Monday, January 01, 1996

What is a Photojournalist?

This entry was originally written in 1996. Then, I was the entire photo staff at a twice-weekly newspaper. Since then, I've worked at daily metro newspapers and won several international awards. Although my circumstances and knowledge have changed, the information presented here is still valid for new pro photojournalists.

What does it take to be a great journalist?
What is a photojournalist?
More on the photojournalist.
What makes a photojournalist different from a photographer?
Assignments and image holes.
A note on competition.
Graft and gifts.
Coverage Zones.
Personal views on the job.


I've been asked to explain photojournalism, news photography and my views on it a few times. Generally, this information is intended as an introduction for students considering a career in photojournalism or others unacquainted with this profession.

Others who consider hiring me, freelance or otherwise, may also want to know more about my philosophy and work ethic. This information should answer most of those questions as well.

This information should not be taken as absolute. It is a statement of my current OPINION about photojournalism, photojournalists, and news photographers as it applies to my present position and experience.

Note: "Photojournalist" is meant to apply to active, news/editorial photographers, whether they hold a specific degree in photojournalism or not. Terms such as "he, his," etc. are intended to be gender neutral.

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What does it take to be a great journalist?

A great journalist cares about people and an ideal world. A great journalist can approach a topic as vast as the universe and make it simple and interesting to both Einstein and the new immigrant, who is trying to learn the language.

The written word has power. With skill, reporters can expose the dark deeds of the world and bring them into the light. However, journalism is limited to non-apathetic, monolinguistic people with some time to kill and a few neurons still firing.

Enter photojournalism. It destroys almost all barriers. Justice can draw its sword in the time it takes an eye to scan an image. An image has no age, language or intelligence limits.

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What is a photojournalist?

A journalist tells stories. A photographer takes pictures of nouns (people, places and things). A photojournalist takes the best of both and locks it into the most powerful medium available - frozen images.

Photojournalists capture "verbs." This sounds simple, but a room of professional photographers was dumbfounded by this realization. Even after a full-length lecture with documentation and visual evidence, half of the photographers still had no clue what the difference was.

At the end of the presentation. One man said (he really did), "So, what's the difference between photography and photojournalism?" Luckily, two people (only two) turned to him and yelled, "Verbs!"

Although photojournalists can take properly exposed and well composed photographs all day long, they hunt verbs. They hunt them, shoot them and show them to their readers. Then, they hunt more.

A photojournalist has thousands of pairs of eyes looking over his shoulder constantly. The readers are insistent: "What are they doing?" "What did you see?" and "What happened?".

The readers wake PJs up at night. They keep PJs awake. The eyes always want to know what they missed. Readers can't see what they missed with a noun. It works if the question is specific enough (what did the condemned building look like?), but most answers require verbs.

To tell a story, a sentence needs a subject, a verb and a direct object. News photos need the same construction. Photojournalists tell stories with their images. Also, words are always used in conjunction with photojournalist's images.

The words below a photo are called a cutline. I write the cutlines that go with most of my images. At many newspapers, photographers provide names and nothing else. They don't write cutlines because they sometimes can't write a lead (lede) graph for a story. They also may not be able to photograph a sentence (sports being the exclusion, and there are plenty of supporting images to prove my point in this genre as well).

To be a photojournalist, we must understand the relationship between the image and these basic elements of language (all languages - worldwide).

     The girl hits (or misses) the ball. There are no other options.

The girl is easy to photograph. The ball is easy to photograph. The verb is the hard part.

As a servant of the citizens, it's the photojournalist's OBLIGATION to capture the entire sentence involved in EVERY event. There are no excuses. It's hit or missed. Some photographers don't care. They have a picture of the bat. "Hey, that's what tried to hit the ball." They just don't get it.

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More on the photojournalist

A photojournalist is a visual reporter of facts. The public places trust in its reporters to tell the truth. The same trust is extended to photojournalists as visual reporters.

This responsibility is paramount to a photojournalist. At all times, we have many thousands of people seeing through our eyes and expecting to see the truth. Most people immediately understand an image.

In today's world of grocery store tabloids and digital manipulation of images, the photojournalist must still tell the truth. The photojournalist constantly hunts for the images (or verbs), which tell of the day-to-day struggles and accomplishments of his community. These occurrences happen naturally. There is no need to "set up" reality. There is no need to lie to a community that bestows its trust. In a nutshell:   If a photojournalist isn't going to fake a fire or a street stabbing scene, why would he set up "person A" giving "person B" an object (award, check, trophy etc.)?

The photojournalist simply wants to hang around, be forgotten and wait for the right moment. Then, the hunt begins anew.

Like the police officer or firefighter, the photojournalist's concern is his community even if that means sacrificing comfort or life. Many photojournalists die every year in the process of collecting visual information, which lets the public know of atrocities, dangers and the mundane.

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What makes a photojournalist different from a photographer?

Photographers take pictures of nouns (people, places and things). Photojournalists shoot action verbs ("kicks," "explodes," "cries," etc.). Photojournalists do shoot some nouns. These nouns can be standard photos of people (portraits), places (proposed zoning areas or construction sites) and things (name it). However, the nouns we seek still must tell a story.

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Assignments and image holes

Reporters and editors should know how I work (ie: no set-ups, no nouns, no male bovine excrement). I have "holes" to fill each day. I track events in our community and anticipate what our readers expect to see.

As a general rule, many daily newspapers expect three Page 1 news images, and one to four inside B&W news/business images, as well as two to nine Lifestyles images, and two to five Sports images. Metro papers expect more and have additional sections.

Assignments are honored on a first-come basis with exceptions. Once a section has its initial image quota, priority shifts to another section until each section is "safe." Then additional images are collected for future issues.

Primarily, editorial news judgment is applied to image priority (murder is more important than other planned occurrences). However, unlike text-based reporters, visual reporters must be on location when events occur. Therefore, events with flexible times fall lower on a fixed priority scale, but have a greater overall editorial priority (and may bump other items under time restrictions).

Additionally, anything with front page potential usually has priority over section front and inside images.

Since this is a newspaper, here is the loose shooting priority:
Breaking news (murders, hostages, natural disasters, major wrecks, etc.)
General news (funerals, courts, perp walks, dignitary visits, etc.)
Photo essays
Major feature events
Sporting events
Educational events
Feature photos
Advertising (non-spec.)
Mug shots
Spec. items
"Photo ops" and other garbage to make a singular reader happy

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A note on competition

Most photojournalists succumb to the vanity and competitive nature of contests. Unlike other journalism competitions, which separate stories by circulation, most photojournalists and photographers compete head-to-head with their best images. The winner takes all.

Consequently, additional enthusiasm and effort goes toward potentially competitive images more than non-competitive images.

The following items are generally non-competitive: set ups ("grip & grins"), mug shots, lecturers ("talking heads"), building exteriors, theater performers/performances, advertising and product shots.

These are the monthly National Press Photographers Association categories:
spot news
general news
sports(action and feature)
feature-multiple (photo essay)
illustration (judged quarterly)

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Graft and gifts

All a photojournalist should require is unlimited access and documents. As the citizen's servant, a photojournalist can't accept anything other than water and an occasional cup of coffee during halftime of the sub-zero championship football game in the rain ("Why isn't this snow?"). If the photojournalist accepts gifts - any gifts - the photojournalist is perceived as corrupt and perpetuates the myth about the "evil media."

Consequently, everyone immediately offers them gifts and favors. Which PJs kindly turn down, and which, upon arrival at the newsroom, get chewed out for "not eating the old lady's darn cookie."

Personally, I'll use event passes on days off since my presence costs nothing additional to the host. The organizer often makes money from my purchases and still may get into the newspaper because I bring my camera.

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Coverage Zones

In newspapers, there are coverage zones. Larger papers have larger pieces of turf. This zone is created by physical circulation geography, area of influence upon the circulation area and predominant interests of the area.

Outside of this area, the story must warrant leaving the community unattended by the photojournalist should breaking news occur. Traditionally, assigned events outside the circulation zone have included: spot news, general news (funerals, court cases, etc...), portions of photo essays, championship-level sporting events, and large events (fairs, festivals, and exhibitions) with an expected participation or spectator draw from the circulation area.

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Personal views on the job

This is not a "glam" job. A photojournalist is a servant (like a waitress or a sanitation worker). They're expected to be on the job around the clock to serve the public.

News never stops. Again, NEWS NEVER STOPS. You sleep when you can. You eat when you're done. You're never really off the clock.

Photojournalists are role models. They don't want to be, but they are.

At a mid-sized or small newspaper, a photojournalist can't have a night on the town and neglect his or her city. Everyone from the little tykes to the senior citizens, from the street people to the debutantes, knows the photojournalist. The photojournalist is the visible portion of the newspaper.

Reporters can handle everything by phone. Editors can stay in their office and never talk to a soul. Press operators and graphic artists can go strait to the bar after work if they choose. However, the photojournalist must crawl through barnyard dung for one shoot and arrive at the annual celebrity gala an hour later.

I love this city and the people who make it the wonderful place it is. For the most part: houses don't catch fire, everyone looks out for each other, nobody goes to bed hungry, kids go to college and become CEOs (or photojournalists - that's a long, bizarre story), the arts flourish, the city leaders are respected, and red-light running is the biggest crime.

I love my job. No job is more cool.

Enough for now,

To continue reading about the job of a photojournalist, please visit the All PJ-related posts section. Educators may be interested in this Primary education lesson plan.


Anonymous said...

Best photojouralist info I have ever read. Thanks a ton.

Brian Gagne

kijal said...

Excellent stuff! I've been searching for the distinction between "PJs vs. photographer".
What I like is "wedding photojournalist" which captures the ceremony & tells a story.
But what is the difference between "lifestyle photographer" to PJs (that occasionally takes portraits?). Ok i'm just confusing myself.

Mark M. Hancock said...

A PJ is a PJ. Adding an adjective before the title only narrows the scope of the work.
A lifestyle photographer is still a photographer of people, places and things.

lukedecena said...

hi i donno if youre still uploading your blogg but i really wanna know about "Captioning" photos. im now working on our school publication and captioning image really gives me a hard time.

Mark M. Hancock said...

Hi Luke,
Please see "How to write a cutline." Magazines call the text captions while newspapers call them cutlines. It's the same thing. You can find more information located at "All PJ-related posts" at the top of the sidebar. I add all new entries there. I also post a new photo or photo story each day.

PoppingBlisters said...

I am doing an essay on photojournalism for college and this was EXACTLY the kind of info i was looking for.
I have never heard the 'verbs' view on it before, but it makes so much sense and helps me to understand it better!
thank you so much for composing this piece :).

Des said...

Hi Mark,

I'm a high school teacher putting together a Journalism 12 course and am woefully ignorant on the theory and process behind photojournalism.

Thank you so much for the insight given in this article. I now won't feel like a moron trying to tell kids how to go and be a photojournalist for a day.

Unknown said...


I'm Ulysses Sison of Cebu City, Philippines taking up a post-graduate study in Master of Media Studies. I've been task to give a lecture about Photojournalism in one of my major subjects, and your stuff is great!
its simple, concise, and real.

Thank you and Godspeed!

Mark M. Hancock said...

Thanks Ulysses. Good luck on your path.

alan2onion said...

I get difficult!

Thanks for a great site...

Photojazz said...

Photojournalism is not a "glam" job. hunt verb. wow! keyword. Thanks for all the insights. I personally know Francis Malasig photojournalist here in the Philippines and I really admire you guys for being a good servant to the people! Informing us of reality.


Mark M. Hancock said...

Thanks Vic. :-)

Anonymous said...

hi... i was looking for info on PJs when i came across ur blog... i was amazed by your depth of knowledge and thought...u really made me ponder and thanks to you i no longer hold the misconception that PJand phtography is the same... may be now i'll be a better journalist...thanks a ton!!!!!!!!

Unknown said...

Hi there,
I am a undergrad student and thinking of becoming a photojournalist, your site has helped me a lot.

Bettina Hansen said...

Thanks for putting this into words. I now know how to explain what I do to people who just stare at me at say things like, "That's an expensive camera. It must take good pictures." Thanks for diligently posting too, I know it's hard when you are busy. Students like me really appreciate it.

Subin Shrestha said...

thanx a lot.
i am doing a freelencer photography for Nepali News Paper, so main point is the this site helps me to get a new experience a lot's in Photo Journalism Field.

jay jay said...

This was the exact info I needed to determine what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Thank you for the insight and it's simplicity.

Christina Janel said...

I aspire to become a photojournalist. I'm currently an ESL teacher, and I have my summers off. I was wondering if you had any advice in terms of where to start in the profession. I would love to find a way to have an internship in the summer so that I could learn from others to discover if this is something I would enjoy. Thank you:) Christina

Mark M. Hancock said...

Hi Christina,
If you've been out of college more than two years, it would be extremely difficult to get an internship.
You might want to start with Getting started in PJ or Get stringer gigs. They're both located in All PJ-related posts.

Anonymous said...

I aspire to be a PJ in the future. I'm not sure which school has the best program yet; however at 15 I have plenty of time to figure that out. Thanks for this information however it offered a better, more real to life aspect to photojournalism than any course description grants. :)

Mark M. Hancock said...

Hi Nicole,
You have a few years to decide, but the top four schools remain the best bet. I've posted a comparative analysis of the CPOY results each year for a few years to establish trends. Currently, Ohio University is the leader. Proximity and finances are also important considerations, but the top four schools appear to consistently deliver quality students capable of surviving in this industry.

Daniel said...

Intresting! i want to be a photojournalist!

Mark M. Hancock said...

Hi Daniel,
Thanks for the note.
I returned from NY yesterday. I presented two speeches for the NY Press Association. It would have been nice to meet you at their convention. Maybe another year. :-)

Aishwarya said...

Thanks a bunch Mr. Hancock. You see I am from New Delhi, India where I am majoring in Journalism and photojournalism is there in our syllabi. But I had no idea where to get notes from. You just made the job a tad bit easier.
I have my Finals this month and I hope I find a question on photojournalism!
Thanks a bunch again.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the wonderful piece of Info. By profession I am a engineer but my hobby is PJ. I was actually thinking of working towards my hobby. I am sure your thoughts have enlightened me a great deal and will help me out. I am going through links provided on you blog. Thanks a ton.



I have always felt Photography was my way of putting distance between myself and reality.It sometimes helps me to see more clearly what it is that I have been missing during the hustle and bustle of everyday life.Your Article shows that my work also shows to others what they have been missing as well and as a Photojournalist we hold a very important role in today's civilized soceity.Thank You Mark.

Don Yount

Sarah said...

Hey, thank you so much for writing this! I have always wanted to be a PJ and this just confirmed it. I love to write and taking pictures just tops it off. My parents don't really want me to become a PJ and they say at the age of 14 I have a long time to discide what I want to be but this is what I want to be. I don't have a clue for a college I want to go to but I have a couple years. Thank you so much for writing this, it gave me a whole other view.

i am kristel said...

i am fifteen years old and i topped the first photojournalism competition that i joined. amazing isn't it? i myself don't know how i did it.

i was sent to another place to represent our city in the same contest. unfortunately, my camera got busted and there.. you know what happened next XD

im actually having a competition in photojournalism tomorrow that's why i landed here:)

and uh..honestly? i didn't know what the difference of photography from photojournalism until i read this. thanks! :)

kristel :D

Lyke said...

Photography and photojournalism...I didn't know there was a difference between the two. Because of your blog, I can be a better student "PJ".


Unknown said...

This is great information.
I've really taken an interest in photojournalism as a possible career, thanks in part to happening upon your blog and reading this piece a few months ago. As soon as I get home from Iraq I'm looking into getting back into college to study photojournalism. Photography was always an interest of mine, but I want to capture stories rather than simple pictures. I'm really glad I found this when I did.


SPC Luke Cooper
21B Combat Engineer
926 EN BDE, US Army Reserve (Deployed, Iraq)

xrainbowhellx said...

WOW!!! i am a 13 year old girl... and i have been really paying attention to what my interests are (because im stupid enough not to know!) and i really like taking pictures... and i would absolutely love to travel.. i have gone to wanting to be an actress... to a chef(still kind of want to)... to a pilot(would be awesome)... to this...... i really think i might go along with this... but i think it will be harder than i imagined... but i think i am willing.... oh i dont know.... xD

Unknown said...

This is so great! I'm in high school and would love to do photojournalism, but I'm not sure if I could. This helps so much! Also, "verbs"! I never thought about it, but it's so true.

Bloodsis said...

Whao. Thank you so much!! This helps tons!!

My dad as been encouraging me to go into photojournalism cause I love traveling, meeting people and talking so much xD. And I'll be graduating from high school soon and I'm at cross roads at the mo'. There's so many things I love doing and want to do, I really don't know where to go. This post has definitely shed LOADS of light on what photojournalism is (even though I've been to a Journalism Workshop before and have considered it as my future career but there was loads of "buts" going through my head). Really interesting way of putting-it-that-way, totally illustrates the whole meaning of photojournalism. It's a tough job i see but then again, what isn't tough in life?? =] I guess the challenges keeps the adrenaline rushing and keeps you going. Nice. Just maybe......=]

Thanks!! Godspeed!!


Unknown said...

this will help me a lot... i've always wanted to try photojournalism. i've done it during college and my editor said that i should consider it (he said have it...) but having an office work makes me forget. i would definitely try it i love to trvel anyway... godbless!


live your life. said...

okay so i am going to college next year and i havent figured out what i wanted to do.. but since i just read your blog, i feel this is exactly what i want to do. i have never took a photography or journalism class, does that matter? and what are some jobs you can get with this degree? also i just want to travel to a lot of places, would i be able to do that with this job?

Mark M. Hancock said...

If you go into photojournalism, your minor or second major should be in something other than journalism or photography. This makes you more marketable. If you have a business, marketing, science or any other degree, you can cover those topics better than another new graduate with only a journalism degree. Additionally, it gives you a back-up plan for your future.

Focus on your core classes and take J101. The core classes will apply toward any degree you eventually pursue. If you learn the basics of journalism before embarking on photography, you'll be best served once you pick up the camera and are expected to deliver. While it may set you back six months in the learning curve, it will better prepare your mind to accept the journalism role. At the end of your first semester, you'll better know if you want to follow the journalism path.

Honestly, our industry is upside down. Many of us are greatly concerned about the future of journalism and its critical role in democracy itself. With luck, something will prove sustainable within the next four years while you follow your studies. All current manifestations of journalism are in peril. However, the reporting of news must survive in some form.

If you learn everything you can within the industry (photojournalism, videography, writing, editing, layout, musical composition, etc...), you'll be best prepared to accept whatever opportunities are available by the time you graduate. Try to avoid "underwater basket weaving" electives in favor of hard sciences (sociology in particular) and business.

While you're welcome to read through everything I've already posted about the profession on my blog (, please understand all certainty the field once held has evaporated. There will not be a staff position awaiting your graduation. At best, you'll be an independent contractor. So, it's vital for you to learn strong business practices early.

Currently, the only employer of new PJs appears to be the U.S. military. If you want to travel the world, this is an option. You can travel the world, get good photo training and college funding. If this is something you'd consider, I'd suggest the following branches in the following order: Coast Guard, Air Force, Navy, Army and Marines. Be certain any military contract explicitly spells out that you will be a photojournalist or news photographer. Otherwise, don't sign the paper.

Lee said...

My name is Morgan. My interests are in journalism and photography. I was just wondering how long it took you to get where you are now. And, How hard is it to get this kind of job?

Thanks a lot,

Mark M. Hancock said...

Hi Morgan,

I became a pro in 1995 when I graduated from college. Please read the most recent comment above to understand the current state of the profession. It's not impossible to break into the industry, but only the most driven will make it.

Lee said...

Hello again. I hope I do not pester you by doing this. But I have one more question. I am doing a project for my economics class and I'm pretending I am 23 years old. So I needed to know how much you made when you first started out. I also know you might have had another job besides journilism. You do not have to answer the question if it make you feel uncomfortable. Thanks a ton,

Mark M. Hancock said...

This question would have been best as an e-mail. My address is on the sidebar.
Since you asked, I can tell you starting PJ salaries (wherever there are jobs available) tend to be minimum wage (MW) multiplied by 1.5 and quoted as an annual figure to make it sound like more than it really is.
So your calculation would be:
MW*1.5*40*52= Annual Salary.
It's enough to get new college grads, but not enough to keep them.

Rose Anne said...

hi... a read your blog and i really love it... as i was reading it now i am sure of what i really want to be, thanks to you...

I hope i became a photojournalist like you...


Antoinette Herrmann-Condobrey said...

Hi Mr. Hancock;

I tried reaching you by email but did not get any response from you. I finally figured this might be the best place to write to you. I cited some of your words in one of my final papers and will appreciate it if you can tell me which newspaper your article, "What is a photojournalist" was first published in. I also need the page number. I have a couple of days to submit my work, but i've been trying to reach you for weeks. I see from the top page that the year and month are 1996 and January. Kindly correct me if i'm wrong. I'm waiting to hear from you. Thanks in advance!


Mark M. Hancock said...


You're looking at the first place it was published. I originally wrote it as an office memo for the non-visual reporters to understand what a staff photojournalist is and does. I gave a copy of it to all new reporters at the newspaper so they wouldn't drive me crazy with "noun" assignments.

To specifically answer your question, it was written in January 1996, and it was first published on this blog in October 2003 shortly after I started the blog.

I may have posted it on my old Web site prior to the blog, but I doubt it.

Antoinette Herrmann-Condobrey said...

Oh! Just me again. Thanks for the prompt response to my inquiry. I want to know if you have a date in October 2003 when it was first posted. APA requires a year, month and date for citations from blogs.


Mark M. Hancock said...

Let's commit to Oct. 6, 2003.

christina said...

wow, im simply amazied on how much ive learned from this site! i am interested in pursuing a career in photojournalism. i am currently a sophmore in high school and i would love to be able to learn more upon the subject and expand my intellect on the course. =]
Christina x]

Unknown said...

Hi Mark,

Regarding photojournalist and gifts. You mentioned that accepting gifts is akin to accepting bribe. It is corruption. Yes indeed. It is corruption but not always. Assume that you cover an event where a new product is being launch. Upon your registration at the doorway, you are given the new product by the organizer. To you it is a bribe but not to me. I would take the product home and write the story on the product launching. That gifts given to me would not influence my writing on the launching. I would take home that product to test it for myself. Good or bad, it is going to be another story for me to write. In that way, it is not a bribe isn't it.
For sports event such as golf, more that often we are given free pairs of golf t-shirts as gifts. It is not bribe because we have to wear it to make our life easy. Members of the press would be given t-shirts with a particular color coding so that we could identify ourselves to the organizer as members of the press. Then again the organizer would have easy job in gathering us at a spot so that we would not distract golfers and spectators. With us wearing the t-shirt around with golfs logos and what not printed on it also help the organizer to promote the event among the public.
It is not bribe as long as you don't take money or as long as it does not influence your work.

Bujang Perantau.

Mark M. Hancock said...

Hi Bujang,

What if the new product was a car? Would anyone be objective? I doubt it.

For the second part, you're OK with being an unpaid billboard for someone to control? I'm not.

If PJs don't accept anything other than access and information, they avoid all these issues. They'll also gain the trust of readers.

Jenny Thingshung said...

Hi Mr. Hancock,

Your blog on PJ is an eye opener. Learnt alot. Esp the PJ being a "verb".Never realised.

Could you tell me how technology has improved the job of a photojornalist

Mark M. Hancock said...

The answers are here. You can use the internal search engine at the top of the page to search for key words such as "technology" on this blog. :-)

Anonymous said...

hi...i am not fluent in ENglsh..does it matter if i take photojournalism?
i love photography......and i know i am good at it...,bcuz i love what i do, and the results..too,,,

Mark M. Hancock said...

Anyone can be a photographer. If you're only interested in photos, then shoot away.
Photojournalists are visual story tellers and should master the language of their own nations to communicate fully and effectively. This is why the four-year degree is useful.
Although photojournalism speaks in every language, photojournalists must be completely literate in at least one language.

claudette said...

hi i'm claudette,a high school student.. i was one of the participants in a press conference to be held on sept.10 but the problem is i really don't have any idea of what a photojournalist is.. with your blogs i got some ideas but i think it was not that enough for me to understand far i was able to see the diference between photography and photojournalism..but will you please give some ideas of what i am suppose to write with regards to cutlines..i mean what are the basic rules about writing it.. thank you((:

Mark M. Hancock said...

Hi Claudette,
Everything you'll need to start writing (captions and stories) is located in this section of the blog

nathalie's place said...

.hAi..i'm Nathalie. I am a photojournalist in our school. This is my first time to be in the field of photojournalism...we will be mounting our pictures tomorrow...can you give me some advices how to have a good caption for my pictures??thankz...Godbless:)

Mark M. Hancock said...

Hi Nathalie,
I posted the information in the 8th comment on this post.
Good luck,

Jimmy S said...

Hi Mark,
This is Jimmy from the Faraway himalayan country, Bhutan......... I like the post you made and am quite encouraged in PJ. Recently, I attented a two week Crash Course on Photo Journalism by Photojournalist Mary F. calvert, a Washington based) in the home country.
So keep on posting the valuable pieces.......
Thank you


Hi Mark,

Not all photojournalist can write as awesome as you. You certainly represent photojournalism in the truest sense of the word. Everything you wrote about photojournalism in general reaffirms what I understand and apply in this aspect of photography. I don't have any formal training in photography but I was introduced to the art of shooting photos by my photojournalist father who was a veteran combat photographer in the Korean War in the 50's. I learned his photojournalism shooting style (using patience,observation, readiness and anticipation) in capturing story-telling images, and also I have improved my photojournalism by admiring and studying the compelling shots of talented photojournalists and absorbing their thoughts (such as your "verbs") about the profession.

Thank you Mark for sharing selflessly the fruits of your wisdom and experience. May God bless you always and guide you in every path you take.

Mario Dimain
photographer for Christ

georgia said...

Hi, I am Georgia from the Philippines.I am a high school student. I just read your blog and it is really helpful and it gave me some ideas about photojournalism and I have been joining in some competitions when i was in elementary,like divisions schools press conference and i didn't won, now i am a graduating student and i really really really really want to win the first place but how? Can you help me? please. and some of the judges let us use the photo essay. Can you tell me how to write a good photo essay? and What brand of DSLR is better? Canon or Nikon? Thank you! :)

Mark M. Hancock said...

Hi Georgia,
Put your efforts into making great images. Always carry your camera and shoot at least 100 frames each day. You can't shoot to win a contest. You'll know when you finally have a winner. Just look for motion and emotion.

Everything you need to know is linked to "All PJ-related Posts" on the sidebar of this blog.

Research both camera brands and select the best system for your needs. Ask yourself where you want to be in 10 years and see which brand will get you there fastest.

Gunaqz said...

Thank you very much. This article has helped me in a very special way. Thanks again!


Logey said...

Hello! I'm a senior in high school hoping to one day become a photojournalist. However, none of the schools I'm looking at have a specific "Photojournalism" major. To become a PJ, say for a magazine or newspaper, do I need to have a specific major in photojournalism or are there other majors/courses I could take that would be sufficient? Any info is greatly appriciated:)

Mark M. Hancock said...

Hi Logey,
Please read this post about the best PJ colleges.
A specific PJ degree isn't required to work as a PJ. Technically, you could start today. However, there are few jobs and many PJs with degrees and awards. Consequently, it's best to have a bachelor's degree in something.
Your degree can be in almost anything. A business degree is a practical option. If you follow an alternative path, you'll want all of your electives to be in journalism and photography while you work on the university newspaper. Otherwise, it will be extremely difficult to break into the industry.

akellas said...

I love my job. No job is more cool.

Very true. I just love this comment. We are very fortunate to be photo journalists. We see things differently.

Mystery said...

Dear Mark,

For awhile now I have debated on what I want to do "when I grow up" as the saying goes. I came across my passion for writing and decided to become an author. Except then I thought that what if I don't have enough income? What would I do. So I decided to become a journalist.

Now my father is really into photography. After a little bit his influence rubbed off on me. So now I have concluded that I would love to become a photojournalist and combine both of my passions.

I would just like to ask a question. I'm a gal and I wanted to know if this job was discriminative toward women.

Thanks for your time,
Hopefully future photojournalist

Mark M. Hancock said...

Hi Linda,
When applying for one of the rare staff gigs available, you have an advantage because you can go places males can't. Assuming you have the same education and experience as a male, you would win the gig at most places because there are typically more males in the field than females so more openings exist for females.
Many smaller papers will choose a female before a male because they are accepted in more places.
However, you must understand that at any publication, you will be expected to do the same work as a male would. You'll be exposed to same dangers and grisly sights as a male.
While the newsroom isn’t different by gender, the same isn’t true for the outside world. You’ll need to have thick skin when dealing with police, and various other “gatekeepers” outside the newsroom.

Anonymous said...

I love to travel and I love photography!
Isn't it awesome to be able to do both! :D
But how did you get started anyway?

Mark M. Hancock said...

This post explains. There is additional information about the business near the top of the sidebar.

Unknown said...

hi there, i am a student in my last year of secondary school trying to decide what i would want to do next year. I love photography, and am considering photojournalism. I would love a job that is able to help others and makes a positive difference, uses creativity, a job that requires intellect, and something i can travel with. I feel like photojournlism would be a good job option. Where would you recommend for study and also the income aspect, not a 'glam' job? Also what is the potential income?

Mark M. Hancock said...

Hi Natalie,

This post lists the best universities for a PJ degree. The top schools have good results each year.
The industry hasn't done well for the last 10 years. In short, if you need loans for college, this might not be the best career option.
However, if the PJ bug bit you, you'll find a way to survive. :-)

Unknown said...

thank you so ever blog i have ever read onto photojournalist...nice explanation photojournalist =verb cheers sir

Unknown said...

Couldn't agree more, nice post! I'm about to take master or course in journalism/ photo-journalism next year.

Been practicing recently taking photograph covering an event, and I'd love to add one more thing, as a journalist or photo-journalist we have to be a "curious-person" kind of people.

Taking photograph of a real action that is happening at that time, god it feels so good! you witness something great or crazy or you name it that is happening with your own eyes, then you take photograph of it, tell the stories.. what a great pleasure.

Unknown said...

I feel like some readers are missing Mark's point....photojournalism isn't just a "fun" career, it's not just for people who want to travel and enjoy photography and taking photos. It's gritty, and it can be confronting, and political.

Look at TIME'S photos of 2012. It's not all babies and pretty landscapes, people. It's dying children in Africa, and mourners in Syria, it's rebel soldiers camping out in Iraq, and it's a bomb tearing limbs off people. It's also President Obama talking at a rally, it's also the first legal civil union.

You need to understand that photojournalism is about showing the world things that they wouldn't see otherwise. It is shocking, and confronting, and raw. Some photojournalists are even killed on the job, for instance during civil war or periods of political unrest.

It's as Mark are never off duty. You are a permanent, walking expose. You do it to show people another side of reality. To say more than what words can. It's not travel and pretty cameras.

It's real life.

Mark M. Hancock said...

@Claire, Bravo! :-)

marco said...

Let's talk about how this post was made in 1996! That is awesome. Seems to still be really relevant. Also, this is the second result for me on Google when I searched "what is a photojournalist", maybe the author would want to update the article with a link to the growing demand for video work? Love the posts especially the curriculum for primary education!

Mark M. Hancock said...

Hi Marco,
Here are the video-related posts. However, I think newspaper video may have jumped the shark as newspapers have hemorrhaged employees.
The early adopters have moved on to greener pastures. At this point, whoever wants to do video should concentrate on video and forget newspapers. There is plenty of documentary work that needs to be done. However, it's best to learn how to fund independent documentary films rather than expecting a newspaper to fund a project.

Mossy Mom said...

I've been getting some work as a freelance photojounalist for a weekly newspaper. I really enjoy and appreciate your how to articles. Have you thought of writing an article on how to photograph runners? I just photographed a 5k run with 195 participants and I was able to extrapolate some of your tips on shooting other sports such as take a picture of the roster.

Mark M. Hancock said...

I thought I had addressed it, but it appears I didn't. I'll put it at the top of my "to do" list when life slows down some.

Unknown said...

I know it's probably a silly question, but I can't seem to find any information on what subjects to take to be able to study PJ. Could you please tell me the subject and mark requirements?

Mark M. Hancock said...

Hi Finae,
Each university will be different. However, you'll need all the standard core classes to get a bachelors degree. Then, you'll need mass communications, journalism 1 and 2, editing, feature writing, media law, photo 1 and 2, portraiture, photojournalism, some independent studies (400 series), student publications, an internship or two and related electives. I imagine Photoshop should be required by now.

Kenji said...

"It destroys almost all barriers. Justice can draw its sword in the time it takes an eye to scan an image." My favourite two sentences of this article - it is so true. A photo can provide such insight and inspiration.

Unknown said...

Many thanks Mark,what an insight