Career in War Photography

7 minute read
War Photography

Have you seen those photographs of war-ridden scenarios in newspapers or your history books? Google any war and you will find its corresponding images. But have you ever wondered who takes these photographs and how such violent historical moments are penetrated by the lens of a camera? That’s the job of a war photographer to capture such fleeting moments and bring the struggle, pain and travail of those stuck in conflict, be it, soldiers or civilians. Interested in pursuing a career in war photography? This blog brings you a detailed guide on what is war photography, major jobs, courses and how you can pursue a career in this field.

What is War Photography? 

War Photography
Courtesy: Steam Community

War photography is undoubtedly the most complicated and risky specialisation in photography. As the name suggests, War Photographers capture the horrors of war and how such instances of large scale violence impact the masses. It’s basically a troupe to capture the real face of wars and expose it to people like us who don’t have a first-hand experience of wars and therefore helping us to understand the magnitude of it in a better manner. To make this happen, the war photographers risk their lives, enter the war zones and capture the essence of these wars through the medium of their photographs.  

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How to Become a War Photographer?

War Photographer
Courtesy: Pinterest

Now comes the question of following the career path of a war photographer. Seeing the kind of events that a war photographer is supposed to capture it’s obvious that this field in not something of which everyone can be a part of. It’s a long journey that one needs to make, before becoming an established war photographer. Below we have detailed the step-by-step process you can follow to become a photographer:

Acquire a Degree in Journalism or Photojournalism

The field of war photography like every other field of photography requires a deep knowledge regarding the various elements of photography like composition, lighting, exposure, depth of field, lens and camera mechanics, colour theory, etc. so that you can get that perfect shot. And a degree in photojournalism or journalism with a specialisation in photography will impart you with the technical and aesthetical knowledge of Photography. It will help you strengthen your foundation regarding the basics of photography and give you more opportunities to develop your skills through the means of expert training. Here are the popular journalism, photojournalism and photography courses that you can consider:

  • Diploma/BA/MA in Journalism (Photojournalism)
  • Bachelor of Journalism (Photojournalism)
  • Diploma in Photography
  • BFA in Photography
  • Diploma in Documentary Photography
  • Diploma in Photojournalism
  • Diploma in Creative Media Production (Broadcast Journalism)

Here is a list of Journalism Courses after 12th!

Build a Portfolio

If you are even a bit inclined towards becoming a photographer you know how important a portfolio is. A portfolio is where all your photography skills can be brought together to be presented to an audience or your potential employee. They see your hold over the camera and it’s various angles through your portfolio. So, make sure to create a portfolio for yourself which speaks a multitude about where your interests in the field of photography lie and present your skills in the best possible manner. Now, remember that creating a portfolio is not something which happens in a day. It’s more like your diary to which you keep adding each memorable or impactful photographs that you have captured. You can start working on your portfolio while pursuing a program in Journalism or Photography and explore training or freelance opportunities on the side to strengthen your knowledge and skills and this way steer towards a career in photography.

Explore Training Opportunities

As mentioned above, you need to get as much training as possible to pursue a career in war photography. War photography is a nuanced field where every moment matters. Each moment is like an opportunity to capture the best shot and also just one moment of instability could make you lose that perfect shot. So, basically, you won’t be allowed to enter the war zone of you are an amateur photographer. You need to prove your skillset outside of the field of you wish to enter the actual zone. A good way to become a war photographer is to pursue internships at famous news organisations, involving yourself with community welfare organisations, capturing the realities of the war impacted marginalised population and then make you way up the ladder. Engage in internships or community programmes where you think you will get the opportunity to hone those skills which could come in handy while becoming a war photographer. 

Explore Career Opportunities

Many war photographers generally begin with an established news organisation and then go freelance when they have the required networks to work with. War Photography is not a professional 9-5 jobs and will require you to rigorously travel especially to war and conflict zones. 

One of the significant positions that a war photographer can land is to work with the military or other government organisations. To can get direct access to the war zones and get in touch with the people in conflict, you need to be affiliated with established organisations. After getting adequate experience, you will build a strong portfolio and then start working as a freelancer on different projects with multiple news organisation. But remember that entering a war zone is not something that you can do out of a whim. You need to get clear permits, licence and other such important documents before entering the field of war photography. 

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War Photography Workshops

War Photography is not such a popular field in India but there are numerous training workshops in Conflict/War Photography which are held around the world. Apart from taking a course in journalism or Photojournalism, you can attend a workshop on war/conflict photography which will specifically deal with this particular field. Not many such workshops are offered worldwide but there is one popular workshop which will happen in 2021. You can participate in it as it will be a positive addition to your experience.  

Workshop by instructors Eric Bouvet and Jason P. Howe
When: November 2021
Where: Andalusia, Spain
Cost : INR 1,61,647 (€1800), including tuition fees and accommodation charges. 
How to apply: You can apply by sending a detailed portfolio to the below-mentioned email:

Skills Required to Become a War Photographer

Becoming a war photographer is definitely a road less travelled and one of the toughest fields of photography there is. Here are the key skills required in War Photography:

  1. The people aspiring to become a war photographer must be well versed in everything related to photography. A war photographer works in a natural environment where nothing is under their control. So, unless you have the perfect skills you can’t succeed in this field. 
  2. Trauma is something which walks synonymous with the life of a war photographer. You will be a witness to Human tragedies and other disturbing events. To get through them you need to be mentally strong.
  3. You cannot imagine becoming a war photographer if you are not brave. Because a war photographer works in the war zones and there you can’t survive and work at the same time if you are not brave enough to enter the battlefield
  4. You need to remain alert at all moments to avoid risk and also be able to take that perfect shot. 
  5. You need to be empathetic towards the cause which you are capturing. It’s when this emotional quotient comes together with excellent skills that a good photograph could be captured. 
  6. Apart from this, you must have knowledge of photo editing software applications as well as the technical and aesthetic aspects of photography.

Career and Salary of a War Photographer

With a degree in journalism or Photojournalism and the right amount of skills, experience and a good portfolio, you can become an excellent war photographer. You can work for various news agencies capturing war-related images for them and also become a freelancer. But you need to work a bit harder if you wish to be hired by the military as a war photographer. If you are aiming to work for the US military then you need to qualify the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude & Battery exam and acquire basic training which will help you survive in a war-ridden atmosphere. In the US Army, a war photographer makes as much as $56,168 (INR 41,36,759) per year. As a freelancer, you might receive an amount of $2,000 (INR 1,47,299) after the completion of each work. 

Top 10 War Photographers

If you look back in history, you will come across some war photographers who have made a huge impact through the photographs that they have created. If you are looking for inspiration to help you kickstart your career as a war photographer then looking at their work might give you a push in the right direction. Here is a list of some world-famous war photographers. 

  1. James Nachtwey (March 14, 1948 – Present)
  2. Robert Capa (22 October 1913 – 25 May 1954) 
  3. Don McCullin (9 October 1935 – Present)
  4. Tim Hetherington (5 December 1970 – 20 April 2011)
  5. João Silva (9 August 1966 – Present)
  6. Moises Saman (1974 – Present)
  7. Philip Jones-Griffiths (18 February, 1936 – 19 March, 2008)
  8. Margaret Bourke-White (14 June 1904 – 27 August 1971) 
  9. Nick Ut (29 March 1951 – Present)
  10. Roger Fenton (28 March 1819 – 8 August 1869) 

So, this is all that you needed to know about war photography. If you still think that you are strongly inclined towards this field then you must definitely consider a degree in photojournalism or photography. Sign up for a free session with our Leverage Edu experts and we’ll help you find the best course and university to actualise your dream of making a successful career in Photography!

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