A press photographer works with newspapers and the internet to provide still images that enhance or explain the news. Part interpretive artist, part journalist, press photographers attempt to tell the story of the news in pictures. By capturing an image that informs the audience about the vital nature of the story, a press photographer can help not only record the news, but also give it meaning.
A press photographer may work as a freelancer or be hired by a newspaper, magazine or website for their work. They may specialize in a specific type of photography, such as war, beauty shots, or nature photography. One of the benefits of the career is the ability to specialize in an area that is personally interesting. A die-hard sports fan may find it easier to capture game-changing moments on film than a fashionista could. On the other hand, a fashionista might know just how to photograph the latest Spring designs, while a sports fan would be floundering in designer shoes.
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The history of photojournalism is filled with proponents of both formal education and self-taught press photographers. While some training is required to use a camera correctly, it is possible to learn both technical and technique information by reading, studying, and practicing without teachers or structured classes. Whether trained in a university or plucked off the streets, one of the most important qualities a press photographer requires is instinct: he or she must know how to capture the right image to enhance or explain the story.
Press photographers are a hardy breed, as their work sometimes requires travel and living in dangerous areas. Many young photographers make a name for themselves shooting coverage of war zones or natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes. These subjects provide a considerable amount of human drama that allows an aspiring photographer to capture the devastation and human cost in terrible situations. Although opportunities to shoot in situations may be career boosting and artistically fulfilling, press photographers can easily end up in serious danger.
While adventure-story danger may be appealing to some, war coverage or dangerous jobs are not meant for everyone. Many press photographers make a living shooting celebrities, local events, sports and political coverage. The working life of a talented press photographer can be determined largely by what interests them; globetrotters and homebodies may both have opportunities to work extensively in their preferred surroundings.
Whatever the specialty, a press photographer must maintain a working knowledge of current events. In order to capture the heart of a story, he or she must understand enough about the history and circumstance surrounding the event they are photographing. Having in-depth knowledge of the surrounding events can allow a press photographer to move quickly in news making situations, able to analyze and understand developing events and be ready to capture the perfect image.