Photojournalism Tips

Michele Wanke
Photojournalists should constantly hone their craft.

You can review thousands of photojournalism tips, but unless you find a way to apply the concepts to your own shots, you likely won't succeed in the field.

About Photojournalism

Photojournalism is the visual documentation of newsworthy events and subjects. Images snapped by photojournalists illustrate what is taking place during an exact moment in time. Nothing speaks louder or captures an audience's attention more than a photo that evokes emotion by telling a story on its own.

Take, for example, pictures shot during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Countless photos of people clinging to house rooftops and utility poles were published in the media. Words could not do justice to describe the horrifying events that took place in the hours and days following Katrina's landfall. However, pictures--both still shots and video--spoke volumes for the despair and human suffering that consumed New Orleans in the summer of 2005.

Simple Photojournalism Tips

Being at the right place at the right time is key when you are looking to capture a money shot. However, you can't leave everything to chance. Photojournalists should practice the following tips to ensure the images they shoot make an impact on viewers:

Do Your Research

Photojournalist are not just photographers, they are reporters. This means you need to know the who, what, when, where and why behind each and every shot you take. Never underestimate the power of good research. The more you know about your subject, the better prepared you will be to photograph him or her. Also, it pays to be a proactive photographer. Instead of waiting for the perfect assignment, generate your own projects and submit them to your editor.

Be Accurate

In order to be a credible photojournalist, you must take accurate photos. Your job is to document an event, not create one. Pictures that are not truthful will ruin your credibility. One of the cardinal rules in photojournalism is to never ever interfere or influence a news event. What's more, you should never ask a subject to re-do something or set-up a shot in a way that is deceptive.

Pay Attention to Content

While it's important to look for ways to make a picture aesthetically pleasing, you don't want to lose sight of the photo's content. Don't get caught up in the details. A news photo is content driven. Your focus should be on getting the facts straight and making sure the image is accurate. Concentrating on whether a picture is pretty or not shouldn't be at the top of your list of priorities. If you are able to strike a balance between the two, however, you will be ahead of the pack.

Lighting Matters

Lighting can make or break your photos. As a photojournalist, you should always pay attention to your light source, be it artificial or natural. In addition, it is vital to focus on the angle from which you approach the light, the time of day you shoot a subject, and the way you expose your picture. Each of these elements can have a dramatic effect on your images.

Don't Forget Form

Photojournalists, especially those assigned to cover wars or natural disasters, face environmental challenges. Don't be distracted by tough conditions. Your photos should not be taken haphazardly. Instead, pay attention to the natural geometry in each picture and apply basis photo techniques, such as the rule of thirds and color saturation. Angles and color can have a tremendous impact on the tone of a photograph.

Be Human

This photojournalism tip is very important: Human photo subjects shouldn't be viewed as mere objects. They are your fellow man and should be treated as such. While it is important to keep a professional distance, you shouldn't completely disregard a person's feelings and emotions. This is especially critical when you are shooting a tragedy. If you are assigned to cover a horrific event that includes loss of life and you don't know whether a photo you are taking is appropriate, it might pay to snap it and then decide with your editor whether or not to run it later.

Photojournalism Tips