It almost seems as though life doesn’t really happen unless it is documented by images. A combination of cheaper cameras and photo-sharing sites have made taking photos and showing them to the world much more accessible.
While these developments have had an impact on the social life of the nation, they have also had a huge influence on news and photojournalism. The average person in the right place at the right time can make thousands of pounds from a photo or video, and we increasingly see amateur news footage and pictures in the national news, particularly in coverage of natural disasters.
Getty Images and Flickr formed a partnership in July, which allows non-professional photographers to upload photos and editors will be charged the same price for use of their photos as professionals.
Photo agency Big Pictures has also started a service for amateurs called Mr Papparazzi, where they will pay for any photos of celebrities. In this case, the subject – the celebrity – is all important. Subtleties of the angle, frame and shading are merely an added bonus, if some of the papparazzi pics are anything to go by.
If you aspire to more and want to become a professional photographer, is it worth pursuing some formal training?
Nigel Tanburn runs the undergraduate course in photojournalism at the London College of Communication. He believes there are many disadvantages of working as a photographer or photojuornalist without knowledge or training of the industry.
‘Too many self-taught aspiring photographers and photojournalists end up underselling their work or even giving away pictures for credits,’he says. ‘They don’t have an understanding of copyright law, of commission rates and reproduction fees and so on.”
There is also a big difference between working as a photojournalist and a photographer. Tanburn argues that it’s getting increasingly difficult to make a living out of being ‘just a good snapper”.
‘Photojournalism is much more than effective photographic techniques,’he says, ‘although, of course, we make sure that our students have plenty of them, particularly digital skills.
‘Photojournalists are gatherers and communicators of news and topical issues – although primarily through visual means. They need to think and act as journalists, to understand how news organisations work, gather news and communicate it in the form of captions, short news stories and features.”
Award-winning photographer Daniel Berehulak did a few short courses before starting a diploma in photojournalism in Australia.
‘I had to drop out for a while because I’d started working at a small photo agency and couldn’t take time off for the exams,’he says, ‘but when I went back to finish the course, I realised that I had underestimated just how much I’d learned from working shoulder to shoulder with such experienced photographers, so I dropped out of the diploma.”
Berehulak now works as a news photographer in London for Getty Images and has won numerous awards for his world and sports news photography. The two short courses he did were ‘essential’in getting a grounding in darkroom techniques, the principles and the craft, but Berehulak believes that both training and on-the-job experience is the key.
‘You can still learn an awful lot if you start out working as a freelance photographer,’he says, ‘especially now with online photo-sharing sites. You go to a job and there’ll be about 10 photographers there, then afterwards you can go and look up the photos online to see what they’ve cropped and how different people have framed their subject.”
But as Tanburn says, beware the pitfalls of photo-sharing on the internet: while it provides a great way to get your work out there, you could be getting shortchanged. If you know your rights and manage to get a celeb snap, it could probably fund that photojournalism course you’ve been thinking about doingâ€¦