Monday, February 27, 2012

Feature photography documents slices of life

   It’s  week 8 of 16, or hump week, and we’re right on schedule.
   Last week the students were given their first shooting assignment: features. They have to shoot one “weather rover,” which is basically driving around and finding something interesting that depicts people dealing with Mother Nature’s elements. They also have to shoot an event and produce a single feature-type image from that event.  
   Feature photography is documenting our everyday slices of life. Features are spontaneous, candid moments. It's the act of freezing shutter speeds of time. It's “a visual dessert to subscribers who digest a daily diet of accident, fire, political, and economic news,” according to Photojournalism: The Professionals' Approach.
   Feature photography is timeless, although it can tell a story about specific time.  Weather art is a great example of this. During every change of season photojournalists are dispatched by their editors to shoot the first snowfall, the first budding flowers, the first hot day of summer, and the first round of falling leaves.
   Feature photography is the one category that encourages photojournalists to rove around aimlessly for hours looking for people doing something. It's called roving (at least that's what we Blade photographers call it) for this reason. It's also called wild art if the photo is without a story.
   The rover can be shot anywhere, but the event photo must be shot on campus. After all, photojournalists cover their community, and Owens is their community.
   I can’t wait for them to begin posting their photos on their blogs. At this point, they have had lots to say, but nothing to show. That’s about to change.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Camera gear show and tell includes 600mm lens

Intro to PJ student Mariah Teet cradles a 600mm lens, the monster of all lenses.
   Today I hauled in to class most of my camera gear for show and tell. It included a 600mm lens, a 300mm lens,  wide and telephoto zooms, flashes, and, of course, my beloved Canon Mark IV.
   Most of the students are at the point where they would do just about anything to trade in their kit lenses for decent glass. A variable lens is fine for learning camera controls, but not if they want to make a living with their cameras. That extra stop or two of light can make or break a photo shoot. F/2.8 rules.
   We also went over caption writing and the AP Styleguide. I was impressed that about half the class purchased their own AP Styleguide, even though it was optional. Next week they will learn Photo Mechanic and garner editing skills.
  They are just about ready to start shooting their assignments.
   Students, get those shooting fingers ready!

A photojournalist strives for perfection commits career suicide

   Last week the students were introduced to the First Amendment and photojournalism law and ethics.
   I explained to them that law is what you have to follow (don’t slander, libel or steal copyright work), and ethics is basically doing the right thing when no one is looking (don’t manipulating digital photographs or set up a shot if you missed it the first time). 
    Our discussion on ethics also included how to write unbiased captions, avoid conflicts of interest, and not be prone to bribery (refusing food and gifts). 
    Training the next generation of visual journalists and citizen bloggers to be ethically fit is what ultimately will help keep journalism credible. Without credibility, we would simply be spreading lies and being deceitful. The communities we cover need to TRUST us as their news source.
   One way to preserve the integrity of future visual journalists is by introducing them to sound ethical codes and policies. Photojournalists follow the NPPA Code of Ethics.
   Another way is to show them good ethical and unethical examples. Good examples are harder to demonstrate for the simple fact that if you’re doing the right thing, well, it’s not news. In other words, being ethically fit is expected, and is rewarded with credibility and trust.
   Bad ethical behavior, on the other hand, is easy to demonstrate. There are way too many photojournalists who have been fired because of unethical behavior. They certainly know better, but their drive to be perfect and/or the best causes them to commit career suicide.
   Just this week I added yet another bad example to a growing list of disgraced photojournalists. Sacramento Bee photographer Bryan Patrick was caught combining two photos into one. In the scheme of things, it was such a small, insignificant detail. But a reader noticed the fakery, and that’s all it took for a working, award-winning photographer to suddenly become unemployed.
   Is it really worth it? Now everything Patrick has shot will be in question. His journalistic integrity is ruined. The paper’s credibility is sullied. The journalism profession is harmed.
  No! It’s not worth it! The only benefit anyone gets out of their bad decisions is that we instructors have more good examples of what not to do.