Being a good press photographer is not just a case of pressing a button on a camera with automatic focus. You need first class people skills as well as first class technical skills and you need commitment, perseverance, patience and flexibility.
Great skill goes into the framing of a picture, choosing the right exposure, using the correct lenses and making the best of all light sources. Being able to spot the right picture is another much needed quality – a good photographer will be sent to an event as routine as a fundraising coffee morning and will always come back with an interesting picture.
The fast moving nature of news and sport photography also means a photographer has to get it right first time. You don’t get a second chance at capturing the drama of a brilliant goal or the airport arrival of a head of state.
Some photographers find work with local newspapers, national newspapers and magazines after graduation, however many go freelance straight after college.
Employers want you to be a journalist through and through, with all the news sense and hunger to get the story that they see in their reporters. You’ll need to be self-motivated and hard working. You’ll need a fundamental understanding of digital photography, your own cameras and the computer equipment to send in pictures straight from a job. You’ll also need a full driving licence.
As a trainee photographer on a local paper you will be doing the rounds of golden weddings and flower shows, with the disadvantage that – unlike the reporter who can get what he needs on the phone – you have to turn up to each and every little job. You’ll need to like people and be able to charm them into allowing you to take a good picture.
On a national newspaper, you will be treated just like any other casual in on a day shift. You will be expected to do the round of half a dozen jobs in a day, perhaps more. You’ll need to drive yourself to the location, get the picture, transmit it electronically back to the office and move on swiftly to the next job. You’ll need to know as much as any news reporter about the law, and of the Press Complaints Commission’s code of conduct on privacy – which sets out when and where you can and cannot photograph someone.
To improve your chances of getting a job demonstrate that you have all the attributes of a good news reporter. Have a comprehensive portfolio of published press work and a list of work placements.
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