Press photographers take pictures for publication by local, regional and national newspapers, magazines, websites and news agencies. Some press photographers specialise in a particular area of press photography, such as sports, human interest, business or commercial.
Also known as
- Newspaper Photographer
- Photographer, Press
Press photographers take photos for local, regional and national newspapers, magazines, periodicals, technical journals or web-based publications.
The photos accompany a story or news event, capturing the emotion involved in the story or event, so the reader can see and feel what it was like to be there.
Press photographers often start their careers by working for local newspapers, covering items of local interest, before moving on to either national publications, specialist publications, or freelance work.
Press photographers must be able to put people at ease so that they can set up a picture to fit with a story effectively. A lot of the photos they take are of day-to-day events such as cheque presentations to charities and church fetes, so they need to think of an angle to make the picture interesting.
Press photographers constantly work to deadlines and may find that their schedules change to keep up with events happening throughout the day. They make sure the photos are appropriate, and are processed and edited in time to meet a deadline.
Some press photographers specialise in a particular type of photography. Examples include sports coverage or supplying material for celebrity gossip columns.
They may be required to travel locally, nationally and even overseas.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
As a press photographer, you need:
- To be creative, but also technically minded.
- The ability to decide what makes a newsworthy picture.
- Knowledge of computer imaging software and digital technology.
- To put people at ease and make them feel comfortable in front of the camera.
- Good organisational and communication skills.
- The ability to work to deadlines.
- Knowledge of photography techniques.
- To be prepared to work outdoors and in all types of weather.
Self-employed or freelance press photographers/photojournalists will need business and marketing skills.
A driving licence is useful.
Pay and Opportunities
Pay rates for press photographers vary depending on whether they are employed or self-employed.
The pay rates given below are approximate.
Employed press photographers earn in the range of £16,000 - £19,000 a year, rising to around £24,500 - £32,000 a year. Higher salaries can be awarded to more experienced photographers.
Rates for freelance press photographers vary depending on whether they work on a shift or a commission basis.
Press photographers may be paid an hourly rate. This can range from £7 to £15 per hour.
Bonuses may be awarded on top of a salary.
With the increase in use of readers' pictures, freelance rates on offer can be low.
Rates for commissioned work are negotiated and can depend on size, number of images and distribution. A useful guide to freelance rates is found on the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) website - see contact details.
Incidents of unpaid work are high amongst photographers.
Hours of work
Working hours can vary, often depending if you specialise in a particular area. You may work shifts or be on-call to follow up news that breaks at any time during the day or night. Many press photographers work irregular hours, which may include early starts, late finishes and work at weekends and on public holidays.
Where could I work?
Employers are local and national newspapers, magazines and web-based publications.
Opportunities for press photographers occur with employers in towns and cities throughout the UK.
Opportunities occur for press photographers to work in other countries, either on assignment from their paper/magazine, or as a freelance photojournalist.
Many press photographers are self-employed. Publishers often use picture agencies, which generate work for freelance photographers.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are also advertised on all the major job boards, on Universal Jobmatch, at Jobcentre Plus and on the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) website.
It's a good idea to build up a network of relevant contacts, as not all press photography jobs are advertised.
Entry Routes and Training
There are two institutions offering the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) accredited press photography and photojournalism course.
The Sheffield College offers a full-time, 24-week course in Photo-Journalism.
Up to Speed Media Ltd offers a full-time, 24-week course in Photojournalism and Press Photography.
There are various relevant higher education courses available that can be used as routes into this career. Course titles include:
- Creative Media Production (Journalism)
- Documentary Photography.
An Advanced Level Apprenticeship is aso great place to start.
Press photography has a structured training scheme run by the NCTJ. The NCTJ courses are journalism-based rather than photography-based; they aim to develop a news-sense as well as an ability to use photographic equipment.
Successful Sheffield College trainees qualify for the NCTJ's National Certificate Examination taken about 18 months after joining a newspaper.
Progression could be to a larger newspaper or publication. Many photographers become self-employed.
For entry to the full-time, 24-week course in Photo-Journalism at The Sheffield College, the minimum requirement is:
- 1 A level
- 5 GCSEs at grade C or above, including English
Due to fierce competition, candidates usually have more than the specified minimum requirements.
Candidates for the Up to Speed Media Ltd course in Photojournalism and Press Photography must be able to demonstrate an aptitude and commitment to photography and photojournalism.
For higher education courses, you'll usually need 1 or 2 A levels plus GCSEs in 4 or 5 subjects. For your A levels, subjects like Art will be useful. Many courses require GCSE passes at grade C or above in English and Maths.
Acceptable alternatives to A levels include:
- BTEC National Diploma in Fine Art, or related course
- The International Baccalaureate Diploma
- An Advanced Level Apprenticeship
To get onto an Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you'll usually need 5 GCSEs at grade C or above, including English and Maths, or to have completed an Intermediate Level Apprenticeship.
For all relevant courses, having a portfolio of your photographic work will be very useful.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A-level.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
This is an extremely competitive field. Relevant skills and/or qualifications are usually preferred. A portfolio of photographic work is important.
Photography can be studied on a full- or part-time basis, or it can develop from a hobby. It is useful to update your skills by taking short courses in photographic techniques and methods such as those offered by City & Guilds.
If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter your chosen degree or HND course, a college or university Access course (eg, Access to Art and Design) could be the way in. No formal qualifications are usually required, but you should check individual course details.
A full list of relevant qualifications is available on the Skillset website. They can lead to relevant degree/HND courses.
Universities and colleges of higher education (HE) will usually consider applications from candidates who don't meet their usual entry requirements, especially those with relevant experience. You should check the admissions policy of individual universities and HE colleges.
Relevant courses at various levels in photography are offered by a large number of centres, including the Open University, by distance learning.
Skills for the creative industries
Publisher: Creative & Cultural Skills
Open University (OU)
Tel: 0845 3006090
Creative & Cultural Skills
Skills for craft, cultural heritage, design, literature, music, performing arts and visual arts
National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ)
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ)
Tel: 020 78433700
Journalism Diversity Fund
BBC Journalism Trainee Scheme
Guardian Media Group (GMG)
Press Gazette: Journalism Today
George Viner Memorial Fund
Careers in Journalism
Publisher: NUJ Training
Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ)
Tel: 020 7252 1187
Newspaper Society (NS)
Scottish Newspaper Society (SNS)
Association of Photographers (AOP)
Address: 21 Downham Road, London N1 5AA
Tel: 020 7739 6669
Royal Photographic Society
Address: Fenton House, 122 Wells Road, Bath BA2 3AH
Tel: 01225 325733
British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP)
Address: The Coach House, The Firs, High Street, Whitchurch, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire HP22 4SJ
Tel: 01296 642020