What profession could be more exciting and rewarding?
But there are roadblocks. Because you represent an investigative factor, you are not always welcomed - especially by political, social, military, and governmental elements that would rather not expose their own shortcomings.
So, you find yourself in a battle between your passion to tell the story and get it right, and the deterrents that would prevent you from "trespassing" into their domain.
There are also detours. If you are good at your profession, you'll be offered incentives that entice you to give up your initial interest in photojournalism and turn your talents to more commercial areas for greater income and social status, areas like public relations, advertising photography, corporate assignments, etc.
You are not alone. A talented musician can be tempted to turn to producing elevator music; a talented composer to TV show themes; a talented writer to Hollywood screenplays; an established actor to performing in TV commercials.
The difference in pay scale can be tempting. In photojournalism, unless you are a well-known photographer with many credits, remuneration for your work is not much higher than for basic labor positions (sometimes lower!).
Add to the financial challenges the fact that like any business, the publishing world is always trying to reduce expense. Often their first target is freelancers and staff photographers. A current attempt is being made in Germany (Frankfurt) to reduce the employee classification of a photojournalist from editorial worker to clerical worker. If they are successful, the pay scale of photographers would be lowered to be on a par with clerical workers, not editorial employees.
It would seem that organizing into a union of members would be the answer for the photographers. It isn't. Freelancers by their very nature are independent people and are resistant to 'organizing.' Creativity can't be organized. As an observer of freelancers over the years, I've seen attempts to unionize freelancers come along, sputter, and disappear.
A contemporary approach to organizing freelancers into a union is to hook up with an existing union as an affiliate. For example, affiliating with the United Automobile Workers (UAW) and through them with the AFL-CIO. If we were to classify freelancers as craftsmen, or clerical workers, I would agree this might be the answer. But could you imagine a poet or painter joining a union?
We all know that unions are a two-edged sword. You might receive higher fees on one hand, but you have to accept constraints and regulations regards your work, and who you work for, as decreed by the union.
In just about every survey made of workers, not only freelancers, but everyday service personnel, the reward that workers consider most important is not salary but recognition of their contribution to their chosen career. For a person who has a passion for photojournalism, the carrot of higher pay is not going to outweigh the gratification and self-esteem the photographer realizes from her/his profession.
Do photojournalists need charity? Should they receive grants or subsidies like farmers? Again, no. It would only make them beholden to some government party line.
Is there an answer for this dilemma? Yes. And it's been played out for centuries.
Demand for creative talent will never subside. Your experience and knowledge will be rewarded if you stick with your profession. There will always be challenges concerning your job: amateurs, other photographers, your family's financial needs, etc. But if wild horses can't pull you away from photojournalism, you will eventually come to a stage in your career where you will have blossomed and matured. You'll ride out the ups and downs of the publishing world and their cost-cutting cycles, to their traditional returns to their realization that to get quality service and consistently good photography, they have to pay accordingly. Your services will be in demand, and freedom for you to choose what and when and for whom to photograph will continue to be your laurel.
Rohn Engh, veteran stock photographer and best-selling author of "Sell & ReSell Your Photos" and "sellphotos.com," has helped scores of photographers launch their careers. For access to great information on making money from pictures you like to take, and to receive this free report: "8 Steps to Publishing Photos," visit his website at PhotoSource International or call 1 800 624-0266.