How to Become a Photojournalist

How to Become a Photojournalist: Career Path Guide

To become a photojournalist, you will first need to determine what you want out of a career, and what you are willing to put into it.


If you are interested in a career that allows you to capture events and the people that experience them through photography, allows you to have the freedom to explore the world around you, and you want a competitive career that demands you give it your all, then a career as a photojournalist is probably well suited for you.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to become a photojournalist. We've also included helpful information for a photojournalist career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Photojournalist

There typically aren’t formal educational requirements that you’ll need to meet in order to become a photojournalist. However having an educational background in an area such as photojournalism, journalism, photography or communications can be a huge advantage for working as a photojournalist as it can provide you with the skills and competencies that you’ll need.


An education in photojournalism would be a primary choice, however if such a course is not available, pursuing a degree in photography with a minor in journalism is also a great path to take. Coursework in these areas will provide you with knowledge, skills and competencies in various areas, including:


• Visual editing

• Visual communication

• Electronic photojournalism

• News reporting

• Ethics in journalism

• Interviewing skills


Having these skills will be crucial to your success as a photojournalist, and obtaining a degree in one of the recommended areas of study can be a great way to acquire them.


In addition to helping you develop practical skills, many post-secondary photojournalism, journalism, photography or communications programs have professionals that have worked in the field, or are currently working in the field as instructors; your instructors can be very helpful contacts for you to make.




Photojournalist Job Description

Using still cameras, photojournalists photograph newsworthy events, people, locations or other material to be used in publications or telecasts.



Photojournalist Job Duties

• Photograph, edit and present newsworthy images which tell a story for print or media outlets

• Research and investigate potential news items

• Conduct interviews surrounding news stories

• Must be knowledgeable in proper use film, video, tripods, flash attachments, lighting and other photographic equipment

• May modify objects, individuals or situations in order to create the best effects to illustrate the story

• Use computer imaging programs and photo editing software 

• Purchase and maintain own equipment

• Keep up to date with evolving trends in technology



Experience Needed to Become a Photojournalist

Photojournalism is a highly competitive field, and although there are not typically formal experience-related requirements that you need to meet in order to work in this field, having experience can be extremely helpful in developing your skills; skills that will make your photos and captions stand out from the crowd.


A great way to get experience while you are a student is to get involved with the student newspaper on campus; this can prove to be invaluable experience if you want to become a photojournalist.


Success Tip: Make sure photojournalism is something you really want to do. You will be in heavy competition for jobs with people whose main life goal is to become a photojournalist.



Put Together a Photojournalism Portfolio

A portfolio is a crucial thing to have if you want to become a photojournalist; it acts in many ways as your visual resume. A portfolio will showcase your skills in the field of photojournalism, and give prospective employers a great idea of your visual strengths and weaknesses.


Prior to graduating from school, or prior to seeking employment in general, put together a portfolio of your best work. If you are a students, pictures may come from projects completed as school assignments or by working for a school's newspaper. Ensure that as you gain more experience, you replace older elements of your portfolio with those that are more recent.



Photojournalist Salary

The salary of photojournalists can vary widely, depending on where they work, which medium they work within (such as magazines, online, newspaper, etc.), their reputation, their level of education and experience, their employment status (such as full-time, freelance, etc.) and many other variables.


The task of determining the salary of a photojournalist is further complicated by the fact that there is no reliable data available for this profession. We can draw salary comparisons of closely related fields, such as Photographer and Journalist, in order to get an idea of what their salary level might be like.


Photojournalist Salary Alberta: According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Photographers occupational group earned on average from $16.63 to $24.32 an hour. According to the same survey, the average salary of Albertans working in the occupational group Journalists was $52,204.


Photojournalist Salary Canada: According to Service Canada, the average salary level of Canadian workers in the Journalists occupational group is $56,481 per year, and that of workers in the Photographers occupational group is $29,008 per year.


Photojournalist Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of American workers in the Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts occupational group is $37,090, while that of workers in the Photographers occupational group is $28,490 per year.





Who Hires Photojournalists?

Photojournalists may be hired on a part-time, full-time, contractual or freelance basis by any organization that can utilize their photographs to tell a story relating to current events, from a local, national or international level. These organizations traditionally include print media publications, however in recent years online media has become an area of employment for photojournalists.


Photojournalists are typically hired by:


• Newspapers

• Magazines

• Online publications (covering a wide variety of topics)



Skills Needed to Become a Photojournalist

There are certain skills that photojournalists need to become successful, such as:


• Excellent photography skills

• A knack for thinking of or recognizing interesting stories

• A methodical approach to compiling information

• Basic knowledge in a diverse range of political and social topics

• A keen interest in current events and developments

• Being comfortable, composed and calm around people

• Must be able to capture the mood of the moment, and the people in that moment

• Must be very persistent, objective, creative and resourceful

• Must be able to cope with a fast-paced and highly competitive job

• Must be able to clearly, logically and coherently present facts and opinions



How to Become More Employable as a Photojournalist

If you want to become a photojournalist, you’ll need to stand out from the competition, and there’s no shortage of competition in this field. Here are a few tips to help you


Know your motivation: If you just want to make a living taking casual pictures, then trying to become a photojournalist probably isn’t a great career choice. If you like to know what’s going on and help people find out about it, then you’ve got the right mindset for this career.


Join a journalism organization: Many journalism associations and organizations offer free student membership. Consider joining one of them if you're eligible. It can be a good way to keep informed on industry issues, news and events!


Interact with the public: Meet people when you’re out taking photographs; they may have interesting stories, or share interesting and unique information with you that can be a great idea for a story. Editors love unique story ideas.


Learn from professionals: Keep your eye on current professional photojournalists; pick up on their habits, such as how they always have a notebook and pen to jot names down when they are on assignment. A lot of these habits, as well as their work ethic, made them the professionals they are today.


Focus on writing good captions: One key difference between amateur and professional photojournalists (and photographers for that matter) is the ability of the professional to collect information relevant to their photographs. Making it far as a professional journalist almost certainly depends on your ability to accurately obtain the ‘who, what, when, where and why’ side of a photo.


Invest in professional equipment: If you don’t have professional grade equipment, you’re at a serious disadvantage in the world of photojournalism. It’s not to say that having professional equipment will guarantee that you will become a successful photojournalist, but not having it will make starting a career in this field an even steeper uphill climb. Ask around to find out what the professionals shoot with, then try to find an older version.


Submit your photographs for review and sale: Don’t get caught up thinking that everyone who sees your work is going to steal it; they won’t. Also, if nobody sees your work, how are you going to become a photojournalist?



Careers Related to Photojournalist

Listed below are jobs that are similar in nature to Photojournalist, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Financial Journalist

Investigative Reporter


Music Journalist

Political Reporter



References: Photojournalist Career

Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a photojournalist.


Wages & Salaries in Alberta:Journalists.” (April 11, 2014). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 7, 2020.

Occupations in Alberta:Photographer.” (January 1, 2012). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 7, 2020.

Media and Communication:Photographers.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved January 7, 2020.

Business: How to Become a Photojournalist.” Michelle Ecker (October 25, 2017). My World of Work website. Retrieved January 7, 2020.



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Scholarships for Becoming a Photojournalist

Scholarships in Canada and the United States listed for majors that apply to becoming a Photojournalist can be found on our Fine Arts Scholarships and Journalism Scholarships pages.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Becoming a Photojournalist: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a photojournalist. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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