved. Widespread acceptance and popularity of photographs led to many newspapers and magazines publishing photo stories.

What Is a Photojournalist?

The picture of the little Aylan Kurdi lying face down on the beach showed the world the extent of the Syrian war and the lives it has been affecting. A baby being passed through a wired fence at a refugee camp in Albania raised many questions. Photo journalism tells a story through one single picture. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. It is powerful enough to move audiences and even enforce action on the part of various authorities. While a journalist uses a pen and paper–or in today’s age, a keyboard–to tell a story, a photojournalist uses the camera to capture meaningful images and share them with viewers.

Origins and History 

It was during the Crimean War and the American Civil War that photographers first clicked pictures of what was happening on the battlefields and in the lives of the people involved. These pictures were more of an accompaniment for the stories published in newspapers.

The period between 1920 to1950 is known as the Golden Age of photo journalism. The small and light Leica 35mm camera and the invention of the flashbulb allowed photographers to take these cameras anywhere with them and also take pictures in low light. Traditionally, pictures were only done in black and white. Many media houses, even today, still publish black and white photographs. These photos seem to have a different or even greater impact on audiences, depending on the circumstances or subjects involved.

What Does a Photojournalist Do? 

A photojournalist is a silent observer. He/she documents the reality as it is, without changing any aspect of it. The photojournalist then presents it to the world, giving people a glimpse into the lives of others halfway across the world. Photojournalists deliver news in a creative format. Many times, photojournalists are not documenting breaking news but portraying the emotions underlying an event. These could be moments of happiness, victory, anguish, loss, or devastation. A photojournalist’s work has the power to make audiences feel what the subjects in the photograph are actually going through. 

Training, Equipment, and More

Photo journalism requires you to be a good storyteller, as well as a good photographer. The essence of a picture will be visible when the technical composition and all artistic considerations in the frame are right. This includes the angle, lighting, distance, and colors. It is important for photojournalists to know the basics of photography and have good equipment to capture amazing photos. However, only having high-end equipment will not make you a good photojournalist. Powerful images can be captured on basic cameras too. You must have the proper skills to accompany the proper equipment.

Most photojournalists today need this equipment to capture important moments. Good lenses (wide-angle zoom lenses, fast prime lenses, and others), DSLR (Canon 5D Mark III or Nikon D600), an omnidirectional microphone (the Electro-Voice RE50), a strobe or flash (Canon Speedlite 600 EX-RT or Nikon SB-910), a flash modifier (LumiQuest ProMax Pocket Bouncer), batteries and memory cards are also necessary for the gig.

All the images a photojournalist captures also need to be stored in a safe place to be retrieved later. Many photojournalists use Drobo, a series of external storage devices.

The Photojournalist’s Journey

The photojournalist’s work begins with scouting powerful stories. The subject of photo journalism does not only include wars but even small and big events at the local level that have an impact on the population. These could be related to civic problems, sports, festivals or even climate.

Being at the right place at the right time is important for a photojournalist. Taking pictures is the next stage in this journey, which is followed by pitching stories to various publications until one or more accept it. After that, the photograph and story will be published for the world to see.


Being honest and impartial is the cornerstone of photo journalism. This is what sets photo journalism apart from other forms of journalism, especially the paparazzi that edit, highlight, retouch, morph photos and videos that are circulated in print or on social media.

Photo journalism is expected to be ethical and morally sound. The photographer is merely documenting what actually happened and not staging or choreographing anything to make the shot look good. One may clear a hazy picture or improve the brightness for clarity at the editing stage. However, adding more people to show a crowd, increasing smoke to show fire, or making unwanted elements like power lines, cars or stray animals disappear is absolutely not permitted.

10 Reasons to Consider a Career in Photo Journalism

1. Pictures Speak Louder Than Words


This old adage holds very true in the case of photo journalism. If you have a natural ability to recognize a frame, keeping in mind all technical aspects and still making it aesthetically pleasing, photo journalism is something you may want to consider.

2. You Are Good at Meaningful Imagery

Meaningful Imagery

Many people click pictures that merely look good. Photo journalism, on the other hand, is about showing people more than just what meets the eye. A photojournalist is able to compose a picture in a way speaks volumes.

3. Storytelling


People who are good storytellers make good photojournalists. But telling a good story also entails finding one in the first place. If you sense what can make for an interesting piece of visual imagery, then photo journalism may be a good career option for you.

4. Not a Desk Job


If you are one of those people who dislike sitting in a cubicle for 7 to 8 hours every day, you might find photo journalism to be an interesting alternative. Although, you will have to sit at a desk, edit pictures, pitch them to potential clients, and deal with the paperwork that goes along with this job. However, the brighter side is that you won’t have to endure a tedious commute to the office each day in a suit and tie.

5. Learning New Things

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Photo journalism consists of keeping your eyes, ears, and mind open to new experiences. A photojournalist’s work is one of constant learning. Though, you can never master it all. There will always be new places, new events, new people, new cultures, and new philosophies to discover and understand.

6. A Lot of Traveling

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If you are fond of traveling, photo journalism is right up your alley. This career option lets you travel to various places within your state and country, as well as outside the continent. However, this does not only mean luxury traveling. Photojournalists may have to travel by various means of transport and stay in some less-than-desirable places. In the end, though, the photographs you capture and stories you portray will be worth the while.

7. Empathy


Your images will not tell a story or invoke any emotions in the audiences if you cannot empathize with your subject’s sentiments and plight. A good photojournalist is one who can understand the emotions of his/her subjects and how to bring them into the picture, connecting more people across the world to one emotion.

8. A People’s Person

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As a photojournalist, you get to see new places and meet a lot of people. Being an extrovert is an important quality in this field. Being able to interact with people and make good, long-lasting connections will open up many doors for you.

9. You are Brave and Willing

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This career can take you places, many of them remote, underdeveloped or even dangerous. If you are brave enough to take on any situation and willing to live in not-so-safe or adverse conditions, photo journalism can be a highly satisfying field.

10. Fame


This is not the primary reason for getting into photo journalism but it is a per, nevertheless. Although making your mark in this filed takes time and efforts, if your work is good, your photos will be published in some top magazines and newspapers.


The most important aspect of photo journalism is your perception, not your camera. The greatest photographs in history that have created a lasting impact on the society have been taken by journalists who created a composition that made audiences stop and think. A good eye, proper equipment, and the right approach will ensure a successful photo journalism career.

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