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How to Become an AP Photographer

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Working for the Associated Press could mean a varied career covering everything from cute local human interest stories to hard-hitting international issues, as well as working with a variety of tools. Staffers who work for the AP say they enjoy the organization's wide reach and its focus on multimedia work. Because of that focus, you'll need strong photography and journalistic skills to get a job, but also a background in other forms of digital storytelling.

A Journalist's Education

Photojournalists typically start their training by earning a bachelor's degree in journalism, photography, communications or photojournalism. To gain further expertise, you might move onto earning a master's degree in photojournalism. In those programs, you'll learn the tenets of reporting, including working with sources, truth in reporting and best practices for using lenses, filters, lights and various camera. Also pursue opportunities to work at the photo desk for your school newspaper, or freelance or "string" for your local newspaper, covering everything from local sports games to weather disasters. When you have photos published, start compiling clips of your work into a portfolio that shows how you've covered a diverse range of stories.

Focus on Multimedia

AP photographers are expected to shoot and edit video, gather quotes, post stories online using coding languages, and sometimes even appear on camera for stand ups. So seek out opportunities to hone your multimedia skills. Volunteer to help out on a video project, learn video editing skills through online tutorials or attend workshops that train you in multimedia, for example. Keep CDs or DVDs of multimedia work you do to add to your portfolio.

Getting Noticed

During or after college, seek internships with the AP or with news media outlets. While landing an AP internship can help you get hired later, AP internships are highly competitive. Internships start in June and the application process happens months ahead of time. According to an AP-produced video, the organization looks to hire journalists who are visually aware, adaptable, ethical, courageous and curious. Naturally, talent comes into play as well, and the AP states it's always looking for new talent to add to the team. Many of its job postings state that experience is required, so allow your portfolio to show your diversity and experience.

Getting Hired

Look for jobs with the AP through the organization's "AP Careers" web page. The searchable database allows you to search for jobs based on location or job, including a search option for "Editorial-Photography/Pictures." That's one search category to pursue, but don't overlook options including "Multimedia" or "AP Images." Compile a resume that highlights any special skills or qualifications that particular job is looking for, such as a particular language or experience working with PhotoShop or other programs. Tailor your portfolio to the type of work you'd be doing, while at the same time showing your depth and ability to cover many types of stories. Since the AP has bureaus all over the globe, the other option is to contact a local editor or manager directly and offer your services as a freelancer.


Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

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