10 Tips for an Aspiring Photojournalist

My son Leo and I walked the Thames Path from the Thames Barrier up river to London Bridge. We both took cameras and these 10 Tips are some thoughts on what more Leo could have done to further his ambition of becoming a photojournalist.  Pictures by Leo Buckley.

  1. Have a goal! We took our cameras but we never sat down and decided what we were going to do. And maybe for that reason, we did very little. So Tip 1 is have a goal. It could just be documenting the walk so that you can show people where you went and what you saw. For example, this is one person’s record of a Green Chain Walk. If you don’t set yourself an assignment, you may enjoy the walk so much that you forget to record it.

  3. Get the camera out!  Don’t wait for something interesting to pop up. If you have the camera out, you look for pictures and are prepared for that ‘decisive moment’.  It’s all interesting because you’ve never been here before, your audience isn’t with you, and there’s no going back for the pictures that you didn’t take. Work the camera, find the angles and shoot lots of images.

    Supermarket trolley abstractions
  4. Follow up the wonders! We wondered at the many supermarket trolleys half buried in the silt of the exposed river bed. They made great images but who put them there and why?  Exploring these questions can be the making of a story as we found out when we researched supermarket trolleys later. This article in the Daily Telegraph outlines the size of the trolley problem in Britain and this post presents eight alternative uses for them.

  6. Do portraits avoid cheese!  Leo likes taking pictures of people. You can sneak shots of people but its also great to engage with them; explain what you are doing and ask if you can take their picture. You shouldn’t publish pictures of people without their permission – read about model release here. – but maybe you can take their email address, send them some copies and if there is a good one ask for permission to use it.

    A worker in the sand and cement yard.
  7. Ask questions!  The man in the orange boiler suit and hard hat was happy to explain how the dredgers delivered sand to the quayside. How it was offloaded onto a conveyor that delivered it into the yard and from there onto railway wagons that supplied sites all over London. And he was happy to pose for a picture.

    Conveyor belt for unloading dredgers.
  8. Don’t ignore the wonder! From the Thames Barrier to Tower Bridge, we saw just a handful of people.  We wondered if it was because the kids were back at school and other people had gone away for the long holiday between Easter and the Royal Wedding. Because it was so empty we didn’t take many pictures. But the emptiness n that day was something quite special which we should have recorded.

  10. Photograph the remarkable! The Thames Path snakes through London and this means that Canary Wharf is at one point across the River and the next moment rearing above the High Street behind you. We remarked on this but we never went right out to capture the phenomenum. If it is remarkable, listen to that voice and photograph it!

    To the Blackwall Tunnel and beyond Canary Wharf
  11. Be cheeky! From Rotherhithe to Tower Bridge you have to leave the river on numerous occasions because of the many property developments. But on one occasion we did vault a chained bridge and went on into the grounds of the Hilton Hotel, rejoining the Thames Path via the lobby of the hotel. It felt good to push our luck  and a shame not to have recorded it.

    The steel and glass perfection of Canary Wharf
  12. Cityscapes and abstractions! The air was clear, the sky was blue, and the sun was bright; a perfect day for the steel and glass architecture of the offices on the north side of the river and the apartments on the south! But it all looked too bright and shiny; like something that had been photographed a million times before. So we didn’t photograph it much but we should have because it was so glacially beautiful and appropriately empty!

    Not everyone likes the development on the Thames.
  13. Two sides to the story! Having set out on our journey with no clear goal we came back with a hotch potch of images.  If we were thinking to be photojournalists then perhaps we should have gone looking for a story and come back with a balanced report. The image above highlights the flip-side to all those glassy developments. The photojournalist needs to provide a balanced and objective record!



According to Wikipedia, photojournalism is a form of journalism (the collecting, editing, and presenting of news material for publication or broadcast) that creates images to tell a news story. It is distinguished from other close branches of photography (documentary, social documentary, street or celebrity) by:

  • Timeliness — the images have meaning in the context of a published record of events.
  • Objectivity — the situation implied by the images is a fair and accurate representation of the events they depict in both content and tone.
  • Narrative — the images combine with other news elements to make facts relatable to the viewer or reader on a cultural level.

And an edited version of Potasky’s tips for photojournalist students:

  • Pick a topic. Some stories can be told with pictures more easily than others.
  • Create an assignment outline with requirements and objectives.
  • Make a list of shots to get so you don’t miss anything important and can tell the story.
  • Look at photojournalism on line to get ideas for pictures that look great and tell the story.
  • Take a lot of pictures using all the composing techniques you have learned.
  • Don’t pose the shots but just record things as they unfold.
  • Afterwards edit the pictures down to tell the story.
  • Judge your pictures in terms of vision, aesthetics, camera technique and final image.
    • Vision:  Is the image original and does it meet the requirements for the assignment?
    • Aesthetics: Does the composition excite and enhance the image?
    • Camera technique: Good exposure, focus, aperture, shutter, and angle?Image manipulation: Is it colour corrected and sharpened

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