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Protecting the Ethics of Photojournalism and Understanding its Capabilities

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To achieve a career in photojournalism you need to be extremely educated on all aspects of photography and photojournalism. From knowing composition and lighting with also having to understand what goes on behind a true photojournalist. Being a photojournalist is everything that I have always wanted to be. I plan to go on a trip with a fellow photographer that goes on mission trips in South Africa. He photographs the people in the villages living in poverty where his organization plants churches and helps them succeed. I think that this experience will be a great training path to better my knowledge of human culture and communicating with people living in a drastically different society.

There is no average workday for a photojournalist. Being a photojournalist means being quick on your feet, quick with your camera and being able to get to places in time to capture the true essence of the moment. This excerpt is taken from Bertrum Malgas explaining life as a photojournalist. “Working as a photojournalist, you’ll

experience different emotions – from anger to excitement, all in one day” (Malgas). “Recently, I photographed the #FeesMustFall protest, where police shot rubber bullets at students. On that same day, I covered a Ciroc Vodka event that featured top South African celebrities” (Malgas). As Bertrum Malgas said, you never know what a day in photojournalism will bring.

The occupational outlook statistics for being a photojournalist is based on 2018. According to the Department of Labor, the median pay is $34,000 per year and $16.35 per hour. The typical entry-level education is a high school diploma or equivalent. The number of jobs in photography in 2018 was about 132,100 (BOL occupational outlook P.1). The job Outlook according to the United States Department of Labor states a 6% Decline in jobs from 2018 to 2028 (USDL). This means that the employment in between those years would be negative 8,300 people.

I am not fully sure what the typical career path would be for a photojournalist but I think that the progression of being a photojournalist would include getting more recognition and improving your credibility which would increase job offerings and possibly influence a pay increase.

Some characteristics that successful photojournalists have include people skills, an eye for detail, patience, flexibility, and lastly, the most important… passion. If you don’t have a passion for photography and honest storytelling then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. One other very important characteristic would be curiosity. Curiosity is about always appreciating the little things about everywhere you go and wanting to find more action whether it’s the construction workers at it 24/7 or the woman buying eggs street-side. Always being curious to find a story in every corner. Lastly, one thing that distinguishes a good image from a great image, a good photojournalist from a great one, is compassion. Even though it’s about capturing candid moments, that doesn’t mean to hind behind your camera, empty. A great photojournalist is one that has a thriving ability to connect with people and always wanting to reach out no matter the race, age, ethnicity, and language. It’s the ability to capture the happiness of a moment in an unhappy environment.

I do not think that there is a guaranteed designated increase in pay for photojournalism because I think that it all just depends on whether you work for yourself, a newspaper or even a big organization like Life magazine. Your wage increase all depends on what you choose to do with your job and what your goals are.

Television photojournalists made an average wage of $45,000 in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Photojournalists working for newspapers, magazines, or book publishers earned average salaries of $41,000. That pay was higher by $7,000 than the annual average wage for all U.S. jobs.

Contrary to popular belief photojournalism isn’t always safe and easygoing. The hazardous parts and chaotic scenes you can experience are mainly based on how much risk you put yourself in and how far your limits reach. Some photojournalists work for small-time newspapers were you’ll be photographing basic events in your town which in this case you will have little to no risk with not a ton of dramatic or exciting moments. Even though most jobs you’ll see in photojournalism will attend to this, many photojournalists have died in trying to capture something where they were not respected nor wanted.

The death of National public radio photojournalist David Gilkey is a reminder of how dangerous photojournalism can be. Gilkey and his translator Zabi Taman were killed on assignment in Afghanistan when the convoy they were traveling with was ambushed by a group of Taliban fighters. Photojournalists like Gilkey go to places that most of us would not go, they take pictures of things we may not want to see. They risk their own lives hoping to send back that one image that might simply change someone’s mind or open one’s heart. These are the true ones.

I am not sure that there are many rewards found in photojournalism besides actual awards like the Pulitzer Prize for photography. One big benefit though would be that photography documents your journey and progression through life with the ability to relieve stress and inspire your imagination. It lets you see things that you may never have noticed otherwise and preserves your new and old memories. You’re rewarded with the ability to spread hope and a vision for a better world. Rewarded by knowing that your passion and life skills are working for the good and to create help for the ones who need it most.

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Now for the requirements, there isn’t any necessary education, training, or certification required to have this career. Although some say that a Bachelor’s Degree might help in a headstart for finding a job, most photojournalists that I have looked into and am inspired by haven’t had any degrees nor certifications besides maybe a high school diploma. I believe that the only necessary thing to become a successful photojournalist would be passion and lots of it.

One major aspect of photojournalism is about protecting the ethics of it and understanding the capabilities that it has.

A particular definition of Journalism states that “Journalism is the production and distribution of reports on the interaction of events, facts, ideas, and people who are the “news of the day” in which informs society to at least some degree.” I think that this definition says a lot about what a journalist does and what your job composes you to do. Now besides just “journalism,” I think “photojournalism” takes this definition by the hand and twists it. Being a photojournalist means that you have to create and distribute your photos of these “news of the day” events by not just writing about it but by actually having to go and experience it first hand for you to capture what is happening. You have to be in the moment to properly demonstrate and show the emotions up close.

There are many ethics in photojournalism that if they aren’t understood, will ruin the whole meaning behind it. Photojournalism isn’t just taking a picture of a homeless man on the side of the road and posting it on social media captioning “help those in need”. It’s about using the art of photography to represent a news story and to inform the public on the true happenings of real-life events. Street Photography being portrayed as photojournalism mostly leads to some very uninspiring photos of homeless people. This isn’t a true connection between you and the subject because sadly, it was probably shot with a telephoto lens from far away from bringing in no realism and context that will inspire disconnection and boredom to the audience.

Street photography and Documentary have a simple duty: to show reality. Any purposeful distortion by the photographer that doesn’t fulfill this principle disqualifies the image as Documentary. This means no staging, photoshopping or photo manipulation, just purely the moment by itself and as it is.

Being a photojournalist can bring challenging realizations along with emotions of sadness and guilt. Photojournalists are not responsible for the suffering of people they photograph, they are simply the messenger that documents life as it is, with life not always being so pretty. Don’t be mad at a messenger for turning reality into photos; instead, though, think about what you can do to change the situation since you feel so strongly about images that show suffering. Photojournalists often risk their lives to raise awareness and spread a message that could have a bigger impact compared to the little help that they can offer individually.

Now, of course, landscape pictures can show colorful flowers and a sense of calm. Reality can be rough and it is important to show it to the world. Now, reality doesn’t mean exploitation, whether you look at it or you close your eyes and pretend the world is a happy place. The main difference lies in good or bad pictures, pictures that create change, and pictures that don’t.

The principle of not altering a scene or influencing it unnaturally is a huge point of ethics in photojournalism. Unfortunately, journalism photography has had its fair share of scandals. One of the best-known ethics scandals involved Steve McCurry. He had allegedly staged some of his photos, wrote an accompanying text that didn’t state the truth, and he used photoshop to mess with and distort the photos. Even though he was a very praised photojournalist, his whole career exploded after getting caught with 1 photoshopped photo, at least at first. These revelations are hurting the credibility of photojournalism and bringing down the respect and belief in news events.

As human beings, Photojournalists need to follow the same ethics as everyone else. This in my mind means to do everything reasonably possible to help people in direct need and suffering. As for the nature of Photojournalism, it leads to a lot of variation since the characteristics of documentary photography push photographers into spots that challenge its ethics.

There is this very popular image of an African American girl suffering, curled up in a ball on the ground, in this field with signs of starvation. No one around to help besides her being watched by a vulture that is about her same size. Obviously, this is a powerful image. Being shot by Kevin Carter in 1993 in Sudan, it depicts the Struggle that the United Nations had to provide aid against famine. Sadly, this photographer struggling with depression took his own life a few months later. This provoked the rumors that he couldn’t live with the feeling of guilt in photographing these persons tragedies without being able to solve the problem.

If this picture were to be posted online in a forum, there would be a lot of people who would support the claim of, “how could he take a picture in this situation without providing any sort of help?” See, now the same arguments could be made during the migration crisis in Europe or the war zones in the Middle East. This whole thing, in my opinion, shows the dilemma of the ethics of photojournalism. On one side, these kinds of people are seeking dangerous situations where they document people that need help; then on the other side, a single photographer can’t help all these people. With this, it’s hard to pinpoint the solution to this problem. A problem that is hard to realize but may need to be known to accomplish anything. Should photojournalism not exist and human suffering simply be undocumented? Should we just sit at home acting like nothing is happening and ignore that we can actually help what’s going on? No, absolutely not.

I think that overall, we need to understand that photojournalism is a very important role in solving world problems. Even though it may be sad and hard to visually see, we need to take these images, grasp what is going on, and then do everything we can to help. Photographers do their best to help, their tool is their camera, which allows them to raise public awareness more than anything else. Understandably, it is hard to look at those images, but we shouldn’t criticize the people who spread the message, but rather focus on solving the problems and do the best we can personally.

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Protecting the Ethics of Photojournalism and Understanding its Capabilities. (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 2, 2022, from
“Protecting the Ethics of Photojournalism and Understanding its Capabilities.” Edubirdie, 16 Jun. 2022,
Protecting the Ethics of Photojournalism and Understanding its Capabilities. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 2 Dec. 2022].
Protecting the Ethics of Photojournalism and Understanding its Capabilities [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 16 [cited 2022 Dec 2]. Available from:
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