Though you do not have the same kind of control over the scenario in a photojournalism shoot as you do with a constructed photographic image, as a photojournalist you still have to prepare just as much in your own way. Instead of preparing the location, subjects, and objects, you are going to bring together the different elements that photojournalism does by looking at research, reporting, equipment, situation, and the like. Here are a few tips on how photojournalists need to prepare when heading out for the first time.
Equipment for the Photojournalist
You are going to need to know exactly what type of equipment you are going to need before you head out into a photojournalism shoot, mainly because you will only have limited resources available. You are going to need to respond to situations quickly when you are actually out on your shoot, which will not allow you to bring a lot of different pieces of photographic equipment. You will also need to have the right equipment for the type of shooting you are going to need, which is particularly important for the selecting the correct lens. You are not really going to have time to switch lenses, and having a great range is going to be important. This is often why photojournalists use a telephoto lens so that they have range, and it would be best to not bring something specific like a macro lens.
You are not going to be able to bring light kits for lighting your photography, and even if you could this would require you to alter the scenario and this would violate photojournalism ethics. You may want to bring an outside flash, but only if you know you are going to need it.
The best way to choose the equipment you will need as a photojournalist is test the gear out on a location and lighting situation that will be similar to the one that you are going to be in. This will also be good for getting a sense of what shutter speed, ISO, and iris settings you will need.
Research and Planning
The photojournalist is just as much of a journalist as the text print reporter, so you will need to prepare in just the same way. You need to research the issue as much as possible so you know the language of it, the main players, the history, and everything else so that you can paint an honest and informed picture. If you do not know the real context of the issue and images then you cannot present an accurate portrait and really reach the requirements of photojournalism ethics.
You will also want to try to capture the events accurately, even considering how to put it into a narrative format where you can tell a story. During photojournalism preparation you will take a look of what you know about the location and event you will be photographing and the background so that you have a vague idea of how implement a story structure. You do not want to put it together too completely ahead of time otherwise you will impose an artificial plot on a real event and this is not going to reach the standards of photojournalism ethics.
You are going to need to prepare for anything that could interfere with your photojournalism project, which could be a number of things. The weather is going to be a major factor in the success of your project, so this should be checked several times before the event. If there are going to be hostile parties there, such as police that may interfere with you or people committing crimes who may not want to be on camera, be aware that this could be a problem and develop a plan for how to protect your photojournalism equipment and to maintain your ability to get images. If you are in a dangerous location, such as a freeway turnpike, then you should check it out ahead of time to figure out how to prepare a safe shoot.