How to Take Professional Photographs for Print Publications

Digital cameras are one of the most innovative and useful machines ever invented by man, behind the printing press and the electric razor. With many of the digital cameras available on the market, which have simple automatic functions for EVERYTHING, it is simply a matter of aim and shoot. In the journalism industry, it is paramount for journalists to fulfill their roles in a professional manner. This means people: leave that party cam for Facebook and also follow the correct ethical procedures when it comes to taking photos of people. Pay a bit extra than you would normally for a convenience-sized digi cam, on a DSLR camera that will enhance your images and effectively your path to journalistic success. This article will provide some enlightening steps that you may need, as a journalist, for taking groundbreaking pictures for print.


  1. Image titled Take Professional Photographs for Print Publications Step 1
    Buy a camera, a good one! The newspaper or magazine company that you work for may give you a camera to work with but it pays to have your own.Hunt around for a decent digi cam that will take some serious photography but also suit your economic situation. Canon DSLR cameras, in my experience, are the best in the business. The bottom-of-the-market bargains start at $1000NZD; a little price to pay but it can prove to be quite beneficial if you’re using your camera frequently.
  2. Image titled Take Professional Photographs for Print Publications Step 2
    Get to know your camera The best way to learn is to be nosey, this is the same approach you should apply to your camera when using it. Play with it. Familiarise yourself with the functions, the buttons and all the knick knacks that come with it. JUST DON’T BREAK IT!
  3. Image titled Take Professional Photographs for Print Publications Step 3
    Introduce your camera to subjects and surroundings This is the best way to practice using the camera. Lighting and distance. Subjects are great indications of where and what you are doing wrong. Experiment! Capture your subject in different lights and at various distances. Adjust the settings of your camera to suit the lighting conditions and the distance between you and your subject. Use the flash to a minimum! Use as much natural light in your compositions as you can, this provides for a better quality in your image and also allows you to utilise the functions on the camera more, effectively keeping you from depending on your flash for lighting. Blur, Angles and Balance. Landscape and environmental compositions are also great practice runs for your camera. Use the camera around your house experimenting with different lines and shapes in the lounge for example. Colour is also a great compositional solution to experiment with. The backyard promises for some amazing colours and natural outdoor light.
  4. Image titled Take Professional Photographs for Print Publications Step 4
    Compose a photography plan Come up with and develop some strategies for a narrative; organise your shoot with a timeline and a shot list with possible shots you may need for a story that you are assigned to. Preparation notes and to-do’s are great guides for you to follow.
  5. Image titled Take Professional Photographs for Print Publications Step 5
    On the job: Before taking photos of someone, ask! This is possibly as simple as asking someone if you can take photos of them or asking them their names. Although there is no law against taking photographs of a person, even if he or she doesn’t know you are doing it, it is always a good idea to get permission, unless plans have been pre-arranged by you and your subject. This prevents any arising debates that may occur.
  6. Image titled Take Professional Photographs for Print Publications Step 6
    Build a rapport with your subject Once things are established and you have received permission from your subject to have their photo taken, find some common ground and engage in background research OR conversation. This way, working with the subject becomes a lot less awkward and a lot easier for you.
  7. Image titled Take Professional Photographs for Print Publications Step 7
    Choose the photos that sell a story Some of the greatest shots in the media are simply an occurrence of luck more than anything. Choosing the image that sells the story is one of the key tools in successful journalism: when one analyses a newspaper or magazine article, they are roped in by the image. Choose images for your final article that contain compositional solutions which affect people’s emotions.
  8. Image titled Take Professional Photographs for Print Publications Step 8
    Rework, Refine, Retouch Getting it right the first time is the key to groundbreaking photography, so the less editing required for your images the better! However, photos aren’t always how you want them to turn out so make it a habit to re-fine your work. Refining your work illustrates your eye for perfection: this comes down to removing red-eyes, re-touching conspicuous flaws, adjusting the brightness, contrast or saturation of your image etc (highlighting shadows, enhancing colour using pictographs to name a few). I have found this step to be one of the most important in my pursuit of journalistic success. Being able to re-work original material shows the processes in which you have taken in creating a masterpiece from a simple photographic concept.


  • Shutter speed refers to the duration of time a camera’s shutter remains open, allowing more light into the photo; so, be creative by using the panning technique if shooting a moving subject. Set the shutter speed to about ¼ of a second. Capture the subject in motion by tracking the subject with your camera. The background of the image should effectively be distorted whilst the subject is in full focus.
  • Nikon DSLR cameras are the best, so get one! Canon is also a great brand to invest serious cash in for a camera. If you are spending a substantial amount of money on a camera buy ALL the necessary equipment. I.e.: a detachable flash and lens kit, memory cards etc.
  • Enhance this scenario even more by firing the flash directly towards the moving subject.
  • Allow a bit of time to follow up with your subject. Thank them and show some appreciation for allowing you to photograph them. It’s a simple respectful gesture and word-of-mouth can prove to be a bonus on your behalf.
  • o Use a 200 – 400 ISO for images that require less light (suitable for outdoors)
  • o Use an 800 – 1600 ISO for images that require more light (indoor, low-lighting, conditions)
  • ISO is a camera function that affects photo quality:


  • It has been proven that constantly re-modifying and editing your images in Photoshop can ruin them. Get it accurate in the camera as much as you can.
  • A photo shoot, on some occasions, may require a number of shoots, over a number of days. So, ensure that this is outlined and finalised in your photography plan.
  • Don’t be surprised if taking photos comes at some kind of cost: not knowing the limitations between what you can do and what you should do can ultimately affect your future and your reputation. If a fireman suffered first degree burns to his face after trying to extinguish a massive blaze it is up to you whether or not the photo of that fireman should be submitted to the editor-in-chief or not.
  • Photos taken in the course of a trespass on to private property are illegally obtained. There is precedent for a court directing that such photographs be not published. So remember, ASK!
  • Do not manipulate images to a degree where they are defamatory to one’s character.
  • A faster shutter speed requires more light. Increase the aperture of the camera to increase the lighting conditions and try to use the flash as little as possible.

Things You'll Need

  • Digital DSLR Camera
  • Detachable Flash
  • 18 - 55mm Detachable Lens
  • Optional 75 - 300mm Detachable Lens

Article Info

Categories: Digital Photography