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Breaking into the field of photojournalism usually takes time and a lot of effort. It’s a competitive business, controlled by editors who are often over-worked and centers around what is widely considered a subjective product. In this post Photojournalist and photo editor at www.WeSay.com Jason Geil gives some tips on how to get into Photojournalism. Image by tochis
I always suggest to people trying to make a leap into the profession to shoot photos of people. The basis of photojournalism is the visual documentation of what is going on around us all. Nothing illustrates that more accurately than photographs of people doing the things people do. The recent floods in the Midwest highlighted this.
Countless photos of flood waters are all over the mainstream media wires and hundreds more are submitted to newspapers every day.
What sets the good photos apart from the ever-increasing stack of common photos, are the people and actions photographed. A photo of a person feverishly grabbing his belongings before his house floods, is almost certainly going to be a more gripping photo than the one of the flood water and nothing else. At least, that’s the case in the world of photojournalism. More information is derived form photos like these. Document the people affected by the news you are covering and you will be a step ahead of most other amateur photographers.
Turn your photographs in somewhere. I have never understood why some photographers treat their work like it’s a priceless piece of art that everyone is trying to steal. First of all, it isn’t. Secondly, it’s hard to get noticed in the field of journalism if your work is never seen by anyone. So give your work to someone in a position to publish it. www.WeSay.com is an excellent site for submitting photos you feel have some news value, whether its breaking news, weather, sports, local celebrities or just far-out. The site focuses on news photography from both mainstream media and amateur photographers and publish citizen photos on their homepage.
Or publish it yourself. As long as eyes are on your work, the odds of you making it in the field are better.
It’s easy to find the names of photo editors from local newspapers. Call them or email them and say, Ã¢â‚¬ËœI shot this photo today and I thought you might be interested’. If your photos are good enough, editors will notice.
Create a personal Web site. For less than $200 a year, you can have your own domain name. Post a few examples of your photojournalism and a link to how to contact you. Send that link to editors of newspapers in your area and ask them to consider you for future freelance opportunities. As a potential freelance photojournalist, you are essentially a business. And businesses need to advertise their product.
Stay persistent. Just because an editor doesn’t call or write you back, that doesn’t mean you didn’t make an impression. I have found the single most important trait most great journalists have is persistence. If you continue to contact editors and continue to search for good photographs, you will eventually make it into the business in some fashion.
When you’re out shooting photographs, get out of your car and walk. Meet people. Talk to them. Ask them questions. Most likely, you will be surprised how many unique story ideas you can come up with just by being curious. Having a unique story is a quick way to impress an editor.
Keep an eye on professional photojournalists. Watch how they go about their business and you may learn a few things. Even simple things, like how they carry a notebook and pen with them to write notes and names while on assignment, will give you an edge. Check the ego. They are professionals for a reason so you can learn plenty from modeling yourself after them.
Concentrate on writing good captions. A striking difference between amateur photographers and professional photographers is the pros have perfected the art of collecting information about their photographs. Who? What? When? Where? Accuracy is critical. If you can’t get the spelling of names right or the facts straight, and write them in a clear, concise and accurate caption, you will not make it very far in the business of photojournalism.
Let’s face it. If you want to be taken seriously in the field of photojournalism, you’re going to need to invest in some professional grade equipment. Sometimes that’s a tough fact to fathom for many aspiring photojournalists. Many people are surprised to hear the answer when they ask me how much my cameras and lenses cost. While the equipment doesn’t MAKE the photographer, inferior gear will set you back quite a bit. You don’t have to break the bank necessarily. Ask around to find out what the professionals shoot with, then try to find an older version. Camera swaps are great for finding deals and many photographic stores have “certified” used gear listed at discounted prices. The most basic outfit of gear should include at least a professional quality camera body, wide angle lens (17mm, f2.8) and a telephoto of some sort (70-200mm f2.8). Of course, a computer and other accessories are needed as well.
About the Author: Jason Geil is the Photo Editor for www.WeSay.com. He worked as a staff photojournalist at the Cincinnati Post. As a freelance photojournalist, he has completed assignments for several national publications including USA Today, The New York Times, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Wall Street Journal, Getty Images and Rolling Stone magazine.
He is a three-time winner in the Ohio Associated Press competition, six-time Kentucky Press Association award winner and 10-time Cincinnati Society of Professional Journalists award winner.