Photojournalism Job Description

Photojournalist at work.

In a time of constantly evolving media and journalism, it's sometimes difficult to get an accurate photojournalism job description. From the 1990s through the 2000s, all forms of journalism experienced an explosion of new technology overlaid by industry transparency. In order to define the current responsibilities of a photojournalist, it helps to review all aspects of the field.

Becoming a Photojournalist

Most photojournalists must complete at least one college program related to photojournalism or photography. Here are some examples of these programs, offered in creative arts schools and in the journalism or arts departments in non-specializing colleges.

  • Broadcast, Electronic, and Print Journalism
  • Visual Media and Journalism
  • Communications, Broadcasting, and Journalism
  • English, Writing, and Literature
  • Photography and Visual Arts

Current Photojournalism Job Description

In the simplest terms, photojournalists document newsworthy people, events, and locations for use in print publications, webcasts, or telecasts.

Main Duties and Responsibilities

Both freelance and staff photojournalists usually report to an editor or editorial staff and may perform the following job duties. It's important to note that job tasks may vary by industry and employer.

  • Capture photographs or film video segments
  • Conduct research to gather background information about a subject
  • Conduct interviews to enhance and verify news stories
  • Write narration to accompany images
  • Process and print negatives or film
  • Transfer digital files to a computer
  • Use image-editing software such as Photoshop or Print Shop Pro to edit images
  • Submit images, text, and other information to editorial staff

Additional Duties

Depending upon the employer or agency, these duties are sometimes included in photojournalism job descriptions.

  • Travel to assigned locations
  • Explore relevant story concepts alongside writers, reporters, and editors
  • Check and verify facts about news stories
  • Operate and maintain assigned equipment
  • Maintain darkroom facilities, including ordering supplies
  • Prepare drawings, illustrations, graphics, and other audiovisual material
  • Operate a variety of television cameras

Photojournalism Job Requirements and Skills

Most aspects of photojournalism are learned in a college setting or by working in the field, but there are a few requirements that candidates must meet to become successful. Additionally, having certain specific skills can greatly enhance a photojournalism career. A few of these skills and requirements are included below.

Common Requirements

  • The ability to carry and manipulate moderately heavy equipment
  • The availability to spend long hours outdoors in all types of weather
  • The willingness to travel, sometimes long distances, with little advance notice
  • Expert knowledge about how to operate camera equipment

Desirable Skills

  • Good grammar and writing skills
  • A good eye for capturing subjects on film
  • Advanced design, editing, layout, and graphics capabilities
  • Good communication skills
  • The ability to place people at ease
  • Marketing skills for the freelancer

Photojournalism Careers

There is a world of opportunities for dedicated candidates no matter which photojournalism job description catches their eye. Both freelancers and staff members have a wide variety of career opportunities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for photojournalists was approximately $30,000 in May 2008. The field is expected to experience a growth of about 10 percent until 2020.

Some possible photojournalism careers include:

  • Staff Photojournalist: Usually employed in a newspaper or magazine setting, a staff photojournalist completes specific assignments passed on to him by a staff editor.
  • Freelance Photojournalist/Photographer: This is where those marketing skills come in handy. The successful freelancer creates media and sells it on the open market or contracts with publishers to produce specific content. Sometimes freelance photojournalists specialize in areas such as wildlife, celebrity stories, or fashion photojournalism.
  • Copywriter/Photojournalist: People employed in this area utilize their photojournalism skills to create business related media like flyers, business cards, web content, investigative content, and business reports.
  • Portrait Photographer: Over time, photojournalism can lead to a career taking photos of famous people. Famous portrait photographers include Annie Leibovitz, Martin Schoeller, Gered Mankowitz, and Lynn Goldsmith.
  • Photography Assistant: Becoming an assistant to a photojournalist is a great way to get started in the field. Assistants are usually responsible for gear and equipment, scheduling, film processing, and photography.
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Photojournalism Job Description