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Photojournalism is a kind of photography unlike any other. It is rough, dirty and can be downright heartbreaking. This is exactly why so many people love it so much! On the spectrum of disciplines, photojournalism is probably at the opposite end of fine art. Where fine art deals with settings and objects, photojournalism deals with people and events. Photojournalism is almost exclusively candid, although you’ll also find many photos where portraits are taken for feature stories and other profiles.

So what makes a good photojournalist? Well, some of the best are photographers who take great candid shots of people in an artistic way. But in photojournalism, the image itself is more important than clarity or composition. One of the best photos ever taken was a grainy, slightly out of focus picture of a Viet Cong prisoner a second before he was executed on a busy street in Saigon. The photographer, Eddie Adams, was at the right place at the right time and his picture was shown across the world – one of the most telling images of the difficulty, strife, hardship and controversy of the Vietnam War. His image was not only great because he was at the right spot at the right time, but because his image told the world a story of suffering and ignorance in wartime.

Any editor at a any newspaper will tell you that a picture has to tell a story. It must show the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat; it must, at the very least, give information to what the story is about.

Many photojournalists are hired by news agencies like the Associated Press, Getty Images, or Reuters. These agencies hire the best photojournalists and then sell their pictures to major dailies around the world. Most papers, especially in smaller communities, hire staff photographers to shoot events at the municipal/regional level. Other independent photographers (freelancers) act as their own agency and usually have a relationship with one or more publications. In any instance, the same photographic rules apply where the emphasis is on storytelling.

The demand for good images in journalism is intense and the competition is fierce. At any event (especially national and international ones) your photos will be compared to a number of images from freelancers, competing agencies and even competing local papers. Photojournalists often use digital cameras to get only the best images and a lot of them – there is little room for the uncertainties of film in a fast, deadline driven environment. Even if you come back from an event having taken one hundred images, editors will choose one (if any) to run with a story. Like any discipline, your success and exposure is dependant on your work.