What is the difference between photography and photojournalism?

obama in cuba

An example of photojournalism. President Obama and his wife, Michelle, in Old Havana. Credit Stephen Crowley, the New York Times.


An example of photography. BMX rider in the street with sunset in the background. Photographed by Murray Mitchell.

According to the Miriam Webster Online Dictionary, photography is defined as the art or process of taking a picture with a camera. On the other hand, photojournalism is defined as using photographs to report news stories. But what is the true difference between the two?

Photography and photojournalism have a square-rectangle relationship. Photojournalism is photography, but photography is not necessarily photojournalism.

Photography is a beautiful art form where the artist controls what the viewer sees. While a camera translates literally the image in front of it, photographers still have the opportunities to stage photos and manipulate the scene. Additionally, with photography, many artists use Photoshop or another photo editing system to alter the reality of the photo. With photography, there are no limits or regulations as to what you create. However, this is not true with photojournalism.

In photojournalism, the photographer needs to have more than just the eye for the photo. They must accurately portray an event or scene while still maintaining a fascinating composition. In addition, the photographer needs to be fast and fearless and be willing to push boundaries in order to get just the right shot.

According to a Chicago Tribune blog post by Alex Garcia, successful photojournalists have many obstacles that they need to overcome.

“…the top photojournalists are actually smart, canny and very clever. So much of getting a picture is getting to the right place at the right time. On the way there are a host of logistical, technical, bureaucratic and personal issues that will trip many people up along the way,” wrote Garcia.

The article has a list of qualities that photojournalists need to have to make it in their field. The tasks that they face are often dangerous and fast-paced. While some photographers put themselves in risky situations for the right shot, photojournalists constantly face the unknown, trying to capture an image that will accurately tell a story and convey a message of truth.

The art of photography is very diverse, but nothing could compare to the challenge of photojournalism.



  1. shaanhartspurple · March 23, 2016

    I am a journalist student and this article has been very helpful in helping me understand what is the essence of photojournalism. Thank you


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