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Photo journalism is the act of photographing people, events or places, in order to put together a narrative. The stories told by these types of photographs, which are collected, edited and presented in publications, on TV, in film, or via the Internet, must display honest depictions of subject matter, in order to create an ethical framework.

Impartiality is at the heart of effective photojournalism, so photographers, editors, and presenters must work hard to create stories that align closely with reality. Most photo journalists make a living by selling their work to newspapers or media organizations. These days, digital photography is a popular medium for photo journalism. However, more old-fashioned methods of photography may also be used, in order to capture certain moods and effects.

Principles of Photo Journalism

According to photo journalism experts, three principles must be adhered to, in order to create photographs that may be classified as true examples of photo journalism. The first principle is timeliness – in other words, images must have meaning within the context of current events. Capturing day-to-day events and reporting on them via pictures is what the best photo journalism is all about.

The second principle of photo journalism is objectivity – in other words, subject matter must be captured, edited and presented in an honest and unbiased way.
The third principle of photo journalism is narrative – in other words, images must gel with other news elements, so that facts may be understood by viewers, within a cultural framework.

Photo journalists report what they see, much as traditional reporters (who write stories) do. They simply use photographs instead of words. Therefore, the same principles of journalistic integrity come into play.

Daily Duties of Photo Journalists

Photographers who practice photo journalism must be prepared to endure harsh weather, unruly crowds, political tension, and physical challenges (such as lugging their photographic equipment wherever they go) in order to do their jobs effectively.

History of Photo Journalism

In the late nineteenth century, printing and photography advances allowed roving photographers to ply their craft almost anywhere that they wanted to go. Important events could then be captured on film. From 1880 to 1897, the first examples of photo journalism appeared, such as photographs of accidents, natural disasters, and important social events. In the old days, photos needed to be tweaked by engravers before they could be used in publications.

Typical photographs from the early days of photo journalism included daguerreotypes, which depicted soldiers who fought in wars, such as the Mexican-American conflict. One popular photo journalist of that time period was a Romanian artist and photographer named Carol Szathmari. His photographs were expertly conceived and composed, and they impressed a range of notable personages of the day, including members of the British Royal Family. Good examples of photo journalism often ended up on display in the world’s most prestigious art galleries and museums. In this manner, photo journalism evolved into a true and important art form.

Modern Photo Journalism

During the 1980s, photo journalism featured more realistic depictions of subject matter, which appeared in newspapers. Due to offset printing that allowed for more natural, clear reproductions of photographs, those who practiced photo journalism were able to get better end results. Part of the reason why photographs looked better due to offset printing was the higher fidelity of images. In addition, paper quality improved, offering a whiter, purer background for photo journalism shots.

Today, photo journalism may be practiced by anyone who respects the three principles of ethical and responsible photo journalism. Due to social media and the Internet, it’s possible for people from all walks of life to record the stories of the world in pictures. For this reason, photo journalism is more immediate and honest than ever before.

However, true photo journalists will always spend years developing their skills and ethics as they learn the intricacies of their jobs. Those who put painstaking detail into telling news stories through compelling and unforgettable photographs will always rise to the top of this challenging, but fulfilling occupation.

In the Internet Age, digital photographs may be transmitted to buyers or publications, virtually instantly. This speeds up the pace of business, and allows photo journalists to do their jobs in a whole new way.