The following are tips offered to a budding photojournalist who contacted Media Helping Media via our mentoring page asking for help in getting started in photojournalism. I thought I would share the tips and advice here in case they are of help to others.
There are probably two main ways to get into photojournalism as a career. One is by gaining a qualification, which can be expensive and time consuming and is no guarantee of securing a job. The other is to produce stunning photojournalism and market yourself. I would suggest the second option if you are struggling financially.
Free distribution channels
I presume you already have an Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr, Twitter and Facebook page. These will be the core elements of your photojournalism distribution/dissemination strategy. Setting up these accounts with a consistent user name and biography (bio) is part of your personal brand building.
Do you have a blog? A simple WordPress or Blogger site using a free template for photojournalists would be useful. Here you could showcase your work. Both WordPress and Blogger have some good free templates for photojournalists.
You can be up and running with a functioning site in less than an hour. The two options are embedded below.
Storage, tagging and geolocation
Set up a Flickr account so you can store and categorise your work. You can embed slideshows from Flickr into your blog then share on social media. Spend time working on your Flickr keywords. You want to caption and tag your pictures carefully to ensure they are found. Add them to a map, too. Anything you can do at this stage to help people find your work is important.
At the beginning make sure you release all your images under Creative Commons so anyone can use them. Then share the work on your blog, on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr etc.
Have a social media strategy plan for ensuring people see your work. Write down a series of steps you set yourself to take every time you decide to take on a photography project. Later, once people start to use your material, you can change the copyright status of the images you want to sell. However, your first concern is getting known. A future Flickr strategy might be to always release a couple of images from a set under Creative Commons and then copyright protect the rest and offer them for a fee.
Covering local issues
I would list the issues that you feel you could cover well in the area where you live. Perhaps issues related to topics being discussed in the run up to the election. Pretend you are your own editor and set yourself a daily task. Perhaps it’s to go out and find out about people living on zero-hour contracts. Take your camera out on to the street and carry out a vox pop with pictures. Ask members of the public whether you could take six pictures illustrating the issues they face. Create a photo essay on the topic. Upload the images to Flickr. Make sure you have the consent of those you are photographing; explain clearly how you will share the work on social media.
Use free editing software
Return home, edit the images using the free editing software PicMonkey, upload, write the captions and share. PicMonkey
Let people find your work, discuss your work and use your work. You will not get paid, but that is not the issue at this point. You are using the free social tools to achieve distribution and reach.
Have a clear ‘Contact’ page on your WordPress blog setting out how people can reach you, what work you can undertake for them, and invite them to get in touch to discuss fees.
Set up a LinkedIn page and join groups about photography and photojournalism.
Post about your work and comment on any discussions where you feel you can make a contribution.
Get known locally
Write to the editors of the local media and send them some examples of your work. Offer to cover events free of charge so that they can try you out and see what you can do. Keep doing this, even if they ignore your emails.
One day they might call you. I know from personal experience that this last point works. When I was starting in journalism I pestered my local editor with stories. I did this for six weeks. One day the editor invited me to meet him for a pint. That was how I got my first job in journalism.
Note: Image by martinak15 released under Creative Commons.