Job Opportunities, Money and Getting Started

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

          It is important today to get a four-year degree in journalism.  There are a lot of colleges where one can get a degree specializing in photojournalism.  The better programs will not just teach students how to take good pictures and develop film, but also require other important, related courses as part of their curriculum such as ethics and law concerning journalism, writing, photo editing, newspaper page design and classes that teach the student how to use the photo editing software called Adobe PhotoShop.

          A great educational resource is the National Press Photographers Association's web site, which has a list of colleges, as well as advice on how to choose one.

          A frequent question that I am asked is, "Is it possible for someone to become a photojournalist with out majoring in it in school?"  Anything is possible.  It has been done before and it will be done again.  But look at the big picture ... If you are competing for a job with someone of equal talent as you, and they have a bachelor degree and you don't, who gets more points?

          Think of it this way:  When an employer is looking to hire someone, they will consider many factors in choosing a candidate such as skill level, enthusiasm, level of education, personality, problem solving, communication skills, internships, references, awards and team spirit.  Of course, different employers will find one factor more important than the others.  In other words, one employer may want to hire someone who has more enthusiasm, a more pleasant personality and less skill level than another job applicant.

          The bottom line is, the more you have going for you, the more likely you will find a good job in an area of photography of your choice.  And note that majoring in photojournalism is not all about taking photography classes.  You will also learn about non-photography topics such as ethics and law in journalism, writing and photo editing skills, which employers deem valuable.

          While in college, students will work on building up their portfolios to help them get a job when they graduate.  Material for the portfolio will come from class assignments, internships and most importantly, they should come from work the student took on their own time.

          During their summer breaks, photojournalism students should also try to get internships with  newspapers, editorial magazines or anything related to photography to learn and gain experience.  Internships are the most valuable learning tools during the college years.  Sometime around the winter break, the student will send slides of their work to newspapers or magazines looking for summer interns in hope of landing a paid position.  If a student is unable to find a paid position, they should seek out a publication that would take them as an unpaid intern, hopefully for credit hours.

          It is a good idea for serious high school and college students to be in contact with their local newspaper or other publication.  I would suggest calling the photo editor and first ask if you can spend the day following the photo editor around to get the feel of newspaper life.  Then, if things seem to be going well, ask if you can follow a photographer around for another day to get an idea of the routine of the photojournalist.

          If you are welcomed, carefully watch how everyone does their job, how the photographer works with others in the newsroom and out on assignment.  Pay careful attention to how they approach the assignment to get the best picture possible.

          It is a good idea to maintain an ongoing relationship with a photo staff for a number of reasons:  You might impress them enough so they will offer you a paid or unpaid internship. They could help you find a job when you graduate. And most importantly, just for the learning experience.

          After graduation, some students will get a full-time job.  Others will spend their first year or two doing a variety of full-time paid internships so they may get the feel of different newspapers in different cities.  Some may not find a job or internship at a publication and will have to seek work at other jobs.  These people should spend their days off hanging out with photojournalists at some publication.  Also, some students will continue their education to get a masters degree.

          Most colleges will encourage students to join the National Press Photographers Association.  The NPPA, which has a student chapter, offers a discounted membership fee to students.  Photojournalists find the NPPA the Number 1 resource for learning, seminars and job listings, including internships. The Eddie Adams workshop is a great one for photojournalist.  The NPPA also has a list of workshops.

          It is also worth mentioning other photo workshops, which many people recommend.  Here are some tips on how to find a workshop to suit your needs:

          Salaries for photojournalist and interns vary widely depending on location, size and type of the publication, experience of the photographer including education and the company they work for.  Most of the mail I receive from high school students asks what is an entry level salary for photojournalist.  This is too difficult to answer, because depending on the situation, an intern can start at anything from minimum wage to $400-$500 a week.  At the same time, an experienced photographer can also start at $400 a week. If you are looking to get rich in this field, I can tell you that you won't find very many photojournalists making $100,000 a year.  Like I said on the intro page:  You better make sure that photojournalism is in your blood, because you are not going to get rich doing it.  :-)))

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: