Career as Photo Journalist : Shoot at Sight

Early Salary

1 - 2 L

Mid Salary

3 - 4 L

Senior Salary

8 - 10 L

Academic Pressure


Job Pressure


Photo journalism is about using images to tell a news story. It refers to still images in print journalism, while for broadcast journalism, usually a video tells the story. A photo journalist is also a reporter but s/he must often make decisions instantly. S/he is often exposed to significant obstacles (physical danger, weather, crowds)

Photojournalism is basically telling stories with photographs. But on top of that, the stories created must follow the rules of journalism. They must be true stories and the journalist must try to tell the story in the most fair, balanced and unbiased way possible.

What do they do?

In 2004, when Mustafa Quraishi came away from a Maoist camp in Nallamala, Andhra Pradesh, a glance at the previous day’s newspaper sent a chill down his spine. There had been a police ambush on the same camp the night before… Such a close shave with death, he says, made him realise how scary as well as thrilling his job as a photo journalist was.

Lack of a Bachelor’s degree did not keep Quraishi, 30, from climbing the career ladder in photo journalism. Working with the international news agency Associated Press (AP), he also has a media fellowship to his credit.

“I wanted to join the Army but couldn’t match their physical standards, so I set my eyes on photo journalism,” he says. “When the Army job didn’t come my way, I chucked college studies as it seemed futile at that time. One must have talent, not a degree, to become a good photographer.” The profession of a cameraman was “looked down upon by the aunties and the uncles but my passion couldn’t be suppressed”, he recounts.

It is this passion that drives a photo journalist, as one has to struggle very hard to find a job or regular work in the initial years. RS Iyer, a qualified lawyer, quit his practice within a year to become a shutterbug in the early ’90s. He went on to cover the 1999 Kargil war and is now photo editor in a well-known news agency. 

At 18, Quraishi’s career took off at The Indian Express, where he covered civic problems and later, the entertainment beat. After a five-year stint, he got a job offer from AP.

“For a photo journalist, a news agency is the best place to be in,” Quraishi says. “Here, we have flexibility and scope to explore our potential. I could never have experienced such quality journalism while in a newspaper.”

Field training
Though Quraishi took formal training in photography at Delhi’s Sri Aurobindo Centre for Arts and Communications, the real learning was on the job.

A photo journalist not only learns the nuances of journalism on the field, but also polishes his/her skills there — sometimes the hard way.  “You might even get beaten up on assignments, which should be considered a part of learning. Each assignment makes you a better photographer,” says Quraishi.

What excited him the most was his encounter with the Maoists in Chhattisgarh. “When a journalist goes to a Maoist-infested zone, he puts his life at risk. Even the mobile connection goes off. My assignments in the Maoist-infested states were probably the scariest yet.”

 Source: HT Horizons

Skills Needed

  • Physical endurance and a certain level of fitness
  • An eye for detail and a knack for photo composition
  • Curiosity about events and quick reflex
  • An inclination for reading up on current affairs

How do I get there?

You can learn the basics of photography from a good institute. Later, you can freelance or do an internship with a media house (newspaper/ magazine/ website) for a year or two. You can, during this period, apply for a job in a publication. The Internet is emerging as a reliable option, especially for beginners. If lucky, you can find a decent job within that time. Until you find something you like, keep sending your pictures to as many publications as you can. If you have it in you, you will be noticed

Typical day in the life of a Photo Journalist : Shoot at Sight

According to a photojournalist who works with a newspaper in Kentucky, USA;

7:30 am

I’m woken up by a call from the contact I was expecting to hear from last night, with apologies sounding from the other end of the line. We made plans to meet with one of his drivers at the local Walmart. I rolled out of bed and took off.

8:00 am

I meet the driver, Josh, in the parking lot and proceed to get some shots of him cleaning the parking lot. There wasn’t much snow at this point, mostly just slush he had to push around.

9:00 am

I make it back to the newsroom in time for our morning planning meeting. We didn’t have any art scheduled for A1 or A5, so we scramble to come up with some ideas. We decide on getting something visual for a story dealing with the city’s problems with water runoffs, which means getting shots of local businesses with large parking lots.

As the reporter and I are discussing how to tackle the assignment, another reporter hands me a photo opportunity happening at the Capitol at 11:30, which should work perfectly as A5 art.

10:45 am

I monitor both my own Twitter feed and our paper’s sport’s Twitter account feed almost constantly, and I noticed several kids from one of the high schools were talking about being in lock down. I immediately alerted our education and crime reporters to have them check on what was going on, and I left to go check at the school itself. Turns out it was nothing, just a routine drug search and by the time I arrived, all the drama was complete.

11:30 am

The event begins, a Black History Month celebration sponsored by the Kentucky Black Legislature Caucus. Lot of important political figures in attendance, including the governor.

12:30 pm

I leave the Capitol and head down the road to work on what we call  a “Face” story. The “Frankfort Faces” is a series that focuses on local characters, this one being a dentist who also makes and plays his own guitars. I wanted to first get a couple shots of him in his job, interacting with patients. And I had an idea for a portrait combining his two sides. I also scheduled to meet him at his workshop at home at 6 p.m.

1:05 pm

Finally getting a chance to eat, I stop next door to the dentist office at a small deli I’ve never eaten at before. It was a cozy little place and had a decent grilled ham and cheese. I’ll try to remember to go back.

1:35 pm

I head out from lunch to get some shots of large parking lots, stopping first at a government building, then, luck have it, heading back out to Walmart.

While out on this assignment, I get a call from our news editor, alerting me to a meeting taking place that we need to cover, also happening at 6 p.m.

2:30 pm

I get back to the newsroom and start editing what I had shot so far. I make a call to the dentist to reschedule, and luckily he’s very flexible and we move the time to 7 p.m.

As soon as I put the phone down, I get called over by our news editor about a structure fire going on. I grab my gear and speed out the door.

3:20 pm

I arrive at the scene, and though most of the fire is out, there’s still some shots to be made. It was the first fire I had covered in a long time, so I was biting at the bit. Luckily, a sheriff’s deputy was able to pull a woman from the home to safety, though I wasn’t there for that.

4:30 pm

I get back to the newsroom, and once again work on editing the photos from the day. I finish just in time to head to a local elementary school that’s the site for the meeting at 6 p.m.

6:00 pm

I arrive at the school, a meeting hosted by parents of students and nearby residents, concerned over the possibility of the local humane society relocating near the school.

7:00 pm

I leave the meeting and arrive at dentist’s house to finish up the “Face” photos. The setup he had in his basement was pretty neat, and I got some nice shots of various parts of the guitar-making process.

8:00 pm

I head out from his home, grab Wendy’s drive-thru, and get back to the newsroom. I finish up all the editing I need to do for the day as I eat. All in all, six different assignments covered and submitted.

9:05 pm

I finally arrive home and start editing for my own library purposes. After another hour and a half, I’m finally done with all photos for the day.




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