Press photographers are employed by newspapers, magazines and other print and web publications. These snap-happy professionals are tasked with recording images of current events to support news stories, or taking interesting photos to emphasise the point of featured articles.
If you enter this profession, your pictures might be used in all kinds of articles, covering everything from current affairs news, entertainment gossip, sports results and special interest items.
Some press photographers also double as journalists (a.k.a. photojournalists), taking the necessary pictures as well as writing the articles. Press photographers usually team up with staff reporters that are covering a specific segment, or form a pool of photographers who are assigned to accompany any reporters as and when they are needed.
In this day and age, you’ll be taking photos with a digital camera, so you won’t be spending any time stuck in a dark room. You will, however, be responsible for preparing images for publication and cataloguing your snaps using image databases.
In the last five to ten years, the growing popularity of the internet and social media has seen traditional papers and magazines falter and a substantial majority of press photographers have now moved into web journalism. Many also work on a freelance basis for several print publications simultaneously.
Salary & benefits
Annual salaries for press photographers in the early stages of their careers range between £12,500 and £16,000, increasing to around £18,000 to £22,000 with three or more years’ experience.
Senior press photographers with bags of experience can earn between £20,000 and £60,000.
Freelance press photographers charge hourly or daily rates, ranging between £50 and £200, depending on their reputation, experience and expertise.
Working hours depend on the publication you work for and the project location. However, it’s likely that you will be working long and irregular hours most of the time.
Typically, press photographers start with local publications, before moving on to regional and national publications.
The nature of the job requires photographers to be available 24/7 and to keep track of news events as they unfold. Frequent travel is another essential element of the job.
A formal academic qualification is not mandatory if you have the necessary technical skills and a portfolio of relevant work, but a degree or diploma in photography, film, design or illustration will be useful in a profession where the competition is tough and available positions are limited.
It may also be advisable to take up courses that are accredited by the Association of Photographers (AOP) or the British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP).
Training & progression
Initial training is mainly facilitated through work-shadowing or working on assignments under the supervision of senior staff photographers. However, you can also build your skills and experience through participation in courses offered by the National Council for the Training of Journalists, the British Institute of Professional Photography and the Bureau of Freelance Photographers.
Most photography work is now digital, and therefore keeping up to date on technological developments and photographic techniques in new media is essential.
Alternative career options, apart from freelance work, include photojournalism, specialty photography (fashion, sports, etc.), photo-editing or moving into cinematography.
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