Monday, November 5, 2018

Teachable Moment: A podcast on shooting with a camera on manual mode

   Let's make this perfectly clear - shooting photography on manual mode is HARD!
   Consider this: There are three sets of numbers for ISO, fstop and shutter speed. These are the most common standard settings that are used:

  • ISO = 400 | 800 | 1600 |  3200 | 6400
  • fstops = f2.8 | f4 | f5.6 | f8 | f11 | f16| f22 | f32
  • Shutter speeds = 1/30 | 1/60 | 1/125 | 1/250 | 1/500 | 1/1000 | 1/2000 | 1/4000 | 1/8000
Owens Pres. Steve Robinson and me
   It takes the right combination of all three numbers for a correct exposure. If you don't know how to meter a scene, there is way higher chance of screwing it up than getting it right. It is paramount that photographers know what each number means, and how they work.
  So, I had this discussion on a podcast show called Teachable Moment, hosted by Owens Community College President Steve Robinson. We met in his office in late October and spend a little over 30 minutes gabbing about photography.
   Thank you, Pres. Robinson, for having me on your show to talk about what I love doing - teaching photography!
   Give it a listen - 

Monday, September 10, 2018

Talking points for social media use

   We are three weeks into the semester and most of you should have your social media accounts (Wordpress website, Twitter & Instagram) set up.
   If you use other social media (LinkedIn) for professional use, I encourage you to add it to your website. The following are talking points we will go over in class.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Welcome back Digital Photojournalism & Visual Storytelling students!

    Let the semester begin!
   Today is the first day for the rest of your ... semester.
I hope the course will be packed with lots of tools to add to your storytelling toolbox; some you'll use all the time, and some you'll never use.
   The main purpose of these classes is to expose you to many skills, without really become thoroughly proficient in any of them. That means this is an introductory class, and my job is to give you a basic understanding of what visual storytelling and photojournalism is all about.
   So, let's get started!


Monday, April 30, 2018

My soapbox that I gave to my Wayne State students on last day of class

I wrote this as a departing love letter to my Wayne State University Digital Photojournalism students on our last day of class April 19. I read it out loud. Thought I'd share it here, too. Thanks for reading it!

  Journalism is about many things:
·      Shining the light
·      Informing, educating and entertaining your community
·      Deadlines
The tenets of journalism haven’t changed much.
·      We still answer the 5Ws & H
·      We still adhere to the pyramid, whether it’s right side up or upside down
·      We will always tell real stories of real people, places and things
What’s changed is how we disseminate journalism.
Besides legacy news, like newspapers, TV news and NPR, we have many more ways of spreading our stories:
·      Websites
·      Blogs
·      Twitter
·      Instagram
·      Snapchat
·      Who know what else is out there …
·      … and yet to come
For you print journalists in the Wayne State Digital Photojournalism course, this ever-changing technology has added this to your plate: visual journalism. 
This class was designed to help you understand the visual concept of using photography to support your stories.  At the very least, it will also help you understand photojournalists who will work with you to help support your text, or work for you someday.
To stand up here and tell you what you need to do without you actually doing it is a complete injustice to you as journalism and broadcast and even PR majors. That's why you had to go out there and face your 'out of your comfort zone' fears. I hope that helped you realize how hard photojournalism can be. It’s not just taking pretty pictures. You need to know:
·      law & ethics, and your First Amendment rights
·      how to write concise AP Style captions
·      your camera controls
·      and understand the power of an image
·      that once you produce the content, you need to promote, share, preview and post on social media
This is the era of doing more for less, and I hope you gained a healthy dose of respect for those out there who are doing it all: writing, videography, photography, social media, mobile journalism, podcasting, and on and on.
Though all of you would love to get an A, that’s not realistic. Some of you won’t. But I’m here to tell you with confidence that your future employers won’t look at your GPA. They’ll search for your footprint on social media. They’ll be reading your stories and viewing your visual journalism in your clips and portfolio, and on your website. That’s what they care about.
So, after this class:
·      Polish your website
·      Shoot more feature, portrait and sports photos for yourself to hone those skills
·      Have a seasoned journalist sit with you and clean up your writing
·      Commit to posting an Instagram photo at least once a week. You have no idea how many editors look at Instagram and Twitter accounts when they are looking to hire
·      Post in journalistic fashion, AP Style. Don’t be lazy or rushed in your writing
·      Study lede sentences and stories of Pulitzer Prize winners
·      In fact, if you are a journalism major, commit to reading your hometown newspaper every single day
·      And broadcasters, listen to NPR every single day
·      PR majors, find those big corporations you dream of working for and study their social media habits
That’s the end of my soapbox.  
I offer these tips and words of caution because I care for you and your future. It’s a tough world out there, and now is the time to toughen up that skin and gain confidence as you move forward.
Confession: I was a horrible writer and photographer my first five years in the field. I was a messed up kid who didn’t know how to study. I had no confidence in myself. But I had role models who knew I wanted to succeed, and they took me under their wing and taught me the skills I needed to succeed. They had patience.
Don’t expect it to happen overnight. Stay true to your goals. Know that failing is learning, and not giving up is half the battle, even it might seems like a long downhill roller coaster ride.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Keeping up with the times: Adding smartphone photography assignment

    There is no doubt that journalism is in a constant flux.
  Twenty years ago it would have been unthinkable to add a smartphone assignment to a photojournalism curriculum. But that's exactly what I did for the most recent Wayne State University feature hunting assignment.
   Rather than having the Digital Photojournalism students shoot their feature pictures with their DSLRs, which they just finished learning about, I threw them a curve ball - shoot a single street scene photo and a photo story with only a smartphone.
   This change was absolutely necessary, and frankly, long overdue, because it's now common practice for all, yes... all, of the Toledo Blade reporters to use their phones to take their own still images and video stories when necessary. Our reporters are trained on Videolicious, a video editing app on smartphones.
   As a photojournalist, this makes me feel like my job is less secure. Are we that replaceable? Should we news photographers just lay down our $3,000 Canon cameras and submit to the trend of companies cutting out their experience image makers? So, yeah, many of us are struggling with an identity crisis, a tinge of jealousy, and a lot of insecurity.
In fact, my colleague Andy Morrison recently brought up a good point when he Tweeted that media companies are spending big money training their reporters how to use their smartphones as cameras, but are they training their photographers how to write? Not yet, but they should.
   Being versatile means doing it all these days: Writing. Shooting. Podcasting.
   The military was always a strong leader in 'backback journalism,' or convergence. Even back in 1980, when I went through journalism training at the military's Defense Information School, they trained us for both writing and shooting, and it's made me a much stronger journalist because I can do both. I was a reporter who used an old fashioned typewriter to write stories, and had a Canon F-1 film camera always slung on my shoulder.
    Now I'm teaching journalists how to shoot with smartphones.
   The feature assignment was two prong: 1. Shoot a single 'street' photo and post on Instagram and Twitter. 2. Shoot a photo story and post on Steller, a iPhone storytelling app. Droids users emailed the photos to themselves and posted their images on their blogs.
   There's more to the assignment than that, but this my point - smartphone photography is here to stay, and it needs to be taught by all photojournalism instructors [particularly if the students are journalists], regardless of the fact that we could unwittingly be training our replacements.
   So, to lead by example, I shot my own Steller story this past weekend. It's the story above with the cute kitty on the poster.
    I hope the students liked shooting their stories with a smartphone, because they just got a glimpse into their futures.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Guest blogger: WSU pj student on the First Amendment, utilitarianism

By Megan Kusulas
Wayne State University photojournalism student
   The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” 
   As a college student majoring in journalism, freedom of the press directly effects my career because it allows me to freely pass on information to the society while being protected. 
   Freedom of the press does not only influence how we write, but it also influences the photos we take.
Megan Kusulas: Recipient of this week's Golden Camera
As a college student, this is important to me because the First Amendment allows me to take photos of the university or about the university to highlight the truth of campus events. 
   It allows student and professional photojournalists to document and share information with the public without being persecuted. For example, it protects against being thrown into jail if photographers do not give up sources, reveal information about the government or shoot controversial pictures.
   There is a sense of pride when it comes to delivering the truth to citizens, which the First Amendment allows. 
   As an aspiring photojournalist, I am lucky to live in a country that does not have strict laws on the press, but also follows ethical standards, which are very important to this industry because they create a reliable source of information. 
   While the United States has laws to protect the press, there are no laws to protect photojournalists from ethical issues. As a visual journalist, it is important to know how far is appropriate to go, in order to get a good shot.
   There are three ethical decision-making foundations: utilitarian, absolutist and the Golden Rule.
   Utilitarian approach is sharing photos whether they are good or bad, to better society. Absolutist is the idea that everyone has the right to their own privacy. The Golden Rule is putting yourself in the subjects shoes and deciding if you would want the photo published.  
Of the three ethical decision-making foundations, utilitarian relates to me most. I have a strong desire to spread the word about important issues in order to inform society.
   I think utilitarian is the best way to approach photojournalism because it spreads importance of the issue at hand. By this, I mean printing a photo of a tragic car crash if it would change the way viewers think, therefor, helping to prevent car crashes.
   With this power of the media, I feel I have an obligation to the public to take photos of important moments. I feel it's my duty as a journalist to share information that it is critical to help society. 
   Truth is a very important component of photojournalism, which is why the utilitarian approach to shooting photos is justifiable. I want to use my photography skills to document emotion in a story, which could change the way readers feel about a certain topic. The utilitarian approach to photojournalism is a strong way to evoke the emotions of readers and leave more of an impact.
   Overall, the First Amendment and ethical standards are guidelines that bring society accurate news. As a collegiate photojournalist, I am excited to join the field because I can influence society for the good with photos I take.

Voices of Storytelling podcast show premieres on Owens' OCCR station

From left: Lori King, Kurt Steiss and Drew Scott in the Outlook Student Media Center. (Photos by Adam Jaquay-Williams)
   Soon there will be a new page on the top bar menu called Voices Podcasts.
   This new podcast page will symbolize a new, dynamic trend of listening to stories, rather than viewing or reading.
Kurt Steiss 
   On that page, there will be a growing collection of podcasts on movers and shakers at Owens, including the president and the athletic director. These podcasts will be produced by my OCC Visual Storytelling students, called Voices of Storytellers. Though the podcasts are class assignments, they will also be published, giving the Broadcast Technology students a chance to build a portfolio in sound.
   I am also kicking off my own podcast next week. Called Voices of the Media, it will feature photographers, journalists, and radio and tv personalities, like Toledo Blade reporter Sarah Elms, who will discuss the topic of reporters who shoot their own photos and videos with a cell phone, and DJ Denny Schaffer, from Q105.5, WQQO-FM.
   These podcasts will air on the OCCR station Thursdays at 2 p.m., and also the Owens Outlook online student newspaper. So, please subscribe to the OCCR Soundcloud and the Owens Outlook if you are interested in what our guests have to say!
   It is now time to introduce the first podcast of this semester, recorded and produced by Visual Storytelling student Drew Scott, featuring his guest, Toledo Blade photographer Kurt Steiss:

To view Kurt's portfolio, go to his website