If you're interested in working as a war photojournalist, you've got to have drive, passion, and a vision of the story that you want to tell. In addition, you'll also need basic training and photography skills if you want to make it in this exciting profession.
Working as a War Photojournalist
If your goal is to be a war photojournalist, first you should ask yourself a few questions:
- Why do I want to visit war-torn countries? What are my motivations?
- Do I have the gumption to put myself in dangerous situations?
- Am I strong enough to bear witness to the atrocities of war?
- What story do I want my photos to tell?
If you've come up with satisfactory answers to all of these questions, maybe you've got what it takes to be a war photographer. One thing to keep in mind is this is a very dangerous line of work. War photojournalists purposely put themselves in harm's way so they can capture what is going on and share it with a global audience. If you are comfortable with potentially getting hurt in the line of duty, then this might be the profession for you.
Assignment vs. Freelance
As a photojournalist, you have a few work options. Most photographers either work on assignment for an organization or go as a freelance photojournlaist.
If you're a photojournalist, the most common type of work you'll get are freelance or assignment jobs.
- Freelance work means you're out taking photos, which you will sell to the media after you've finished a project.
- You probably won't have your expenses covered.
- Travel arrangements are up to you.
- There is a chance you will not find buyers for your photographs.
If you're working on assignment, consider the following.
- It means a media company has paid you to capture a series of specific shots.
- They might pay your expenses for the project. In this case, they may arrange travel, transportation, and accommodations.
- These positions tend to be harder to land, and you'll need experience and a great reputation as a photographer if you want to work on assignment for a major media outlet.
Just like any photographer, you'll need technical aptitude to make it in the big time. As a war photojournalist, you'll need to know the finer points of:
- Depth of field
- Lens and camera mechanics
- Color theory
- Film development (yes, photojournalists still often shoot in film)
- Darkroom printing
These skills are fairly easy to acquire if you put your mind to it. If you are interested in learning more about the technical side of photography, consider taking a photo class at your local community college or try an online training course.
Preparation and Forethought
One common misconception is you can just enter a war zone and start snapping photos. This is most certainly not the case. You'll need a variety of documents and resources, such as passports, visas, work permits, and more. Depending on where you are shooting, there may be military requirements for being in the middle of battle. You'll need contacts and places to stay, as well as sources for information and possibly protection. This is a big deal, and not something that should be jumped into lightly.
If you're unsure of how to go about getting started, contact the National Press Photographers Association. They even have a great page that details how to get started as a photojournalist, complete with information about the education, training, and personal qualities you will need to succeed in this field.