For budding photojournalists and cinematographers, an art school is the right to place to start off, says Navroze Contractor in an interview with The Hindu Education Plus.

“When you think of photojournalism in India, only very few names like Raghu Rai and Raghubir Singh come to mind, but I believe there is scope for a lot of young photographers to become serious photojournalists that the world will remember,” said photographer and cinematographer Navroze Contractor.

There are numerous film schools and media schools in India, but the best place to start for someone who has just completed school is to join an art school. An understanding of art, colours and balance along with ideas of framing and other elements are critical to both a cinematographer and a photojournalist.

Along with training in visuals, an interest in anthropology, history, sociology and current affairs is critical. This will help them get an overall picture of what is happening and what they are trying to achieve, he said.

Speaking to The Hindu Education Plus about photojournalism and cinematography as a career option, Mr. Contractor said many film schools and photography courses do not teach the one element that is necessary to make a great photojournalist — the personal touch. To become a photojournalist it is important to get to know your subject, be comfortable with it and understand it before starting a photo shoot.

Photojournalism is very different from news photography. A photojournalist should have the ability to tell a story through their photos. This means that they have to spend days, often months with their subject to be able to capture the essence of the subject in depth. Each picture that a photojournalist takes should tell a story of its own, it should give a context and give the viewer an understanding of the situation.

In this regard, some of the best film schools in the world are in Cuba and Czechoslovakia, where the courses are six years long. In the first two years, students study fine arts, history and sociology. It is only after this training that the students are taught how to handle a camera. When students study photography or cinematography in this way, they will be able to ‘see' better and understand how to frame a shot even before they start taking pictures, he said.

After the course, the biggest challenge for any photojournalist or cinematographer is to be accepted. Once people start recognising someone's work, then assignments will come in, but till then it would be difficult, he said.

Cinematography, especially for documentary films, is very similar to photojournalism. The main difference is that photojournalists work alone while cinematographers need a large team of assistants, which is why it is a bit easier to start off a career in cinematography than it is to start as a photojournalist.

People who want to become cinematographers or photojournalists should be prepared to not have work nine out of ten days and then work round the clock on that one day. For many people, this is a very difficult kind of life, but it has its own charm, he said.

Starting off as a documentary cinematographer's assistant, one can make anywhere between Rs. 500 to Rs. 1,500 per day, while assistants to feature film cinematographers begin at Rs. 1,500 per day. For photojournalists it is impossible to predict a starting income, since it depends on the quality of their work, he said.

“The only tip I have to offer for any budding cinematographer or photojournalist is that hard work is the key; the more pictures they take, the more photographs and films they watch and critique, the better they will get and the more money they will make,” he said.