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MAIN Arrow to ArtArt & Culture Arrow to PhotographyPhotography Arrow to PhotographyPhotography Styles

Photo Journalism -
Specialized Styles of Photography

photojournalist at workFashion, travel, underwater and other fields of photography are focused on the image. Photojournalism is a different ball game altogether.

It is visual storytelling. It has a strong social and cultural context and is a visual form of reportage based on news and current affairs topics.

Being in the right place at the right time and understanding the situation as it unfolds helps a photojournalist deliver material that will interest readers and get their work published.

Tell a story

The usual objective is to pick up contemporary topics and portray a visual story. Photojournalists, like journalists who report using the written word, attempt to create an understanding of the patterns or context in which people live their lives.

These images strive to portray social changes that impact individuals in different walks of life. Very often, the pictures do not stand alone.

Although the best can walk the viewer through a story without having to use words, photojournalism also lends credibility and depth to the written word and can support a public interest story with visual proof. The visuals complement and complete the written reportage on the story.


The equipment required by photojournalists varies by the type of story they pursue. If a photojournalist is picking up images of a town, if the photography is the type that portrays cultural and historical sites, or if the task is to follow the campaign trail of a political leader...each of these require a different treatment.

Working by yourself on a city street or rural area normally calls for lightweight cameras that are easy to handle and don't draw attention to the fact that you are taking pictures. Other assignments may bring you to areas where lens for close work, distance shots and wide angle coverage are necessary. No matter what, be sure that you have plenty of backup film or memory cards and batteries so you don't run out just as the perfect shot happens right in front of you!

Most photographers today are familiar with several graphics programs. Like the darkrooms of the last century (that may sound ancient, but it wasn't that long ago) computer based graphics programs are used to clean up pictures before they are printed.

The ethics of manipulation

A visual representation of contemporary situations is a powerful way to make a point. The photographer who specializes in photojournalism has to be keenly aware of the socio-political and cultural scene of a region to be able to shoot the relevant pictures. Pictures that capture and dramatically present the events or culture to others outside the region. This raises a tough ethical dilemma.

Most photographers who shoot with digital cameras use graphics programs to clean up their work. Like darkroom work in the pre-digital days, the picture may be cropped to strengthen the focus, lightened or darkened (burned or dodged) to highlight certain areas, distracting background elements may be "airbrushed" or removed. All of these techniques change the original picture, but few would question the motives of the photographer.

The problem comes when the line blurs between graphic illustration and an original photo. How much manipulation is allowed before the photo no longer represents — exactly — the situation that produced it. How much alteration to make the picture better can take place before it becomes an artist's rendering rather than a photo?

Chris Haslego


More about photojournalism around the Web:

Getting Started in Photojournalism


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