Ever wonder what it would be like to work in photojournalism? Capturing photos to tell a news story is something that sounds interesting to many, but only some pursue it as a career. It can be tough and competitive, but well worth it for those that love photography. We did a Q&A with CBS News Photojournalist, Jake Barlow. See what he had to say about being a photojournalist for a news division of a major broadcast television network:

1. What’s it like to be a photojournalist and producer for CBS?

Producing and shooting stories for CBS is the coolest gig ever. It’s almost as awesome as tacos. I also do photo albums for the CBS News Web and App.

2. What equipment did you use when you first started?

When I started in 1996, we had this brand new format called DVC Pro. That was king of the hill in local news. Lights were 80’s leftover bright tungsten lamps, which had no or little control on spill. The lights only had one switch and one temperature: hot and bright. The lamps felt like you had the sun on a stick. Many folks would soften or defuse them with gels. Oftentimes, these diffusion gels got too close to the bulb and would melt. Over the years, they would be beaten up and passed down from photog to photog. Burnt fingers were common and the light head would smell like burnt plastic. You’re lucky if burnt plastic was the only smell you got out of them.

3. Do you shoot any sports and who have you covered for profile stories?

Now, I mostly shoot News for the network like features segments. When we shoot sports, it’s usually profile stories before the event. We spend a few days with someone/day in the life of: Interviews in Indy race car garages. Stuff like that. People that I’ve covered for profile stories include:

  • Mario Andretti, Indy 500
  • Scott Dixon, Indy 500
  • Robert Trujillo, Metallica bassist
  • Danica Patrick, Indy 500
  • Buddy Guy, Blues guitar legend
  • Jason Aldean, Country Singer
  • Blake Shelton, Country Singer
  • Bill Kreutzmann, Grateful Dead drummer
  • Lars Ulrich, Metallica drummer
  • Perry Farrell, Jane’s Addiction
  • Silversun Pickups
  • Prophets of Rage
  • Jim Nantz, CBS Sports
  • Scott Pelley, CBS News
  • Obama Presidential campaign


4. As a photojournalist, what equipment is essential to your job?

I travel and use three cameras on every feature I shoot. A lot of times, GoPro cameras are involved, too. For lighting, I use many LEDs of all shapes and sizes. It has made life much easier and setups faster. Usually, I travel with four Ikan panels and a few tall LED light sticks for tight spots. Great lighting will really help make your story stand out and show that you are serious about putting the best quality picture out there.

5. What type of equipment would you like to use more frequently for shoots and covering news?

Right now, we are mixing the Sony 700 XDHD camera with a few Canon C300s. Really soon we are going with all Sony for a clean look all around. High quality monitors is a must!

6. What was the trickiest situation you had to shoot? How did you handle the situation?

There are plenty of tricky situations in news. Sometimes, traveling gear is limited and it’s really hard to choose what you want to bring. Summers with more light out for longer periods of time is easier, but during the winter, you work in the dark longer. Having less time to set up more things also makes it challenging for lighting shoots. The most challenging gear situation would either be traveling into Haiti after the earthquake or being around wild black bears at a research feeding post.

When the earthquake happened in Haiti, we flew into the Dominican Republic. Roads that led into Haiti were very limited. We only had room in a pack that we could take with us on a helicopter that would fly in over the mountains. Small LED lights were key for this situation. Between civil unrest, the disaster distraction, and dead bodies, we had a story to shoot. It was tricky, the gear was very basic, and we stayed on the move.

7. What was your favorite event or news story that you have covered? Why?

My favorite story to cover is Lollapalooza and I do it every year. We did a behind the scenes story last year about the event and I was able to meet and take pictures of everyone on my iPhone alt rock playlist!

8. What do you think of Ikan’s products?

I like Ikan because it’s reliable and a strong work horse for what I do on the run all the time, but the people behind Ikan is what makes it really cool – they are awesome.

9. What technology trends do you see impacting how you deliver news in the future?

The things I see impacting news in the future are the quickness of getting your video broadcasted like LiveU units and the quickness of live shot setups – less time and less gear. LEDs are going to be your best friend.

**Tip: Always have your light kit organized and ready like a fire truck because when you’re in a hurry and tangled, that slows you way down. Things snap and you just look silly fumbling. We will point and laugh at you.

We hope this interview has given you some insight into what it is like to work in photojournalism. Want to keep up-to-date on our latest products? Subscribe to the free Ikan newsletter.