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How can I find a stable/supportive job in photography or journalism?

I am a 9th grader at an arts school, and want to pursue photography and/or journalism as a career. What can I do to end up with a job that can support me financially and actually have a career path? Thanks! #photojournalism #photography #journalism #stable-job #career

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Dennis’s Answer

Your's is a question I tired to answer when I started out in photography four decades ago. I was doing a few scattered freelance photography jobs and doing some writing for magazines while working full time as a social worker. I wanted to do photography full time, so I applied for any job I heard about, newspaper photojournalist, cruise ship photographer, corporate staff photographer, etc. While I did get some nibbles from newspapers, usually requiring moving my family at excessive expense, I continued building a freelance business for a few years. After about six years I was able to show a profit and after ten was able to go freelance full time. I think my experience was typical of that time, but from all I hear about the state of the industry, it's much more difficult now.

I often take cruises to shoot stock photos and sometimes write about cruises. I enjoy talking to some of the ship photographers who mostly take portraits of passengers. The pay is low and the contracts can last several months without any time off, but they do get to travel with some breaks to go ashore for a few hours. Most would like to have their own photography business, but don't really understand what they would need to do to build one. Failure is high in the business of photography, and it is very much a business, a fact that few prepare for.

Not to be too discouraging, however, I do know many photographers and journalists, mostly travel writers, who manage to succeed despite the decline in the industry (many newspaper closings or ones that no longer take freelance submissions). These people are inventive entrepreneurs who are able to develop several streams of income, such as leading workshops or tours, monetizing social media, and/or finding non-traditional sales and licensing outlets.

Hi Dennis, Thank you so much for your stories and career advice! This information is incredibly helpful, and I plan on keeping it in mind in the future! Thanks again! Best, Sarah Sarah S.

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David’s Answer


My suggestion is to study and pursue them all. Photography: portraiture, fine arts photography and photojournalism. These three types are not the same but as a photographer you should be versed in them. There are cross skills involved in each discipline as well as separate techniques used in each that you will find helpful in the others. I don't consider it advisable to pick a single focus only approach. But that doesn't mean you want unrelated skills.

Journalism and photojournalism have the same basic goal but are approached and delivered differently. By learning both your usefulness as an employee or contractor doubles as does your value in a team setting. What journalist wouldn't want a photojournalist with a correct writing background with them in the field? You shoot for the story, you write for the story.

It works the same with photography. If you want to do portraiture well the photo needs to tell a story. Both journalism and photojournalism will give you that skill. Fine arts training adds another dimension. The preceding disciplines can also transfer over to the fine arts as well.

So now, with these skills you increase your chances of making a living. Stability comes from you being able to hire yourself out in any of the related fields until you land that dream job. Don't get me wrong, this will not be easy. But what in this life worth having really is today?

Keep your head up and your dreams higher.

You can do this Sarah.

Dear David, Thank you so much for your encouraging words and useful information! After reading your answer I feel quite empowered, and I plan to continue pursuing photojournalism as a career path. Thanks again! Best, Sarah Sarah S.

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Jennifer’s Answer

Hi, Sarah!

I commend you for your foresight in wanting to find a career path that allows you to both love what you do and make a living while doing it!

As you begin your educational journey, I'd encourage you to start by looking at the Occupational Outlook Handbook which gives you information about hundreds of jobs including what they do, what education/training they require, how much they make, and how in demand they will be in the next ten years.

You could begin with the career in photojournalism and see what similar occupations are out there: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/photographers.htm#tab-8.

I hope that this will be just the beginning for more great things to come!

#occupational-outlook-handbook #photojournalism

Hi Jennifer,I'm so sorry for the incredibly late response! I just saw your answer, and I find it incredibly reassuring and helpful. After reading your advice, and the handbook, I believe that I really want to pursue photojournalism. Thank you so much!Best,Sarah Sarah S.

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