Press photographer: job description

Press photographer: job description

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.

What does a press photographer do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Even more than journalists, press photographers have to have an ‘eye’ for a story. It's important for them to be in the right place at the right time.

The job 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
  • administration.

Typical employers of press photographers

  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Publishing houses
  • Television companies
  • Photo agencies

Most press photographers are self-employed or work on a freelance basis — selling photographs to agencies and picture libraries or directly to media organisations. A common route into recruitment is to work as an assistant photographer while building up a network of contacts and a bank of skills.

Vacancies appear online, in newspapers and specialist publications such as the British Journal of Photography, the Press Gazette and their respective websites. Directories may be helpful, such as the Freelance Photographers Market Handbook.

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 often considered more important by employers than degree subject studied.

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into photography for both university graduates and school leavers.

Degrees in photography, art, design, film, television, or media studies can be advantageous. Part-time photography courses (such as City & Guilds) can offer a useful starting point. The National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) also runs a press photography entry-level course. There are also courses that are accredited by the Association of Photographers or the British Institute of Professional Photography.

To find out how to get into a career in this area via a school leaver route, visit the media section of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.

Key skills for press photographers

  • An eye for good composition
  • A strong network of contacts
  • Strong IT skills, particularly familiarity with software such as Adobe Photoshop