Photojournalism As A Career

by Nancy L. Ford
Photojournalist / Utica, NY
Copyright © 1998

      Students always ask if there is money to be made in photojournalism.  Sure, anyone can make money in any career, depending how you approach it I guess.  But like I always say --  If you're planning to pursue a career in photojournalism, then you should make sure that journalism is in your blood and that you love it, because frankly, you are NOT going to get rich doing it.

            There is a very good reason to feel passionate for what you choose to do for a living, whatever it may be.  You need to love your career with all your heart because no matter where you work, there will always be something about your job that you won't like, whether it's long hours, you're underpaid, or there's somebody who's making your life miserable.  Or maybe you aren't the best at your job and you're not the one who is winning all the awards.  Whatever the reason, most people always seem to have a side of their job that they dislike.  It is a fact of life.

            If you are not passionate and love what you are doing for a living, and if you do not get any personal satisfaction out of your accomplishments, then you will lack the desire to get up in the morning to go to work.  There are too many people who go to work every day and spend it watching the clock, year after year, because they can't wait to leave "that place" and get home.  These are the people who spend their working life waiting for retirement.  When they do retire and look back on their careers, they see only misery.  It doesn't have to be that way.

             I studied commercial photography at Syracuse University.  While I was a student there, I was offered a job at the Observer-Dispatch as a part-time photographer, and even though I had no interest in photojournalism at the time, I took the job because it was the only job I could find where I could make money doing photography.  My first day on the job I was driving around town with a two-way radio and a police scanner chasing fires. My whole world changed that day.  I knew I was in love.  It was the first time in my life that anything felt so right.

             I make an issue of this because I have had many interns who work their shift and go home, and they never took any photographs for themselves.   I've met many photo majors that do not know how to use a flash or how to operate their camera in the manual mode.  (Thus not fully understanding f-stops, shutter speed, TTL or most important, HOW and WHY the camera works.) This is the tool of their trade. It's disheartening when these individuals lack the desire to learn as much as they can about the camera, even when it is pointed out to them that they don't know enough.

            I remember when I was in college I couldn't get enough photography.  Beth Mundschenk and I use to hang out in the photo lab at work until the wee hours of the morning, even when we were not on the clock.  I still do, but now at home. I know many accomplished photographers who seem to always be getting in trouble with their spouses for staying up all night doing something with photography on the computer.  :-)

            My point is that If you do feel that journalism is in your blood and that you know this is what is right for you, then I hope the information below is helpful to you.  If you don't feel the passion -- the drive to learn everything about photography, journalism and photojournalism that you can, then please find what is in your heart.  There is something for you. It is important to feel passion for whatever you choose to do.  If you have no idea what you want to do, then look at the things in life that you do love, that you can't get enough of when you are not working or going to school, and see if there is a career there.  You will live a happier, more fulfilling life.   Good luck!

INTRODUCTION:  Choosing A Career

PART ONE:  Photojournalism vs. Journalism

PART TWO:  Responsibilities and Duties of the Photojournalist

PART THREE:  The Role of the Photo Editor

PART FOUR:  Job Opportunities, Money & Getting Started

PART FIVE:  Preparing the Portfolio

PART SIX:  The National Press Photographers Association

Back to:   Table of Contents

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Home of Nancy L. Ford Photography, Photographer, Photojournalist, Utica, NY, From the heart of the Mohawk Valley, in Oneida County. Nancy L. Ford, former Photo Editor, Staff photographer with the Observer-Dispatch, is now freelancing in Upstate New York, specializing in Editorial, Commercial, and Web Photography. Other services available; P h o t o s @ N L F o r d . c o m: