A while back a visitor,Â photojournalist Nick Morris, suggested perhaps some insight into a newspaper photographer’s day might be of interest to you.
Even though I’ve been gone from the business for 6 years, I’m fairly confident some of these details are still accurate.
As I write this, I wonder though how relevant this is, considering how the newspaper industry is struggling.
Six years ago when I left, there were 20 photographers where I worked.
Today, they have 7 staff photographers.
The most recent departure from their photo department was perhaps 2 weeks ago.
Anyway, in no particular order of importance, here are some of the highlights which might interest you.
Most photographers work an 8-hour shift with 2 days off.Â Some employers give their photographers 2 days off in a row. But that isn’t always the case. Regardless, they all put in a 40-hour work week.
Their schedules are usually rotated so that the misery of having to work weekends and nights is spread around.
I should state here that some photographers love working nights and weekends. Those tend to be ones who love covering sports. Most sporting events occur during that time.
So perhaps what I said earlier that “the misery of having to work weekends is spread around” is all a matter of point of view/choice?
Keep in mind that even though there are lots and lots of exotic lenses out there, the majority of photojournalist carry maybe 3 lenses, 2 bodies and one or two flashes. Any more gear would be tough on their bodies and counterproductive unless it’s a very specific shot that requires special lighting.
The lucky ones who are hired full time at larger newspapers are supplied photo gear. Typically, these might be in a staff photographers trunk:
- 2 bodies usually professional grade bodies. Since camera bodies are discontinued on average once every 8 months, the specific model isn’t such a big deal. Most bigger newspapers issue Canon 1D Mark 3s or the Nikon equivalent
- 16-35 mm f2.8L lens
- 70-200 mm f2.8L Image Stabilized lens
- 50mm f1.4
- 300 mm f2.8 L lens Tele-converter 1.4x
- 2 or even 3 speedlites with wireless triggering capability either by Canon STE-2 or Pocket Wizards
- A good supply of compact flash cards
- A laptop equipped with wireless internet cards (MacBook Pro or Windows-based laptop)
- Full version of Adobe Photoshop maybe Photomechanic or some sort of fast loading editing software
- Monopod, tripod and light stands
Then there are the other extras which are not photographic in nature but essential for them to do their work:
The Mobile Office
- a reliable vehicle
- cellphone–probably a smartphone these days
- Police band scanners in vehicles
- Maps, probably replaced by GPS units these days
- knee-high boots or waders for covering floods
- Nomex or fire retardant clothingÂ & fire shelter
- Hard hat for entering construction zones and covering brush fires
- Bright ugly neon green vest for working on California freeways
- Some sort of food and water or MRE, Meals Ready to Eat
- First aid kit/Earthquake preparedness kit
- Media credential for identification (commonly referred to as Press Pass)
In case you’re thinking the job entails just snapping pictures, the picture-taking is sometimes incidental.
There have been times when I’ve spent 70% of my day driving and getting on location and only 20% of myÂ time actually taking pictures. The remaining time is waiting around, negotiating access and editing.
If you can’t get on location, either because you can’t read a map, or have the initiative to find alternate routes when there are road closures, what good will all that photo gear do you?