So you’ve honed your skills to the point where you are confident you can get a good picture in any situation.
Have you thought about freelancing for a newspaper? Photojournalism is one of the most challenging, exciting types of photography.
As a result, it is also the most competitive fields to break in to. So what do you need to start?
This should be obvious, but it’s intentionally high in this list. All the skills and the best gear in the world without the ability to get on scene is pointless.
Decent photo gear
I consider these minimum requirements:
- 2 bodies is a minimum requirement. Though you may use one, the other is your backup. (at least 8 megapixels)
- a wide angle, a telephoto, a fast 50mm lens, and at least one flash. As to the exact focal lengths, that would depend a lot on what you plan to shoot. Sports shooters need upwards of 300 mm, sometimes even longer lenses depending on the sport.
- A good number of memory cards. If all you’re shooting is jpegs, then you might be able to get away with 4 to 6 4GB memory cards. They’re cheap compared to the past, so don’t sweat it. Exactly how many is hard depends on what you’re shooting. Again sports shooters will require
more of this as well.
- A laptop with a WiFi card. The platform Mac or Windows doesn’t matter. Just like for your camera, Nikon or Canon, it’s just a tool.**optional Mobile broadband card for laptop**
- Photoshop Elements is a minimum, the full version is nice but unnecessary. Most of the time, all you have time for is saving your jpegs to the newspaper’s specs, attaching captions and then transmitting it to the paper via the internet by either an FTP client or emailing.
- Cellphone for communicating with editors at the paper.
- Optional but not vital is a police scanner. I don’t advocate running off and chasing fire trucks and ambulances but sometimes being at the right place a the right time with a camera is all it takes.
Writing, reporting ability
Writing and reporting go hand-in-hand. You may not need to write a full blown news story, but you do need to be able to write accurate descriptive captions.
So proper grammar and ability to gather accurate caption information like names and ages is very important.
If you consistently provide wrong information and the newspaper has to print a correction each time, they won’t be calling you back.
Good knowledge of current events and sports
If you’re looking to shoot sports, then good all round knowledge of a variety of sports is important. Since popularity of different sports are very regional, I’ll leave it to you to figure that out.
Obviously expect to know Australian Rules football and cricket if you’re Down Under, baseball, hockey and American Football if you’re in the US and etc. In sports expect to know quite a bit about all types of sports even if you’ve never played it.
If you’re covering a tennis match, for instance, do you know how the players change sides on the tie-breaker? And how do they score the game? If you don’t understand how the game is scored, how do you know when the last point of the match is coming up?
Keeping up with news is especially important. When big names come through your community and you’re on top of it, this is a great way to get your foot in the door. The newspaper may or may not have the personnel to cover everything so your contribution may be welcome.
Even if they don’t use your pictures, you’ve made first contact. Although it takes years of hard work and dedication to get into the business and there are college degrees offered in photojournalism, starting out as a stringer at a newspaper is achievable if you study publications.
If you’re interested in sports, then subscribe to Sports Illustrated. In my next post, I’ll discuss how to get your foot in the door at a newspaper.
About the Author:
Read a more detailed article on how to start freelancing for newspapers. Peter Phun teaches photography at Riverside City College. He does portraits, weddings and editorial work. He writes about photography, Macs and the internet. He also designs websites and is a stay-at-home dad. Previously, Peter worked as a staff photographer for 18 years at The Press-Enterprise, Southern California’s 4th largest daily newspaper. He is the webmaster for the Mac user group in the Inland Empire. For more information about this Riverside based photographer, visit http://www.peterphun.com.