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What is the difference between Photography and Photojournalism?

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If you’re someone like me, you might find yourself slightly out of place in the photography society, simply because you experience a different pleasure from photography to others. This blog post is for all the photojournalists yet to discover themselves and realize their full potential (including myself). This blog post will touch on 4 simple but fundamental differences between photographers and photojournalists and reassure you that everyone has a place in the world of photography. As stated in the newssroundus blog: “Photography and photojournalism have a square-rectangle relationship. Photojournalism is photography, but photography is not necessarily photojournalism”. Before we get into it however, let me provide you with a bit of context. Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be a journalist. I wanted to tell a story in some form or another and at that time, the most sensible method appeared to be writing. Once I began writing in my diary every day after school, no one could pull me away from my desk, pen and diary. However, as time went by, I started to realize that there are many alternative ways to tell a story, photography being one of them. I didn’t think much of photography until I got to college. I decided to pursue a degree in Broadcast Journalism, where I had my first real (and challenging) encounter with photography.

I was one of a handful of students who actually had an interest and passion for news journalism because, as I mentioned before, I wanted to tell a story based on lived experiences. People thought I was strange for enjoying hard news when everyone else was either into fashion, music or becoming famous. I couldn’t care less about either of those things. My first encounter with photography was rather daunting (read about it here) but I managed to soldier on and get through my awkward photography phase. After that, I realized that photography is simply another method of telling a story, sometimes more powerful than words. My issue, and this is why I said I felt out of place in the photography world, was that I did not know what role I played in photography and what contribution I was capable of making. I’ve always felt I was a creative human being but somehow I knew I didn’t fall into the category of a “creative photographer” like everyone else in my class. I saw some of the shots they took and I thought “wow, that’s creative! How did she think of that?” The misconception of photography as a whole made me second guess my ability to be creative. Until I came to realization which changed the way I viewed my place in photography. This realization was that there is a difference between photography and photojournalism…


Here are 4 simple yet important distinctions between photographers and photojournalists:

  1. Time


This is something I learnt about myself early on in life. I thrive in a high pressure environment (and no, this is not just an excuse for procrastination). I found that in all my photography assignments, I would completely lack inspiration when the project was given well in advance. Thinking that all photographers needed to creative and come up with mind blowing concepts, I felt highly inadequate. However, this mentality was my downfall. The key difference between photojournalists and photographers is that photographers have time to plan their projects creatively whereas photojournalists are sent out to high pressure environments where they need to get those captivating action shots that tell the story of the current situation. Not all photographers have the ability to execute this effectively. When I was handed a camera in the middle of a protest, I realized where my true potential was buried. After this realization, I became more confident in my photography bearing in mind that I am able to offer something different.


  1. The Action Shot


As mentioned previously, the action shot is something photojournalists search far and wide for. We can’t leave the scene until we have the action shot to bring back to the newsroom. This is where I believe photojournalists have the unique ability to double up as a photographer regardless of the constraining time pressure. Apart from just getting the action shot, the photojournalist also has to remember the fundamentals of photography to ensure that the image is aesthetically pleasing and people are intrigued by it. Some of these basics include rule of thirds, negative space, lighting, camera settings and so forth.  In the same breath, photojournalists have realized that perfectionism has no place on the ground. They strive for perfection but they know when it’s time to accept the shot under the circumstances.


  1. Safe working environment


Most photojournalists are fighting an internal battle that goes something like this: we value our lives and therefore do not want to threaten it yet we feel it’s our duty, as a journalist, to go out and cover those wars, civil unrests and disease ridden places. This is especially true for photojournalists because more often than not, the pictures resonate with people and they deliver a powerful message that no amount of writing could convey. This is one of the biggest differences between photographers and photojournalists. Photojournalists do not always have a guarantee of a safe working environment whereas most photographers are able to decide this for themselves.


  1. Judgement based on Technicalities  


Photographers tend to be judged more harshly on the technicalities of their images whereas photojournalists are judged on whether they conveyed a moving message to the readers and viewers.  Photojournalists, along with most journalists, are influenced by the infamous saying “if it bleeds, it leads”. Photojournalists often find themselves looking for that “bleeding” shot which is an internal moral battle in and of itself. The industry requires photojournalists to bring home the winning shot and often photojournalists can get consumed by this that they forget that these issues are affecting real people. I will never forget the time a photojournalist said that I did my internship at the wrong times because I wouldn’t get to experience seeing a dead body. As a first year college student, you can image the shock and horror I went through when I heard that. She later explained that she had seen so many dead bodies she had become desensitized to it. This type of detachment is a common occurrence amongst photojournalists whereas photographers may grow attached into their projects.


The aim of this blog post is to make people realize photographers and photojournalists alike realize that there is a place for everyone in the photography world. Everyone needs to play their part to continue to mold and shape the photography craft, making it more dynamic as each day goes by. Read more about traits of winning photojournalists here.

Feel free to contact us at Cameraverse if you have any queries on the best cameras/equipment to use as a photojournalist or photographer. We'd love to hear from you! 


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