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Photojournalism - An Ultimate Guide

I think Photojournalism is a documentary with purpose.” - W. Eugene Smith

Photojournalism is a beautiful way of telling untold stories, through pictures.

The realities of the world are captured by photographers. With the growing technologies, aesthetic photography has gained popularity. The world reflects through the pictures captured by photojournalists. Every story that unfolds through a picture connects to the viewer’s emotion. Let us understand this beautiful story of photojournalism in a simple way.

“What is photojournalism? Occasionally, a very unique photo, in which form is precise and rich enough and content has enough resonance, is sufficient in itself. But that's rarely the case. The elements of a subject that speak to us are often scattered and can't be captured in one photo; we don't have the right to force them together, and to stage them would be cheating which brings us to the need for photojournalism.” - Henri Cartier Bresson

Photojournalist Attributes

Are you confident that you found your calling in photojournalism? Well, dare to follow your dreams with faith in yourself. Then your work will reflect your passion and skills. There are certain important traits or attributes needed in a professional photojournalist.

Ensure you are equipped with these characteristics:

  • Creative Vision

Clicking a normal photo is a child’s play courtesy of smartphones. But, to capture the essence of a moment, you have to hone your creative vision. Have your own imagination working through the lens. This would develop over time with practice. What works in a situation, which technique would suit them best, etc are your excellence.

  • Business Sense

Photography is a profession that demands you to keep your professional options open. You are almost holding the reins of your own business. Know your worth and laws applicable. Negotiate when needed. If you are associated with a company or working as a freelancer, your finances should be clear.

  • Human & Ethics

Every profession gets tainted with the greed of some money mongers. As a photojournalist, you should aspire to be truthful, portray realities unaltered. Be accountable for all that you capture and click. Capturing photos of those in pain and distress could be very disturbing. Many-a-times, it is mistaken to be a game of money. Always dare to speak honestly through your lens. But, if the truth is not told to the world, where can change start from? Stay strong, stay human.

“The greatest photographs are motivated by human feeling.”- David Burnett

  • Resilience

Every journey has its own ups and downs. But one stumble should not weaken our aspirations. Always be prepared for closed doors and mockery. Take learning from every experience. It will strengthen our will to reach perfection. Accept every venture as a new beginning with no pride in past achievements. Challenge yourself to do better every time. Every perfect click talks about how calm you are.

  • Unique Style

If you think you can just grab the camera and click a photo and your job is done! Sorry, to disappoint you. This is no routine job. Photojournalism is way beyond that. These assignments need a lot of preparatory work to be done. Create your own unique style of working. Your personalized working style would make your work stand out in the crowd. Make your visual storytelling technique.

  • Crucial Capturing

As a journalist of pictures, you should be well equipped with the whereabouts of the event of citation that you are going to cover. Without knowing your subject, you cannot capture the real moments candidly. This will help you be prepared for the actual moment. Start your day early and be present on time. Make sure you do not miss a single moment worth capturing. Because there is no rewind and replay for time.

“Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by making it still.” - Dorothea Lange

Be ready, steady, and click! Equipped with these personal attributes, it is now time to pay attention to the technical guidelines. The guidelines specify the best practices that have been laid by the industry’s best.

10 Photojournalism Guidelines

Burn the pixels:

There is a vast difference between studio photography and photojournalism.

In photojournalism, catching the live moment is crucial. You have to click, from all possible angles. From up, below, forward and backward. Covering all angles and clicking more shots are very important. This gives you ample choice to finalize upon a strong picture reflecting the actual moment. Digital photography makes it easier.

Unusual angles:

If you are feeling embarrassed to walk upfront in the crowd, then you can never click. Get creative and choose different angles to click photos. This would help you get the best of moments.

“A good photograph is knowing where to stand.”-Ansel Adams.

Get Close:

Always target getting the prime focus of your picture with the complete center-frame. Remember the quality of the final publication may vary. It is safer to get a clear and contrasting background. Lesser the persons or objects in the frame, clearer the picture.


Always ensure you have the identification of the people captured and places covered. Abstract art pictures are for beginners of photography. Photojournalism is all about the stories of people and places.

Beyond the cliche:

Don’t get lost in the routine of mug-shots and handshake pictures. If you are keen on those cliched pictures, research lab suits better! Capture the event, capture the emotion between the people. Connect the vibe of the moment to your creativity and you will be able to extract some real moments. This will make you stand out tall in the profession.

Remember, you are a photojournalist, not a passport photographer!

Unavoidable Poses:

There would be certain situations needing the people to pose before the camera. Tricky, because posing and grinning are for the studio! Photojournalism requires you to use your instincts and create a natural scenario of the expected pose. Instead of the regular, look into the camera and grin.

Managing the light:

Light is a prime factor to bring the best out in a picture. Every photo needs to flow in its own colors and contrasts. Natural light is ideal but sometimes cannot bring out the actual contrast or the original tone of color in the frame.

To handle this situation, portable electronic flashes are used. But using them prudently is important. An artificial look is created if the flash is simply attached. Instead, use the bounce technique.

As a photojournalist, you need to understand the extension of lights needed on the object and accordingly create the effect.

Poorly exposed photos:

Remember, the smartness of automatic cameras. Ensure to be thorough with the principles of exposure. A poorly exposed image is almost impossible to fix. Never submit such pictures with poor exposure. If they are your personal favorites, save them but do not bring them into your professional portfolio. It's a disaster.


Blurred photos are not always due to faulty lenses. Blurred photographs and poor printing quality will create a totally misleading picture. Tension is natural while in the spur of the moment. Use smart helps like tripods, monopods, mini pods, lean against a wall or tree. But get yourself steady. Photoshop, Lightroom, etc may help to reduce blurriness to a certain extent. But a complete blur will be ridiculed. Modern lenses that come with Image stabilization are a smart option. One needs to adjust the auto-focus in such a case.

Get gutsy:

You cannot be a snob in photojournalism. To reach out to the crowds is of paramount importance. This profession calls for action. Brave the mob, join the events, get closer, be part of the action. This will help you create photojournalism, in your unique style. Otherwise, you will remain as a photographer, lost in the crowd.

All said and done, visual images strike a quick chord of connection in the reader’s mind.

The evergreen medium of communicating a story through pictures without smothering the truth makes photojournalism as unique as it could be.

Gear up your mind and shirk off your doubts. Trust yourself and start the journey.

“You are not just a photojournalist. You are a historian.” - Bill Epridge


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