The path to become a news photographer is filled with creative and technical knowledge, as well as a little luck. While there is no formal training that can guarantee a career as a photojournalist, taking the right career and training steps can help improve your chances of finding a job in this highly competitive field. Some of the traits needed to become a news photographer include the ability to take newsworthy photographs, a thorough understanding of current camera technology, and a strong portfolio of work. While many news photographers work as freelance professionals, it may also be possible to use skills and accolades to obtain a permanent job with a news organization.
In order to become a news photographer, an aspiring photojournalist must be able to find and capture images that tell a newsworthy story. While many people think of photography as taking pretty or artistic pictures, a news photographer must be able to capture the essence of an entire story in just a few, carefully-chosen shots. Photojournalists may benefit from taking photography classes at a local collage or art institute, to learn the basics of shot composition, lighting, and journalistic techniques. No amount of classwork can substitute for simple experience, however, so it is important to take as many opportunities for practice as possible.
In addition to understanding the artistry of photojournalism, understanding the technology is also a crucial step needed to become a news photographer. Digital photography requires an understanding of editing software, computers, and constant new advances in the field. Since film photography is more difficult to edit, it may require more skill and an understanding of the differences between film stocks. A person who wishes to become a news photographer may want to subscribe to technical photography magazines, and attend trade shows to stay up-to-date on the latest technology. It may also be necessary to invest money in obtaining good equipment, updating software, and paying for repairs.
A news photographer is only as good as his portfolio; taking the time to build a catalog of strong work can be a good career move. A portfolio may contain clippings of photos and accompanying stories from publications, such as school newspapers and local magazines. It may also contain purely artistic shots chosen to highlight the photographer's skill and personal voice. Photographers who have not yet been published professionally should consider creating photo essays on any topic of interest, to show off the ability to tell a full story through images.
Finding freelance jobs can require patience and effort, but is frequently the only way to become a news photographer at the outset of a career. Check online job portals for available listings, or contact local publications to inquire about freelance opportunities. Some photographers like to remain freelancers, as it gives them freedom and flexibility in their career. Others prefer to use freelance work and a portfolio to try and find a permanent job as a staff photographer for a magazine, newspaper, or website, enjoying the stability of a regular job.