A desire to be “out in the world”: The storytelling photographers do takes them into the community. That could be the local community where a photographer makes his or her home. It could also be the world community. The options are endless, depending on how far afield the photographer wants to work.
But the key is that the storytelling photojournalists do, whatever tools they choose to use, are not at home in their studio or apartment. The work is out in the world with people. Unlike the world of fine art where the aim is for the photographer to tell their story to the world, in photojournalism the photographer/storyteller concentrates on the story of other people.
Technical proficiency: Whether one is a documentary filmmaker, a multimedia storyteller or still photography photojournalist, the tools today consist of electronic cameras and computers. Film and videotape are gone. Pictures are captured on digital media. The darkroom is gone. Today computers serve as the digital darkroom and as video editing machines.
Photographers need to be willing to learn the essentials, buy the key gear they need, and then keep up with the evolving technological changes. New software, improved cameras, hard drives and computers come flying at working pros with increasing speed requiring upgrades and significant additional investment at least every 18 months, probably every 12 months.
Understanding of and a commitment to ethical standards: With the vast degree of image manipulation visible in advertising, television commercials and the special effects in movies, it is easy to assume “anything goes” no matter which part of the visual world one works in today. Such is not the case for the photojournalist.
Photographers who cover the world and its stories are much more in the mode of, “Record what you see, present what you saw.” Yes, pictures and video are adjusted electronically to make this plain to the viewer. But the concept of not manipulating images to alter their meaning is still in play for the modern photojournalist.
Persistence: This comes from a drive to get the story. Photojournalists, like writing journalists, are often told “no”. The most successful journalists just don’t accept the most recent no as the final answer. The best journalists press on without being obnoxious about it and just continue to pursue the story with the next phone call, the next request for an interview.
This same persistence comes into play when it comes to breaking into the business and then once in, to advancing up the ladder. Moving from one publication to another, one company to another or climbing the ranks to the “better” publications or video outlets takes time, energy and often, repeated visits to show your work.