Freelance photojournalism is a very competitive field, so breaking in to it is not easy. The first step is to understand the basic requirements and work on satisfying each of them. Remember that a freelancer is essentially a one-person company. You are the management, the accountant, the training department and all sorts of other people as well! When you take a holiday you also take a break from earning money. It is not the easiest lifestyle.
Freelance photojournalism courses are available to get you started - at a price of course. They can be useful to learn the basics of the trade, including aspects of photography, reporting, and getting up to speed with the business side of the job, marketing and negotiating contracts.
Clearly it is important to be where the news is, so transportation and information are vital. To report or photograph a fire in the high street of a neighbouring town, you must be aware of the fire and be able to get to the area quickly. Yes, it is obvious, but without satisfying these basic requirements there can be no career in freelance photojournalism! So what do you need? Well, a car satisfies the need for transport - at least at a local level. Getting the information is a little more complicated but you might start with making contact with local newspaper editors and storing their numbers in your mobile telephone. Another valuable approach is to make as many knowledgeable contacts as possible. Get to know people whose jobs enable them to know what is going on.
A freelance photojournalist must have reasonably good photographic equipment, and the ability to record in an organized manner the details of any emerging story. Reasonable English, good grammar and the ability to report accurately are all basic skills. Make too many mistakes and contacts with news editors will evaporate. Good photographic equipment means a professional DSLR, with a second body as a spare, and a wide selection of good lenses and flashguns, a laptop computer with a WiFi or mobile broadband card, and access to Photoshop for editing purposes.
Finally, a summary of the personal qualities required to be a successful freelance photojournalist arguably includes:
- an appropriate knowledge and understanding of electronic equipment, including computers, digital cameras, mobile phones etc;
- the ability to write reasonably good English and report facts accurately and honestly;
- an understanding of the artistic side of photography, and the ability to produce images of a good standard in all environments;
- a willingness to learn the essentials, invest in the necessary equipment, and keep abreast of evolving technologies. This may mean upgrading or replacing software, computer hardware, cameras etc at regular intervals;
- a real enthusiasm for a job that involves being out in the real world of the community for most of the time. This may be a local, national or international community;
- the drive and ability to pursue a story and persist until it is finally revealed, even when faced with a refusal by others to co-operate;
- patience in developing not only a story but also one's own career;
- a commitment to understand and abide by appropriate ethical standards.