Income, Ethics and Safety Concern Photojournalists in Survey

By Tom Burton

News photographers around the world face challenges earning a living as more of them take on unrelated side work to help pay the bills, according to a survey by World Press Photo Foundation and the University of Sterling.

“The State of News Photography 2016” is the second annual survey polling photographers who entered the World Press Photo Contest. Nearly 2,000 photographers responded which was about a third of the entrants to the international contest.

The income-related responses were notable. The number working full-time as photographers dropped from 74 percent to 61 percent. Only 39 percent reported making all of their income from news photography. The percentage who said they took other work not related to photography doubled year-to-year.

Self-employed photographers were the majority of the contest entrants from Europe, the Americas and Australia while staffers were the largest group in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

The survey also asked about ethics and photojournalism. More than 80 percent said ethics are “very important” in photojournalism and an increasing number feel that manipulating photos was a problem. Most of the respondents, 75 percent, said they would never manipulate their images by adding or subtracting content and 13 percent said they do not enhance their images through toning.

While only about a third of the respondents say they “never” stage photographs, a followup question indicated that most of the staging was for portraits or commercial work. Staging a news photo for “a better photo” was admitted by 6 percent of the photographers. The survey did note that there was a slight increase in the report of staging photos since the 2015 survey.

About half of the respondents were from Europe which is not surprising since World Press Photo is based in Amsterdam. It was a male-dominated group at about 85 percent male, a similar number to the 2015 survey. The global influence was also reflected by a majority sports specialists who covered soccer as their main assignment.

The survey for the second year also showed that photojournalists feel the biggest professional risk was death or injury, more than three-times higher than second-place choice of worries about erratic income. This could be a reflection of the photographers who enter World Press Photo, as many work in conflict zones at least part of the time.

You can download the survey results at World Press Foundation, here.