Images through Instagram
To start with, let me quickly clarify and distinguish between photojournalism and documentary photography (which my course both involves). I often see people, especially in the wedding photography industry, talk about their style as photojournalistic - what they really mean is documentary. Photojournalism is, simply said, press photography. I captures news events, and other short-term situations, whereas documentary photography is about long-term projects, telling a story, and getting to know a subject over a period of time. Both photojournalism and documentary photography document something, which is why photojournalism is part of documentary photography, but documentary photography isn’t photojournalism.
Another important and most basic thing I’ve learnt is that you need to know your craft - the basics of photography. You need to know your camera, how to use it in manual mode, and everything else it can do. It’s also important to work with different visual techniques, such as composition, and get to a point where you feel comfortable taking pictures. This seems to be so simple and obvious, but is easy to overlook. You might feel like jumping ahead to the next step of figuring out a personal style, finding a specific area of photography to focus on, or making money with photography. But that would be like building a house without a base.
Now you need to get out there and practise. It’s the only way to learn the basics and improve. One thing that my photojournalism course made me realise, which made a huge difference, is to not just photograph pretty flowers and butterflies, but to get out there into the world and photograph the hard stuff. I went to protests, news events, film premieres, and more protests. And that might not sound like much fun to you - sure, it might not be, but it can be. I definitely don’t want to be a press photographer now, but I had a whole lot of fun taking photos at protests and really getting in there. Photographing demonstrations is exciting, exhilarating, and fun if you go with friends or other photographers. And it’s been a huge learning curve for me. I seriously believe that without going to protests and other events, I wouldn’t have learnt what I know now even half as fast. If you want to improve quickly, do something challenging!
Also get feedback on your photos. We had regular crits at uni, where everyone showed their photos of what they had worked on over the weekend or the last week. We talked about the positive and negative aspects, and provided helpful and constructive feedback. It’s important to share your work and to get others’ opinions on it, even if it might be tough. Not knowing where you are at or where you’re going will make it hard to know the areas that you have to improve in - and if you don’t know that, it’s hard to improve and become great at photography.
I hope this information has been helpful to start with - there is a lot more that I want to share with you, but I hope you do use these few simple but important points to get started with if you want to become a better photographer.
Let me know if you have any questions, or can relate to any of the points I made.