Tips for capturing great photojournalism.
Whether you’re a freelance journalist or a staff photographer, always have a camera on you.
You never know when news will happen, when an editor will send you out, or when you’ll have to spring into action. Be ready to cover events and happenings outside your comfort zone. Even if you normally cover community events, don’t let that stop you from covering politics.
For someone with editorial authority over images, any picture is better than none. High-quality photos are ideal, but publications can never know in advance what will resonate. “Just document it so that I know what you got into,” says Marie. “No matter what your tech is, get in there. Get that photo taken. I don’t care if it’s a screenshot from a livestream, we need that documentation.”
Keep track of when you took your photos, and label them accordingly. “Do everything by date,” says Marie. “Do everything by year, by month, by day — everything. Metadata is also super important, and make sure your photos aren’t named something like ‘screenshot.’” Adobe Photoshop Lightroom can be a great tool when it comes to organizing and sorting through thousands of photos.
Marie, like a lot of editors and directors who work with images, has specific rules for how submissions are formatted and named. Good photojournalists know the conventions that their publications and editors adhere to and follow them.
When that picture does run, it will be in a whole new context.
Your work will appear beside news stories or other content. “When a photographer decides which photos they’re going to share, they’re ultimately giving someone else editorial access to their images,” says Marie. That includes publishing images alongside someone else’s copy.
Even with amazing photos, the real power of an image won’t be apparent until it runs in an article or as a photo essay. “Being a photojournalist isn’t about taking all the right photos,” says Marie, “but being able to look back and find photos that create stories.”
Know your limits and know your rights.
Photojournalists are not spies. Be respectful. “Always ask for permission, not for forgiveness. Access is so important for photojournalists,” says Marie. She has had to deal with photographers who were kicked out of venues or situations they did not have permission to be in. “I think that’s bad for photojournalism as a whole,” she says. “If you can’t have permission, stay at a safe distance and know your legal rights.”
Photojournalism is documentation, and that’s something you can do anytime, even if it’s your first time. No matter who you are or what type of gear you have, there’s a world out there right now for you to observe, whether it’s on a small town’s rural roads or a city’s bustling streets.