Press Photographer and Photojournalist

The main function of press photographers is to photograph newsworthy events. Press photographers use a variety of photographic equipment to take photographs for use on television or within magazines, journals and other publications.

Photojournalists specialize in one aspect of photography, namely pictures of newsworthy events, people, or other illustrative or educational material for use in publications or telecasts, using still cameras.

Even more than journalists, press photographers have to have an ‘eye’ for a story. It's important for them to be in the right place at the right time. The job typically entails setting up photographic equipment, taking photographs of people and events, processing and developing films, preparing proofs for publication, liaising with other staff such as artists and journalists, satisfying editorial briefs, researching and making contacts, promoting the business, negotiating prices and fees, undertaking relevant background research for features and articles and administration.

Dramatic front-page news photographs sell newspapers, so press photography places particular demands and challenges on photographers. The pictures need to have a sense of immediacy and to portray the essence of a situation in one shot.

Press photographers, therefore, need to be able to get to situations quickly, since newspaper deadlines are very pressing and the photographs have to be prepared for publication. They will often be called upon to produce usable images under tough conditions.

Most press photographers are self-employed or work on a freelance basis — selling photographs to agencies and picture libraries or directly to media organisations. A common route into recruitment is to work as an assistant photographer while building up a network of contacts and a bank of skills.

The work of photojournalists often necessitates travel to different and sometimes dangerous locations, for example, to cover natural disasters or military conflicts. Photojournalists need to understand the story behind the ‘on-the spot news’ and to portray this in a series of photographs which form a visual statement or essay.

Photojournalists can also diversify into publishing photographic books, calendars, postcards and posters.

Key skills for press photographers and photojournalists are having an eye for good composition, a strong network of contacts and strong IT skills, particularly familiarity with software such as Adobe Photoshop.

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course

Each institution has its own entry requirements.

What to Study

Diploma: The N.Dip. Photography - CUT, CPUT, DUT, TUT, VUT, NMMU. The course takes 3 years to complete. At some of these universities of technology, a fourth year of study will culminate in the BTech Photography degree.

Certificate: Some technical colleges and various private colleges, such as the National College of Photography, offer a one-year Diploma in Professional Photography.

Short courses are offered by the Tshwane South College for TVET and by the Professional Photographers of Southern Africa.

Most novices are expected to spend a few years as assistants, as practical experience is very important.


  • newspapers (daily and weekly as well as quieter regional newspapers)
  • self-employment, with freelance work

Further Information

National College of Photography
P O Box 12361
Hatfield, 0028
Tel. (012) 342- 4770 Fax: (012) 342-1821

Professional Photographers of Southern Africa
Parktown Centre
Winchester Road
Tel: (011) 482-4399 Fax: (011) 726-3781

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation or part-time work as an assistant to a press photographer, with a newspaper or magazine
  • arrange to speak to press photographers and ask permission to observe them at work

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations