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Photojournalists follow certain photography principles that are intended to help them produce photos that catch the attention of different audiences. Photos with the right focus, angle and color will attract more people than those that come out blurry or unfocused. Photojournalism works best if it is presented as a narrative.

However, since the late 1970s, photojournalism and documentary photography have increasingly been accorded a place in art galleries alongside fine art photography. Luc Delahaye, Manuel Rivera-Ortiz and the members of VII Photo Agency are among many who regularly exhibit in galleries and museums. The Golden Age of Photojournalism ended in the 1970s when many photo-magazines ceased publication. They found that they could not compete with other media for advertising revenue to sustain their large circulations and high costs. Still, those magazines taught journalism much about the photographic essay and the power of still images.

This can be challenging in a fast-paced newsroom but it is important to be nuanced and creative with search terms to unearth photography beyond the usual keywords of climate change, heatwave and floods. The photographer Brook Mitchell made an impactful series about the drought in Australia affecting families in New South Wales, which we published as a photo essay in July. The environmental scenes of the scorched landscape were striking, as were the suffering animals, but the portraits and stories of the people battling the catastrophe really anchored the piece and drove the level of engagement. These stories range from major international conflicts to intimate small-town narratives.

Although modern news organizations don’t tend to keep photojournalists on staff anymore, good documentary photography still has its place in the current news cycle. The internet and social media are overtaking traditional print media in popularity, and people are hungry for news as it happens. So, photography still has a big part to play in an increasingly visual society. When writing captions, think about captions you’ve read that have confused you. For example, some news organizations may use stock photos in a story because they don’t have an actual photo of the event.

Since the 1960s, motor drives, electronic flash, auto-focus, better lenses and other camera enhancements have made picture-taking easier. New digital cameras free photojournalists from the limitation of film roll length. Most photojournalists consider stage-managed shots presented as candid to be unethical. There have been examples in the history of photojournalism of photographers purposefully deceiving their audience by doing so. It is the duty of every photojournalist to work to preserve all freedom-of-the-press rights recognized by law and to work to protect and expand freedom-of-access to all sources of news and visual information. It is the individual responsibility of every photojournalist at all times to strive for pictures that report truthfully, honestly and objectively.

Other issues involving photojournalism include the right to privacy, negotiating how the subject desires to be depicted, and questions of whether compensation is warranted. Especially regarding pictures of violence, photojournalists face the ethical dilemma of whether or not to publish images of the victims. The victim’s right to privacy is sometimes not addressed or the picture is printed without their knowledge or consent.

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