Friday, July 31, 2015

Don't make excuses: Embrace photo stories if you want a job

Aaron Mora, 7, son of the Johnston's Fruit Farm owners, inspects his bees. This was taken on the second shoot. These three photos are a sampling of the photo story I am doing on the farm, which ran in October in the Toledo Blade magazine page.

Johnston's Fruit Farm customers pick their own blueberries. Taken on my third shoot.
   Shoot ‘em and leave ‘em. Don't make this your shooting style.
   Students no longer have the option of strictly shooting single assignments. You should be shooting a photo story at any given time.
   There is nothing wrong with being a daily shooter. However, shooting photos stories is important to be competitive among your peers and competitors. These are a few of the excuses that can prevent photographers from doing photo stories:
·      Don’t have enough spare time to dedicate to the project
·      Can’t find a story to like enough
·      The subjects don’t call back
·      Fearful of becoming a pest
·      Getting bored easily
·      It's been done already
   Don't let these excuses hold you back.
   A photo story is the use of multiple images shot over an extended period of time to tell a complete story. It can be as simple as a photo essay of a county fair, or as complex as a multimedia documentary on spousal abuse that includes the use of video and audio.
   These are two reasons I have been dedicating more time to shooting photo stories:
Johnston's Fruit Farm workers in the strawberry field. Taken on first shoot.
1.     I have never entered the Ohio News Photographer (ONPA) Photographer of the Year (POY) competition because one of the requirements is to include at least one photo story.
   Here are the contest rules regarding the George Smallsreed Jr. POY entry:
“Portfolios must contain a news picture, a sports picture, a picture story and pictures from at least two other categories of the entrants choosing.” 
   It’s the lack of a picture story that prevents me from having a chance to win. A friend of mine always tells me that to win you have to enter, and she’s right. So I can only blame myself for sitting back on the sidelines and watching my terrific Toledo Blade colleagues (Katie Rausch, Jeremy Wadsworth and Andy Morrison) win POY contests.
   Contests aren’t everything, and they don't always define your overall skills, but they certainly help get better jobs, better assignments and increased self esteem.
    2. This second reason is actually the driving force to me upping my game. It’s for the students!
   How can I teach students long-form visual storytelling when I hardly did it myself?     
   It is crucial for me to push students to do photo stories. Dig a little deeper into the story. Go back again and again. Develop a relationship with the subjects. Build trust.  
   Shooting photo stories will get them jobs. There is no doubt in my military mind that the photojournalism jobs and assignments will always go to those who do not have commitment issues.  Photo stories, Photo stories, Photo stories. 
   Photographers who can write stories, shoot stills and shoot/produce a video will be much more employable. Actually, if you don't do all of those things you might be unemployable in today's multimedia-cultured world.
    So, now I must make the time to find stories I care about so I don’t get bored and thus will pick up the phone to call the sources so that I can tell their stories. 
   Storytelling is good.
   Here is a story on Mich Fest I did this year. It's a week-long music festival for only women. It was a story I had to tell because it was the last festival, ending after 40 years. 
The video:
The written story:

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Why an old dog can teach young smartphone pups new tricks of the camera

   On cellphone photography.
   Once again I ponder this question while updating the syllabus: Should I teach cellphone photography to students when it’s already so much a part of their lives?
   Considering my tech addicted teen daughters are still teaching me about my own iPhone6, does it make sense to add a cellphone lesson to a syllabus for college journalism students?
   I don’t doubt that most of my Wayne State photojournalism students are also tech addicted, so what could I possible teach them that they don’t know already?
   Quite a bit, actually. In fact, social media is such an essential part of journalism these days that many universities are now offering entire courses dedicated to mobile reportage.
   Here are a few lessons that I think might benefit students:
Lesson One: Selfies
   This is the age of the selfies. Yes, our youth has mastered taking photos of themselves. I certainly don’t have to teach them that! In fact, this selfie lesson is about what NOT to do. Stop taking selfies!
   Yep, I advise to stop doing it, especially while students are job searching. Potential employers expect a high level of maturity. It is no secret that companies do background checks on social media accounts. Would you hire someone who excessively documents her own exploits?  This is a red flag.
   But, if they must do it, then I advise them to create two accounts: one personal and one professional, making the professional easier to find.
Lesson Two: Law and Ethics
   Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Students need to know what’s right and wrong when publishing and sharing cellphone photos.
   The first lesson I teach them in class is about the NPPA Code of Ethics. This code should be adhered to, whether the photos are shot with a cellphone or DSLR camera.
   Consider No. 5: ‘While photographing subjects do not intentionally contribute to, alter, or seek to alter or influence events.’ To me, that means no filters. Keep the image real.
   Also think about the ease of being sneaky with a cellphone, meaning that if a DSLR camera is not allowed (private funeral of slain victim, for example), then neither is a cellphone camera. It is not right, in most cases, to slyly record or photograph a subject when they are not aware.
   And lastly, you have the right to photograph police or authority figures in a public place with your cell. If they take away your device despite you following all of the rules (staying behind the police tape), they you probably have a case for a law suit.
Lesson Three: Available tools
   A smartphone camera has lots of options. So, let’s go over a few:
·      Get to know your shooting and editing tools, like flash, color correction, cropping and toning. But that's as far as it should go. No fancy stuff. Again, keep it real.
- Sometimes it’s not enough to simply point and shoot, especially if you’re publishing straight to a blog or social media site. Set your parameters first (color temperature, for example) to make your post-production work easier.
·      Download still and video editing apps, like Snapseed and Videolicious. Editing and producing your still photos and videos will make you more valuable (and hirable) in the field. Learn to use these apps, and then add this skill to your resume!
       ·      Taking a photo is part one, and writing the caption is part two. Captions are the journalism in photojournalism. So, figure out how to quickly write or transfer an AP style caption for every photo you post on Instagram, Twitter, blog, email to editor, etc. Also include your byline!
     ·      And don’t forget about #hashtags when posting to Instagram or Twitter. These can help your photos, or hurt them. Hashtags need to be smart and concise. They shouldn’t be overdone, like the Jimmy Fallon comedy skit #funny #thatisnothowyoudoit #photojournalism #cellphonelessons #oncellphones
   There are probably many more lessons and tips to share, and I'm sure I've left other important stuff out, but these are good starting points.