How To Break Into Photojournalism
New photojournalism students need to understand photography is about nouns while photojournalism is verbs. At the highest level, photo stories have the same construction as news stories. There is a lead image, transitions, emotion and resolution. Throughout the story, characters, conflicts and motives are revealed, explained and concluded.
Still images remain the most powerful communication tool. Each still image can literally burn into the brain of a viewer. Images speak to every person in their own language. This power accompanies massive responsibility. Consequently, photojournalism is more than a vocation. It becomes a way of life.
Right now is a challenging time for the industry. Due to image superfluity and reduction of outlets, it's difficult for photojournalists to make a living. I won't discourage anyone from trying, but everyone entering the field must understand they must be better than established pros at everything. They need superior technical skills, a business plan, access, outlets and a unique style. They must capture stories the world has never seen, or be able to tell old stories better than anyone ever has.
Although the industry is in crisis, there has never been a greater need for ethical photojournalists. They must pursue difficult stories. Much of the news industry has been reduced to pop culture and delivery speed. Instead of following celebrity and entertainment, focus on the issues affecting everyone. Look for the emotion of the events unfolding in the world around us. People are hurting across the planet. Find the cause of the pain, and show the results to others. Whenever possible, show readers a way to help others.
The baton is being passed to a new generation of photojournalists. The future of the current "press" industry is uncertain, but something new must take its place to ensure our combined survival. Watch for innovations and embrace new technology. Be timely, but also seek the timeless.
Mark M. Hancock is an award-winning freelance photojournalist based in Dallas, Texas. His work appears frequently in national and international magazines and newspapers, brochures, annual reports and billboards. Previously, he was a staff photojournalist for for The Dallas Morning News (1996 - 2004) and The Beaumont Enterprise (2005 - 2008). To learn more about photojournalism, including where to find jobs and internships, visit his blog.