Food for the table and food for the soul

This is especially for you seniors, but it’s never too early to be thinking about these things for you juniors, too. Consider these things as you head out into the world!

I ran across this interview in burn. magazine a few years back, and I believe it’s still relevant as many of you are getting ready to embark on lives and careers.

The interview is a conversation between two of the best photographers in the business: David Alan Harvey and Joe McNally. The two reminisce a bit, so you can get an idea of what the journalism biz was like “back in the day.” Some of the conversation is photo-geek talk, but a lot of it is applicable to just about every occupation in the communications field.

Much of what they say still holds true and you would be wise to listen. These guys have made it. Take a few minutes to learn how and why:

Conversation with Joe McNally

Here are some of the highlighted themes, with a few thoughts of my own:

You gotta pay your dues. Quick fame and fortune come to very, very few, no matter how talented. Professionals like Harvey and McNally have reached a point in their careers where they don’t have to beg for work –  people come to them for their services because they have worked hard to build reputations. They still have to do some marketing to get work, but they are highly sought out for their unique styles and professionalism. But it takes years to establish that kind of reputation in almost any field of work.

Even with a Masters degree, McNally started out being a newsroom copy boy, and then moved “up” to developing film and making prints for other photographers. He did that for three years and got fired! But he didn’t give up. Don’t look at doing grunt work and paying your dues as humiliating. It’s a necessary process for building both knowledge and character.

Be ready for surprising opportunities. After a couple of years making ends meet with freelance work, McNally’s next full time job was as a still photographer – for ABC television! It was an unexpected opportunity for a still photographer and McNally used the experience to learn lighting skills that he is now sought out for as a still photographer.

For years, many economic experts were discouraging college students from majoring in Liberal Arts fields. If you want a job, STEM was the only way to go. No more! The tech industry is realizing that folks who can write code, or manage budgets, or know manufacturing processes aren’t very good at designing app user interfaces. Or writing instruction manuals. Or doing PR or marketing. Technology companies are looking for creative thinkers and competent communicators who can connect with customers. You actually might have a leg-up on those with STEM degrees. Don’t believe me? Read this:

As Tech Companies Hire More Liberal Arts Majors, More Students Are Choosing STEM Degrees

The opportunities for traditional news media staff jobs are constantly shrinking. But new opportunities are opening up all the time. These days, you can work as a photojournalist for a radio network. Or as a video producer for a newspaper. Or you can write news stories for non-profit organizations who want to get the word out about their projects and campaigns. In today’s multimedia world, your opportunity can come from almost anywhere, so be thorough and creative in your job searches.

Learn from the best. McNally drops some serious names in this interview: Gordon Parks, Eddie Adams, Carl Mydans, Alfred Eisenstadt. He got to meet and learn from some of the giants in his business and looked at them as mentors.

Don’t wait for job interviews. Seek out people whose work you admire. Introduce them to yourselves and show them examples of your work. Pick their brains. Understand their motivations. Emulate their professionalism. Finding mentors can be one of the most important things anyone can do for their careers.

Be broad-based and develop lots of skills. You have to. It’s a multimedia world. It’s your future. You might be better at some things – or one thing – than at others, but you still need a broad range of skills and knowledge in today’s world. Communication is more important than ever, and you need to learn how to use every communication tool at your disposal. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn something new.

Learn to use today’s tools better than the average person. These days, everybody has a camera and can shoot video and stills. But not everyone has a gift for timing and can capture an image – moving or still – at just the right moment in the midst of chaos. And not everyone knows how to compose images or use light in a creative way.  Says McNally:

“Look, light has every quality you associate with the written word or the verbal expression of speech. It can be angry, it can be soft, it can be harsh, slanting. I mean all those things…it has emotion and quality and character. And you have to look for it”.

Regardless of what communication medium you choose, telling stories – stories that matter and resonate with the public – comes from the mind and the heart, not from technology.

Do what you love. And the rest will follow. Yes, you gotta put food on the table and pay your bills, but success usually comes to those who have something unique to share with the world. As McNally says:

“You’ve got to do it, swallow hard, go make yourself some money, keep yourself alive, so then you can feed your soul.”

So go forth, you seniors, and figure out what unique talents and perspectives you have, and share them with the world. Be well and don’t forget to feed your souls.

And, as always, feel free to contact me about anything. Always.

Links to materials for Final Exam

You all would have found these on your own, but here are links to the materials for the final exam:

Materials for the midterm exam on 3/11

Materials and prep for exam on 4/29

Same deal as usual: open notes. Questions will come directly from the two exams, although they may take a different form – a True/False question may become a multiple choice or vice versa. If it wasn’t on the previous exams, it won’t be on the final. Although the material covers the whole semester, it will concentrate on themes and concepts we consistently reinforced.

There will be some extra credit questions, too, to boost your score if necessary.

Materials and prep for exam on 4/29

Here is some study material to help you narrow down your preparation for Monday’s exam. This is an open note exam – same as the midterm exam. Note the links to the handouts and presentations:

Be able to recite the “Photographer’s Mantra!” (You must list ALL four steps for
credit – ALL or nothing!) Review the presentation.

Know the Law (handout)

  • How do we link newsgathering activities to First Amendment rights?
  • What are the 3 traditional public forums and what rights do citizens have to gather information, photographically or otherwise, in those public forums?
  • How can the government legally limit newsgathering activities within a public forum?
  • What CAN’T the government legally do to limit newsgathering activities within a public forum?
  • Know where privacy laws come from: The Constitution? Federal Statutes? State law?
  • FOUR AREAS (civil torts) of PRIVACY LAW every photojournalist should know: KNOW THE CORRECT LEGAL TERMS and the gist of what they mean.
    1. Unreasonable intrusion
    2. Misappropriation
    3. False Light
    4. Disclosure of private facts
  • The right to privacy is not absolute. What are the two exceptions?
  • What does the law say about police ride-alongs? (Wilson v. Lane)
  • Understand how permission and consent affect privacy rights. (ex. Does a property owner need to give consent to enter a rental property, or can a tenant give permission?)


Copyright Law (handout)

  • When does copyright protection become effective?
  • Why should you register your copyrights?
  • How does the Work-made-for-Hire clause affect copyrights?
  • Understand when the doctrine of Fair Use applies to copyright law.
  • Know the difference between attribution of the source and obtaining actual permission when using copyrighted works.
  • Is copyright notice necessary?
  • When are photographs considered to be in the “public domain?”
  • What’s the difference between misappropriation and copyright infringement?


Covering the news: How to approach news assignments visually (handout)

  • Be able to compare and contrast the process of visual newsgathering and gathering information that is subsequently presented as text (whether it’s in print, online, or in a story to be explained by a reporter in a television narrative) – read the quote by former Chicago Tribune staff photographer Alex Garcia.
  • Understand Visual Variety: ensure that you visually explore your subjects and be able to present a variety of perspectives to your audience. Know the four perspectives you must explore:
    1. Long Shots (overalls or scene setters): what can we do to help make sure that long shots aren’t mindless “record “shots?
    2. Medium Shots: What are the strengths of this perspective?
    3. Close-ups
    4. Detail shots
  • Photographing the Human side: What to look for …
    • Drama
    • Reaction
    • The “sidelights”
    • Observe and Anticipate – seeing and understanding visual and social cues will help you get in the right position!
  • Access: How can you offer your audience something visually that they can’t produce themselves?
    • Sell Yourself
    • Get Behind the Scenes
    • Steer Clear of the Pack
    • Come Early, Stay late
  • Get the facts – ultimately, whose responsibility is it to get the necessary information for complete captions?
  • Be able to name the parts of the 3+1 formula which gives basic structure to visual narratives.

Assignment 6: Visual Narratives

DEADLINE: by the end of class (8:15 p.m.) on Monday, April 22

The Assignment:

Select a topic, issue, or subject and create a visual narrative or photo essay. This is not a “survey” assignment where you simply present a variety of photographs of something. Tell me a story with your photographs and make each picture count! Use everything you’ve learned this semester about timing, light and composition. Utilize the concepts of visual variety. Practice the strategies we learned in order to go beyond the immediate and superficial. Put it all together!


Your story should consist of 4-6 pictures. The goal is to find the “right” number of pictures to tell your story. No more, no less. Can you do it in four? Yes, but 5-6 is probably about the right number to adequately tell your story, given the amount of time you have to work on this. However, if you think you really need more than six pictures to tell your story, contact me and we’ll go through your images.

Introduction. Write a short introduction for your story to set the stage before you let your photographs take over the narrative. One paragraph should do it. No more than three short ones. You can embed this in your first image, or you can add a Word or text file to the folder containing your assignment.

Captions. Strict, complete AP Style captions are not required for every image included in this assignment. You should include sufficient information and enough context to compliment your photos and move your narrative forward. Use AP Style first-reference rules, but – as in a written story – you don’t have to repeat full information that’s been previously introduced.

Sequencing. Number your image files (along with an image title) in the order that you want them to be viewed.

Post to your Google Drive folder no later than the end of class on April 22. Class that day will be a work session, where your classmates and I can help you make your final selections and proofread the captions and introduction for your story. Bring all of your images on a jump drive or external hard drive, but please do some preliminary editing. Also, bring your notes so you can complete your captions. Don’t wait until the 22nd to begin making selections, writing your intro, and writing your captions! Do as much work as you can before class that day.



Make the time to build trust with the people who will be your subjects. You don’t have a ton of time before the end of the semester, so perhaps find a person or subject that you have a certain comfort level with and are interested in. Still, shadowing people with a camera can be awkward at first, for both the photographer and the people being photographed. That’s normal. Keep shooting. If you are photographing people being themselves in their environment, you’ll find that the initial awkwardness fades away relatively quickly and you can really get to work.

Visual Variety! Don’t shoot every picture from the same distance and focal length. Mix it up. And don’t forget your photographer’s mantra. It will help your pictures communicate more quickly and cleanly. Technique will only take you so far, however.

Concentrate on good, story-telling moments.  Avoid “doing” pictures in your final story. You might have to shoot a lot of “doing” pictures until you capture a moment, though. Don’t give up on situations until you get one. Pay attention to your own emotions while shooting, and see if you can translate those feelings through your photographs.

Remember 3 + 1. This basic structure will help your pictures become a story instead of a mere collection of images. Remember that your story needs an opening image and a closing image. Keep this in mind while you’re shooting and editing. The body is made up of the pictures in between your opener and closer that develop your narrative. Contained within the body should be your “key” or “signature” shot. Your preceding pictures should build up to your showcase image.

Try out the Life magazine formula. The old Life magazine formula for a photo essay is a good template for building your story and giving it structure. The formula also helps ensure that there is visual variety within the story. You don’t want a series of redundant images.

It is not necessary to include every category in your finished story, but if you try to shoot at least one of each category, you are increasing your chances of having a more dynamic, complete final product.

  1. Introductory or Opener
  2. Medium
  3. Close-up
  4. Portrait
  5. Interaction
  6. Signature
  7. Sequence
  8. Closer or Clincher

Take notes and get quotes while shooting. Incorporate them into your captions to help give your story context and a present a better understanding of your story. Quotes are great, but you can paraphrase your subjects, too, if it helps us better understand the context of their quotes.

Evaluate as you shoot and edit. Your pictures should emphasize the human elements over processes. If your pictures are looking like a “How To” manual, go back and reshoot, if you can.  Ask yourself some of these questions:

  • Are my pictures visually compelling, or do they look like snapshots?
  • Do my pictures present visual variety, or do they all look like they are shot from the same distance and perspective?
  • Do my pictures have graphic appeal? (Light, creative composition)
  • Am I capturing story-telling moments?
  • Are my pictures emotionally appealing?
  • Have I shot any intimate pictures, revealing something private and unique about my subject?

Some moments, if you miss them, they are gone forever, and you can’t re-shoot them. But, more often than not, there are plenty of recurring elements in any story that can be shot over and over until you capture that element in a compelling way. Insist on that kind of excellence.

Selection and sequencing. The pictures in your story don’t have to be in the chronological order you shot them. Keep this in mind while you’re shooting, as well. For example, your “clincher” doesn’t have to be from the last group of photos you shot. But it needs to help give your story some type of closure or leave a lasting impression.

Your story will only be as strong as your weakest photo. You need to learn the difference between your favorite pictures and the pictures that best express the story you are trying to tell.  They are not always the same. Don’t wait until the last minute to begin the selection process. It’s okay to seek opinions about your images during the whole process – either mine or someone else’s. It’s good to have a seasoned eye look at your work, but sometimes it’s a good idea to have someone who is not a journalist look at your work to make sure your images are communicating what you want to communicate. The whole point is to make sure the audience “gets it.”

Enjoy what you’re doing! Part of this assignment is to understand the process of visual story telling and the professional standards by which it is judged. But the act and process of visual story telling should be rewarding. Documenting the human condition, even just a little part of it, helps us to understand ourselves. Hopefully, you’ll take some satisfaction from tackling this project.

As always, feel free to contact me as you work through this.

Review of class on 4/8: Visual Narratives

Reviewing the materials might help you get started on your final shooting assignment for the semester. Make sure you thoroughly read through the assignment itself, though.

Here is the handout that accompanies the lesson on visual narratives. It contains lists for the formulas that we discussed in class. Referring to this will help you through the shooting and editing process:

Visual Narratives: The art of picture stories and photo essays

Here is the PDF version of the presentation on visual narratives. It might help to review the examples of picture stories we looked so you can see how the pictures work with one another, along with the captions, to create a narrative:

Presentation: Visual Narratives

Here is the key video we watched in class. Again, listen carefully as Dave explains how he discovers what he needs to shoot in order to tell someone’s story. Essentially, by talking to your subjects and getting to know them, they will lead you to where the pictures are. And understand the importance of projection. The best journalists, regardless of the medium they work in, learn how to put themselves in another’s shoes in order to tell their stories. And learn the importance of trust. You will never scratch below the surface and be able to move your audience without the trust of your subjects.


We didn’t watch this in class, but here is a follow-up, companion video to the one above. This is a master lesson in how to approach and think your way through shooting a picture story, in great detail. In the first video, Dave tells us about working with a student during a workshop on a story about a woman caring for her 97-year-old father. In this video, we get to hear an actual, unedited conversation between Dave and the student, specifically talking about how to approach the story, the student’s concerns, and Dave’s advice. It’s like being in the huddle with a master coach, and it offers some keen insight into the thought process and problem solving while shooting picture stories. It’s a little longer, but I highly recommend you find a little time to view it. Great advice on shooting and what to look for. Great advice on editing. Just great advice …

Assignment 5: Events

DEADLINE: 5:30 p.m., Monday April 8


Primary objectives

One way a professional visual journalist distinguishes his or her work – from the noise created by billions of images on social media – is by creating visual narratives. Learning how to create and use multiple images to capture the spirit and relevance of a news event is how we start. Start practicing the concepts of visual variety. Develop strategies and learn how reading the visual and social cues around you can lead you to the pictures you need to tell the story.

The Assignment:

Create a three-picture package that captures the spirit of a news event.

There are four different perspectives to practice shooting from. Only three pictures are required (and only three, so make your editing process count!), but each picture must demonstrate a different perspective from among the following.

  • Long Shot
  • Medium Shot
  • Close-up
  • Detail

I will also be looking for evidence that you are trying to implement some of the strategies we discussed in class. (See Tips below and review the handout/presentation)

Each photo must have a FULL AP Style caption embedded in the image file. Even though three pictures are due, approach your caption writing as if your audience might only see one of your photos. So all info about your picture and the event should be included.

Grades will be based on how your three pictures communicate together, as a whole, not on individual pictures. In other words, you will receive ONE grade for this assignment. Make each photo count. You’re package is only as strong as the weakest photo!

NOTE: Don’t use weather as an excuse. Unless an event is outright cancelled, weather can be part of the story!

Your three pictures (again, only three) are due in your Google Drive folder no later than 5:30 p.m. on Monday, April 8.


TIPS for shooting events from our lesson on Covering the News

Understand the story – What’s newsworthy about his event, what’s going on, and why should it matter to my audience? What interpersonal dynamics do you observe? Who are the characters and what are their roles? What is the mood and the energy of the environment? Can you pick up on the visual and social cues presenting themselves to you? If you can answer these questions, you can begin to put yourself in a position to capture key moments before they happen. Observe and anticipate!

Set the scene – Shooting an overall shot can give our audience a sense of scale for the event and how story elements relate to one another. Don’t settle for a boring wide angle shot with no focal point, though. You still have to capture your audience’s attention. Find an unusual or interesting angle. Use creative composition and/or light. Incorporate moments into your composition, if you can.

Shoot symbolic pictures – Details can help tell the story. Composition is extremely important with detail shots. Don’t make mindless “product” shots. Utilize depth-of-field (or lack thereof) and use light effectively.

Watch for the human side – Don’t simply shoot pictures of people “doing stuff.” Emotional appeal is where we set the bar as photojournalists. Capturing emotion and interaction is key. If the event is fun for participants, your pictures should reflect that. If the energy is tense, you pictures should reflect that. Again, photographs can be symbolic. Capture the essence of the event with storytelling moments.

Highlight the sidelights – Look away from the obvious action. Whenever there is an audience or bystanders at an event, their reactions can often tell an important part of the story.

Get behind the scenes – There’s usually a lot that goes into an event that most people don’t see. Try to share some of that with your audience. That might mean having to sell yourself to gain that kind of access. It never hurts to ask.

Steer clear of the pack – Don’t settle for the same shots everyone else is getting. Dare to be different!

Come early, stay late – This is a good way to get behind-the-scenes pictures. Sometimes you can capture moments that are more revealing and instructive when the spotlights are turned off and the TV cameras aren’t rolling. Trust me – I understand the time limitations of college students! If you can’t afford to be there early and late, then choose ONE! Be there early, or stay late. You will reap the benefits.

Get the facts – IDs are a must, but don’t stop there! Don’t forget to gather enough information to help people better understand the context in which your photographs were made. Don’t simply describe the action that’s already obvious in the photo.

Practice visual variety – Explore your subjects! Don’t shoot everything from the same perspective and angle. Explore each scenario you photograph. This will be a major part of your grade!

Covering the news: materials from class on 4/1

I will post the particulars of your “Events” assignment shortly, but for now, please review the content of yesterday’s presentation before you head out to cover an event.

We’ve spent our time developing fundamental basics and practicing them up to this point, but now we’re getting into the nitty-gritty of photojournalism and daily visual news coverage.

First, here is the handout that accompanies yesterday’s presentation. Please take a few moments to read it.  This handout probably articulates some of these concepts a little more thoroughly. It might be helpful to read through the handout to put yourself in the right frame of mind before you shoot your Events assignment:

Covering the news: How to approach news assignments visually

And here is the PDF version of the class presentation (with presenter’s notes, as usual), in case you want to review it. If you were not in class Monday or had to leave early, make sure you view the full presentation so you can see examples of the concepts we explored and better understand the assignment!

Presentation: Covering the News

So, review the lesson, then go forth and cover a news event!

Again, assignment particulars to come …