Media, journalism and publishing

Press photography: graduate area of work

Press photographers use a variety of photographic equipment to take photographs for use on television or within magazines, journals and other publications.

Most press photographers are self-employed or work on a freelance basis - selling photographs to agencies and picture libraries or directly to media organisations. Employers include newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, television companies and photo agencies.

A job as a press photographer typically entails:

  • setting up photographic equipment
  • taking photographs of people and events
  • processing and developing films
  • preparing proofs for publication
  • liaising with other staff such as artists and journalists
  • satisfying editorial briefs
  • researching and making contacts
  • promoting the business
  • negotiating prices and fees
  • undertaking relevant background research for features and articles.

What's required

Vacancies for jobs in press photography attract strong competition. Many jobs receive little advertising and are often filled via personal contacts so perseverance, networking, job shadowing and speculative applications are essential. Aptitude, relevant experience, technical abilities and training are considered more important by employers than degree subject studied.

However, photography, art, design, film, television, or media studies qualifications can be advantageous. Part-time photography courses (such as City and Guilds) can offer a useful starting point. The National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) also runs a press photography pre-entry course. It is advisable to prepare a relevant portfolio that can be used to highlight abilities in speculative applications.

Where to find out more

Advertised vacancies appear in newspapers and specialist publications such as the British Journal of Photography and the Press Gazette. Directories that may be helpful include the Independent Photography Directory and the Freelance Photographers Market Handbook.