Forget Good. Make your photos interesting!

Photographs aren’t simply pretty decorations that break up blocks of text on a page, printed or digital. Photography is an important medium for helping our audience understand and appreciate the world around them. Content matters!

The first half of the semester has been primarily dedicated to learning control: controlling how your images look by understanding your gear, learning basic composition, and recognizing the various properties of light. The second half of this semester will be dedicated to exploring the types of photographic assignments that are typical in the news business.

Gear, composition, and light are all tools to help you tell stories through your photographs. Now we concentrate on the storytelling part!

This material won’t be on your midterm exam, but you need to view this handout if you want to be successful in this class for the rest of the semester. It expands on our class presentation/discussion about generating photo assignments:

Forget Good. Make your photos interesting –Generating and executing newsworthy photo assignments

National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson said,

“If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff!”

He was trying to be funny and flippant, but he speaks the absolute truth!

How we approach photo assignments, in the context of reporting the news, can make a  difference in whether or not the news media plays a vital role in sustaining Democracy and self-rule. We need to start making photographs that cut through the Imagesphere.

If you want to be successful in the communications business, you have to be a producer of content, not someone who waits around for assignments before beginning to work.

I will start noting who is producing pictures in their typical daily interactions just to complete assignments at the last minute, and who might be actually exploring people and issues and events that might be of interest to the general public. Obviously, we should be doing the latter.

Photojournalism is about enlightening others about people, events and issues in our communities – wherever we are. If you don’t care about your community, neither will your audience. The content of your photographs, and the effort to produce something actually newsworthy will reflect in the grades of your assignments – from here, on out.

So you need to understand the standards of “newsworthiness” in visual journalism. I’ve expressed these standards – in two simple questions – while discussing ethics and in the context of generating newsworthy photographic assignmentsLearn them! Know them, and apply those standards when you are shooting your assignments and when you are selecting images for publication on the class website.

Again, simple, informational pictures of people doing “stuff” are not sufficient. Start learning how to produce pictures that enlighten and educate and connect with your audience – ya know, the public!. Review these discussions about how to evaluate photographs, and incorporate them into your shooting practice.

Like I said, you need to move beyond shooting pictures of your everyday experience – whether that’s pictures of relatives, or friends, or roommates. It’s time to start visually exploring your community – again, that means events, issues, or people. You not only have to visually verify these things, but place them in their proper context with AP Style captions.

So keep this in mind the rest of them semester.

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