How to Become a Photojournalist

Photojournalist Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $36,770
Avg. Pay / hour $17.68
Education 3-4 Years
Job Outlook -12%

Photojournalists are professionals who use their skills to capture images of interesting and newsworthy people, issues, or events.

These professionals can specialize in documenting a specific theme such as celebrity news or can focus on international issues such as famine or war stricken countries.

Some professionals go out searching for newsworthy clippings of what’s going out in the world.

Their work is important in capturing memorable moments that will be remembered in the future.

These professionals don’t work the typical office job and are always on the lookout for capturing exciting new images for the world to see.

Because of frequent technological advances, a photojournalist may use several types of video cameras or multimedia computer tools to capture images and to share their work with the world.

Their work can appear in a myriad of journalistic outlets including television, newspapers, magazines, news websites and even social media platforms.

People who want to become a Photojournalist and are interested in this kind of field may want to know that advancing in this field also requires investing time and money.

Photojournalists must have the means to invest money into buying their own equipment.

Some cameras can be quite expensive and can cost upwards of $5000.

Education Requirements to Become a Photojournalist

In addition to having natural talent, students who want to become a Photojournalist must seek an advanced degree in order to have a competitive background.

Candidates should have a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree or similar background and training as well as have a portfolio of their best work.

Candidates who want to become a Photojournalist need training or a Bachelor’s degree in order to show employers that they have a technical background in photojournalism.

Many colleges and universities have a Photography program in which students learn a variety of information regarding the technical aspects of taking pictures.

They will also have the opportunity to work on their craft and expand their professional portfolio that will eventually help them secure employment.

Photography programs require students to take courses in photography equipment and techniques and the processes photographs take to get developed if being used in print media.

In addition, students may learn photography design and arrangement.

Because most photojournalists end up working as freelancers, students should learn some basic marketing and business skills to manage their contracting work.

Photojournalist Job Description

Photojournalists use their technical skills, creativity and photographic equipment to take high quality pictures that create a story in one snap.

Photojournalists can use many techniques including using different types of cameras, changing lighting, using different lenses or even trying a new position to capture the best looking photograph.

Photojournalists can position themselves in ways that produce the best picture, even if it means getting on all fours and snapping away from the ground in order to capture their subject.

If using a traditional camera, Photojournalists will develop their film in order to create a finalized image of their subject.

Pictures taken on a digital camera can be uploaded onto a computer and edited for final presentation.

One major component to a Photojournalist’s career advancement is the creation of a professional portfolio.

Photojournalists typically created a physical portfolio of their work, but with the advancement of technology, professionals are now able to create their own website to present their work to the world.

Portfolios are a great way for Photojournalists to find clients and book their schedules with work.

Photojournalist Salary and Career Path

The majority of Photojournalists work independently as freelancers and their income depends on the quantity of work they can find in a given year; exact wages will vary amongst freelance Photojournalists.
However, according to the bureau of labor statistics, the national median wage for professionals who are employed full time and are salaried is approximately $35,980 per year.

The salary range for these professionals is approximately $17,350 to $63,400 per year.

One factor that affects a freelance photojournalist’s take home income is the amount they have to pay for their own equipment.

Salaried Photojournalists are typically provided with borrowed materials and equipment.

This is a huge benefit over a freelance Photojournalist who spends their own money to acquire their own equipment and supplies.

Beginning a career as a Photojournalist may require some patience on the part of an aspiring professional.

Because this career sounds very lucrative to many individuals, competition is strong and many Photojournalists have to prove their skills and talent in order to build a strong career.

For those who are passionate about entering this field, all the work, portfolio building and passion might pay off in the long run.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$111,360
New Hampshire$51,280
New Jersey$76,110
New Mexico$52,290
New York$95,510
North Carolina$53,580
North Dakota$47,210
Rhode Island$73,460
South Carolina$53,890
South Dakota$38,130
West Virginia$33,840
Puerto Rico$47,580

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $111,360.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

District of Columbia - $111,360
New York - $95,510
Connecticut - $82,080
Georgia - $77,610
New Jersey - $76,110
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for News Analysts, Reporters, and Journalists, OCC Code 27-3023, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a photojournalist?

Photojournalists take photographs that capture events, incidents or people in order to tell a news story.

Their job also includes editing the photos and turning them into visual materials.

Photojournalists are usually employed by news agencies or magazines.

They may have to travel to a variety of places in order to capture images of people and events.

Photojournalists who cover wars may have to travel to conflict zones and be close to real human suffering and danger.

Other photojournalists are specialized in environmental and nature topics.

Photojournalists need both journalism knowledge and strong photography skills and, regardless of their specialty, they have to travel where the story leads them.

How much does a photojournalist make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for reporters and correspondents was $41,260 as of May 2018.

The exact wages vary based on a wide range of factors, including the employer and the photojournalist’s portfolio and level of experience.

Annual salaries start at less than $24,000 and can go up to more than $100,000.

How much does it cost to become a photojournalist?

Although there are no strict educational requirements for photojournalists, earning a bachelor’s degree in photojournalism can help you start a career in this field.

A four-year program will cost you, on average, around $150,000 but tuition costs vary widely, depending on the college you choose and the program itself.

Photography classes are also offered at many schools and can cost anywhere between $25-$200 per hour.

As a photojournalist, you will also need to invest in good equipment, including, among other things, a camera, lenses, memory cards and camera bags.

Quality equipment can be quite expensive but you can start with a smaller investment and buy better tools as you advance in your career.

A pro camera can cost you anywhere between $3,000 to more than $10,000.

What is the demand for photojournalists?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for reporters and correspondents, in general, is expected to decline 12 percent from 2018 to 2028, mostly due to the decline in advertising revenue in radio, newspaper, and television.

However, as a photojournalist you may work as a freelancer and collaborate with more than one publication.

The competition is expected to be strong, so having a strong portfolio and earning a degree from a reputable institution can give you an advantage over the other competitors on the job market.

How long does it take to become a photojournalist?

Holding a bachelor’s degree in photojournalism is not a requirement, but can help you start your career.

A degree can usually be earned in around four years.

In order to have the best job prospects, you will also need a portfolio that showcases your best work.

You can start building your portfolio in college or in high school, by working on the school’s newspaper.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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