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Photojournalists use photography to convey information. They capture stories of everyday life or news events that, supported with words, tell stories to the entire world or to the smallest of communities. Photojournalists are the eyes of the community, allowing viewers to be a part of events that they would otherwise not have access to.
The primary job of every photojournalist is to tell a story with pictures. Photography literally means "write with light," and that is what photojournalists do. They use the equipment that they have to illuminate a particular subject. In order to perform this primary job, photojournalists must be proficient at many secondary jobs: planning, researching, and developing photos.
Before they take pictures, photojournalists need to know the background story of what they are shooting. For example, if photojournalists are covering something as simple and sudden as an automobile accident, they need to know what happened before they arrived on the scene in order to capture the most accurate image.
Photojournalists work with different types of cameras, lenses, and developing equipment and must be proficient in the technical use of that equipment. However, they must also have an artistic eye and good communication skills. While their artistic ability will allow them to capture the best images on film, it is their communication skills that will put their subjects at ease.
Actually shooting the photographs is just a portion of what photojournalists do. They also write the cutlines or captions that go with each photograph, develop the film in the darkroom, and edit the film for production. For large photo-essay assignments, they research the subject matter and supervise the layout of the pages. Since most newspapers are now laid out on computers, today's photojournalists download or scan their pictures into a computer and save images on disks.
More often than not, photojournalists use digital cameras to eliminate the need for developing and scanning film. Since the debut of the first digital camera designed for newspapers in the early 1990s, digital photography has revolutionized photojournalism. Unlike traditional film cameras, digital cameras use electronic memory rather than a negative to record an image. The image can then be downloaded instantly into a computer and sent worldwide via e-mail or by posting it on the Internet. Although there are still some quality and cost concerns with current digital technology, digital cameras are touted as the wave of the future. By eliminating developing and transportation time, digital cameras allow a sports photographer to shoot a picture of the game-winning basket and immediately transmit it to a newspaper hundreds of miles away before a late-night deadline.
Some photojournalists work on the staffs of weekly or daily newspapers, while others take photographs for magazines or specialty journals. Most magazines employ only a few or no photographic staff, but depend on freelance photojournalists to provide their pictures. Magazine photojournalists sometimes specialize in a specific field, such as sports or food photography.