Photojournalism courses, as the term implies, are journalism-based courses with photography as their foundation. Students are encouraged to develop a natural sense for news in parallel with an ability to use a camera and ancillary equipment. A reporter's module is generally also included. Press photography courses are generally similar but unlikely to include a reporter's module.
Principal qualities needed by students wishing to become photojournalist or press photographers are an enquiring mind, drive, energy, commitment, persistence and single-mindedness. Intensive practical and theoretical training is required to prepare students for a demanding career. Qualifications required for direct entry to appropriate courses are typically four GCSEs at A-C grades, including English, but courses are also available for those with no relevant qualifications. Experience as a journalist, or being able to demonstrate ability as a photographer, is clearly an advantage..
In most companies, the NCTJ's National Certificate in Press Photography and Photojournalism, or an N(S)VQ, will be available after a successful period of employment. Modern apprenticeships may also be available for press photographers. Some appropriate qualifications may also be obtained using home or distance learning courses. The Bureau of Freelance Photographers (BFP) publishes a useful handbook containing lots of useful information.
Despite qualifications, editors are more likely appoint applicants with:
- an interest in people, places and current affairs;
- an ability to write clearly with good punctuation, spelling and grammar;
- an appreciation of the role of publications in the community;
- a willingness work under pressure and accept irregular hours; and
- determination and persistence.
In recent years the internet has increased even further the importance of pictures in reporting news. Events are now reported, and seen in pictures, almost instantly. Pictures are indeed worth a thousand words but, as every editor knows, without a properly written caption it is significantly devalued or even worthless. Trainee photojournalists are therefore taught how to think pictures and structure headlines and captions.
Many courses are available to aspiring photojournalists. Some are residential courses, some are run through universities, and others can be undertaken via distance learning. Typical courses encourage candidates to think like journalists and develop a sense for news and an ability to to interview people in a disciplined and effective manner. They also normally include the writing of articles and short stories using the language of the press. Other key topis may include:
- Management structures;
- Industry organizations and The Press Council;
- Editorial matters;
- What is news?
- Notebook discipline;
- Picture planning and editing;
- Page layout;
- Desk editors;
- Specialist writers;
- Appropriate style and presentation of material;
- Managing classifieds;
- Managing a "futures" file;
- Attitude, energy and personality;
- Photography of various subjects such as sports and groups of people;
- Working with children;
- Covering deaths, funerals, disasters etc;
- Fashion and glamour;
- General photographic knowledge;
- Video journalism;
- Health and safety; and
- The law.
Courses are available to those with no previous experience and/or qualifications and, upon successful completion, award a Photojournalism Diploma and membership of a professional body such as the Chartered Institute of Journalists. Numerous organizations offering photojournalism qualifications may be found on the web.