Portfolios due 4/23

Class on April 23 will be dedicated to submitting your portfolio. Your final shooing assignment, Events/Visual Narratives, is due on the website by 5:30, before class, as usual.

Your Portfolios will be due by the end of the class period at 8:15 so you can get feedback from me and your classmates before your final submission on the website.

Portfolio requirements

  • Submit your ten (10) best single photographs that best represent what you’ve learned this semester.
  • Submit your photos in a SINGLE post. Post them inline by choosing the “individual image” option, NOT various galleries (tiled mosaic, thumbnail grid, slideshow, etc!!!)
  • Each photo must be accompanied by a full AP Style caption!
  • Don’t forget to put your full name in the title of the post.
  • Select images from assignments 3-7 (no mugshots or depth-of-field pics, please). You may also include any photos from assignments you’ve chosen to reshoot, or photos that you’ve shot for extra credit that demonstrate your understanding of the class material

Portfolio grading criteria

Your portfolio grade will count towards 20% of your final grade.

The following will be considered for each individual image:

  • Technical competence: Focus, image sharpness, correct exposure, correct color balance. This is basic. Is your picture even publishable by minimum professional standards?
  • Graphic appeal: Light, composition, perspective. Did you carefully craft your photograph? Did you build a visual “stage” to help tell your story, or did you just “snap” a picture?
  • Emotional appeal: Storytelling moments, expressions, gestures, body language, mood, atmosphere. This is where we set the bar! Did you try to help us connect with your subjects and tell their stories, or did you just shoot simple “doing” pictures?
  • Intimacy: Did you gain access that the typical person doesn’t have? Did you generate trust with your subject, maybe go behind the scenes? Or did you just shoot what everybody else could shoot with their phones? Effort to go beyond the obvious and expected will be noted.
  • AP Style captions!!! This is a necessary professional standard. Re-read the handout and make sure you have all the necessary information. Without captions, it’s just photography, not photojournalism.

Beyond the above criteria, I will also consider how well you demonstrate your understanding of the class material, as well as improvement, progress and effort.

Editing your portfolio.

Don’t wait until April 23! I suggest you start assembling your work from the semester in one place, such as a folder labeled “portfolio” on the jump drive or external hard drive you’ve used for this class. Do this NOW!

Each assignment required multiple photographs for credit, so you should have plenty of material. You won’t have to include every photo you’ve shot: ten individual shots – no more, no less.

Only submit those photos that represent your very best work. Your portfolio will only be as strong as your weakest photo, so be selective. Don’t simply re-submit pictures from your previous assignments if they were lacking. Crop them if they needed to be cropped. Make sure they are correctly toned. And re-write your caption in AP Style if your initial caption was insufficient.

Use some of the tools (handouts) that I’ve given you this semester to help you with the selection process and to help prepare your images for final submission:

Use the class period to get some feedback about which pictures to include. I am happy to fulfill that role – let me be your editor!

However, I encourage you to get feedback from your fellow students, as well. In fact, do that first before you call me over.

Put a little effort into your portfolio presentation. This is your last chance to make an impression.


Class follow-up (4/9) – Covering the news

I tried to squeeze in just a little too much during class, so make sure you review the presentation, especially the part at the end covering your shooting assignment. Here’s the link:

Presentation: Covering the news

Here is the accompanying handout. You’ll need this to study for your final exam. There is some additional material, so you might want to read over it before tackling your shooting assignment, as well:

Covering the News

Let me know if you have any questions. Your shooting assignment will follow soon …

Assignment 5: Interaction

Capturing storytelling moments is at the very heart of photojournalism. Moments are what allow photographs to tell stories and connect with audiences. Timing and anticipation are perhaps the most important skills for a photojournalist to develop. This is your chance to start practicing!

The best way to develop these skills is to start noticing the kinds of brief, fleeting visual and cultural cues people display when interacting with their environments and with each other, understanding what they mean, then trying to capture those moments with your camera. You must become a student of observation even before you lift the camera to your eye.

Due on the website no later than 5:30 p.m. on Monday, April 2!

The Assignment:

Turn in THREE pictures showing:

  1. One subject interacting with his or her environment
  2. Two people interacting with one another
  3. Three or more people interacting with one another 

Concentrate on capturing visual cues: facial expressions, gestures, body language, and actions.

All photos MUST be candid. No interference or coaching!

Each photo must be accompanied by a full AP Style caption. Review the post or download the handout on AP Captions so you understand the information you need to gather from your subjects as well as the proper form for presentation. All of the subjects in your photographs must be identified!

Practice using the Mantra I introduced in class …

  1. Create a focal point
  2. Control your background
  3. Fill the frame
  4. Wait for the moment!

Your grade will take into account 1) technical quality (focus, exposure, etc.), 2) Graphic Appeal (composition, use of light), 3) Emotional Appeal (visual cues/storytelling moments), and 4) AP Style captions.

#3 will be weighed most heavily, so make sure you keep shooting until you’ve captured some moments.

Again, your three selections are due on the website no later than 5:30 p.m., Monday, April 2.


Interaction Assignment TIPS 

Content counts! Make an assignment for yourself, rather than simply shooting pictures of random people or friends just to complete each category. Read the handout Forget Good! Make your photos interesting!  There are plenty of events and happenings going on. Think about an issue or activity of interest to you! Then try to make photographs that help us connect to the people in those activities or events.

MOVE! Remember, photography is not a static activity! You need to move around until you create a focal point in your frame. And you might have to move more to control your background and fill the frame. At a certain point, you might find the best place to be. THEN it’s okay to park yourself there and wait for the moment.

Be a witness, but put your subjects at ease. Be as unobtrusive as possible, but you shouldn’t try to ambush your subjects like a paparazzo. You’re not a spy or a voyeur. You’re a witness. Your goal is to capture REAL, honest interaction. Telephoto lenses help with this, but it’s not an option if you don’t have one. It might not even be the best perspective. When you approach subjects, try to exude an aura of trust. Your own body language and manner can make a difference.

You will have to interact with your subjects in order to get enough information for your captions. It is often best to begin shooting and gather information later. If they notice you and are distracted, try to keep shooting until they begin to ignore you and go back to their activities. It’s okay to explain what you are doing to your subjects and the people they interact with. Once you explain, simply ask them to ignore you as best they can. You can usually tell when subjects are playing to the camera. Don’t use these shots, however! Keep shooting until you feel like you are capturing honest moments.

You should be making arrangements to photograph subjects ahead of time so you can be where your subjects are when they are doing something of interest. Just make sure they are not doing something solely for the benefit of you and your camera.

Patience and persistence. These are the most important attributes to have, if you want to capture storytelling moments. It takes time to put your subjects at ease. It takes time to understand what’s going on in front of you. It takes time to figure out what story you’re trying to tell with your photographs. It takes time to put yourself in the right position to tell that story.

Often, it helps to shoot a lot of pictures, even if you don’t intend to use them. This is how you visually explore your subjects. Even if you think you’ve got a good shot, keep shooting! You might get something better. The best way to learn is to actually shoot pictures – a LOT of them!

Also, the assignment requires exactly three specific scenarios, but I encourage you to shoot more than three. For example, you might photograph someone teaching a class or making a speech, but over the course of the next two weeks, you might run across a better scenario which better illustrates a person interacting with his or her environment. Don’t settle for the minimum! Always see if you can shoot better pictures than the last ones you shot. The more you shoot, the better you’ll get.

Gather enough information for your captions. The assignment is to help you develop a sense of timing, but you still must be able to explain the nature of the interactions you capture. What are people doing? What are they talking about? Why might the audience care and how can you help them connect to and understand your subjects?

For example, student life is a common topic on a college campus. Your pictures may reflect some aspect of this, but you need to explain WHAT aspect. What are they participating in that facilitates their interaction?

You may have captured a great moment, but you need to explain – briefly – what the story is behind that moment in your caption. Make sure you talk to your subjects enough so you can explain the context of the moments you capture.

Don’t forget the WHY part of your caption!

Class (3/26) follow-up: “Interesting” photo assignments, Timing/Moments

Okay. Here are the follow up materials from class …

Now we start fully practicing TLC. Use your knowledge of light and composition to build a stage for capturing storytelling moments. Timing is everything! This is central to photojournalism. Start reciting this little mantra every time you lift the camera to your eye, from now on:

  1. Create a focal point
  2. Control your background
  3. Fill the frame
  4. Wait for the moment

Look over this presentation to review these steps:

Presentation: Timing & Moments

Photojournalist 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!

Content counts! Remember – photographs, in the context of news, are content, not decorations for text. Photojournalists are reporters, not illustrators. See if you can go beyond the immediate and superficial. This is the handout about how to generate and execute “interesting” photo assignments, as opposed to the type of purely informational “doing” shots that are frequently produced:

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

Learn the value of enterprise journalism! Trust me, employers are looking for idea people, not those who simply wait for assignments to be handed to them.

Here is the presentation from class. We jumped around a little bit. It includes our examination of creating interesting photo assignments and capturing storytelling moments. It might help to scan the visuals that supported the discussion. It also includes some examples that might help guide you with your shooting assignment.

Presentation: Interesting assignments, Timing/capturing moments

Contact me if you have any questions.

Materials from Ethics lesson (2/19)

Here is a bullet-pointed synopsis of John Long’s video, along with some updated thoughts and suggestions:

Ethics in the Age of Digital Photography Study Guide

Also, please read and download the material about issues of “taste” in photographing and publishing potentially controversial photographs depicting death and tragedy:

Lessons in Humanity: The Ethics of Taste in Photojournalism

And lastly, as always, here is the PDF version of the presentation:

Photojournalism Ethics Presentation

NOTE: For those who missed class, make sure you scroll through the presentation and read my presenter’s notes. The associated videos are below.

These are important issues. Like I said in class, your generation will determine how photographs remain credible testimonies in the context of news. Know the issues and think about how to solve some of the problems we experience with credibility in visual journalism.

Expect to see some additional articles posted on the FB group to help you expand your understanding. Hopefully, we can generate further discussion about this.

As always, contact me if you have any questions.

Videos from presentation:

Photoshop CS5 Tutorial Content Aware Fill


Because of copyright restrictions, I cannot post James Nachtwey’s excerpt from “War Photographer.” But here is a link to the video posted on my Google Drive account:

Nachtwey’s Mission (Excerpt from “War Photographer”)


Assignment 2: Part 1 – the Mug Shot

DUE: Next Monday (2/12) in class


The head shot – or mug shot, as it is commonly referred to in the newsroom – is the most rudimentary type of photograph used in the news business. It is often used to identify a subject and/or to add a small graphic element to a story. As photo staffs are shrinking in newsrooms, every journalist should know how to shoot a competent mug shot. Shy? This will help you get over it. As journalists, we constantly have to approach strangers and talk to them. Here’s your chance to practice.

Also, continue to practice shooting in manual mode with back-button focus. Remember, you are in control!

Assignment criteria for credit:

Shoot mug shots of FIVE different people and gather their basic personal information. No more than 3 out of the 5 mugs can be students. For each person photographed, you should get the following information:

  • Any title or designation, including the institution (institution first THEN title, no separator)
  • Name (First and last name)
  • Age (separated by commas, after name)
  • Hometown (full-time residence, town/city, state)
  • Contact info (phone # and/or email address), wrapped in double asterisks

Example:  Georgia Southern University biology professor Jim Smith, 54, of Brooklet, Ga. **(jsmith@georgiasouthern.edu)**

Why the contact info? It’s good journalistic practice. If you have contact info for the people you photograph, writers or designers can contact your subjects for quotes or to verify facts. Do we always do it? No. But it’s a good habit to get into, especially when you are starting out. It’s always better to have more information than you can use, rather than not enough. Explain to your subjects that their contact information will not be published!

Also, as a student, teacher, and practicing journalist, I have known people to occasionally make up information for their own convenience. This is a major breach of ethics. Accuracy must be journalists’ continuing bond with their audience. There’s a chance I may randomly contact subjects to verify their information.

Next week, bring to class:

  • Your memory card, containing the pictures you shot
  • Your card reader (recommended)
  • Your storage device (your USB 3.0 jump drive or an external hard drive)
  • Your caption info/IDs. See below!!!

RECOMMENDATION! Type your IDs and save them in a text or Word document on your storage device before class. You will save time by copying and pasting them into your image files, rather than typing them all out during class.

You will receive 100 points for completing the assignment – on time.



Watch your background

Try to find a clean, non-distracting background, but don’t stand your subject up against it! Get some separation between the subject and the background. Watch out for “hot spots,” or areas of extreme brightness in your background. The light in the background shouldn’t be brighter than your subject’s face, if you can help it. Have your subject pivot and/or move your position until you have a clean background, if necessary. Wide apertures (small aperture values) are usually best to utilize a shallow depth-of-field and make your subjects stand out from the background.

Fill the Frame!

Shoot VERTICAL, as the head has a vertical orientation. Don’t shoot a picture with a tiny head centered in the frame. However, try to leave enough space above and below the head so your frame can be cropped into a square without cutting any of the head off. This is important because head shots are often cropped in different ways. They tend to be vertical in print, but square seems to be most common in web templates.







Stand back and zoom in

It’s better to shoot mug shots with lenses in the short telephoto range. If you shoot in the wide angle range and are too close, facial features will begin to distort. With some camera and lens combinations, longer focal lengths can also help clean up your background by dropping it out of focus. If you are using a kit lens, either your own or one of the university’s, stick to the longest focal length – 50 or 55mm.

Put your subject at ease.

Many people are uncomfortable being photographed, so it’s up to you to make them comfortable. Tell them to relax and be themselves, and shoot lots of pictures. Often, you’ll find that the more pictures you shoot, the more relaxed your subject becomes.

Wait for the moment

Yes, even mug shots can have moments. Be mindful of facial expressions. Even small changes can infer different meanings to readers. Try to capture different expressions (try not to coach too much), but make sure you have a shot with a neutral expression, because you never know what type of story that picture might be used with in the future. You don’t want to publish a mug shot of a smiling public official after they’ve been indicted for embezzlement or misconduct.

Did I mention, shoot lots of pictures?

Make sure you shoot test frames to check your exposure and camera settings. Tell your subject what your doing.  A couple of test frames might help them relax. Make adjustments if necessary.

Be methodical and don’t proceed until your test frames look acceptable. Once you get your exposure correct, then shoot away!

NOTE:  Be careful about letting your subjects view the results in your camera: some people will never be happy with the results. Those people often see this task as an opportunity for a personal portrait – your job is to capture their likeness for informational purposes – that’s it.

Follow-up on Classes 1 and 2

Here are some handouts to reinforce what we’ve discussed in the first two classes. You should downloads these and read through them. It’s up to you whether or not you want to print them out. These will be your study materials for exams and, hopefully, the handouts will lead to better discussions during class time in the future as we build a base of knowledge.

From class #1: Why are photographs the front porch of the news? How do we cut through the noise of all the photographs we are exposed to every day and create meaningful photographs in the context of news? What are the strengths and weakness of photographs as a medium for communication? What distinguishes professionals from amateurs?

Photographs: The front porch of the news

In class two, we examined the language of photography, it’s power to communicate, and began to create a new vocabulary for discussing photographs with Joe Elbert’s Hierarchy. Here is some follow up. First, here is a link to the actual memo that Joe Elbert shared at a photo editing workshop to help introduce his hierarchy for photo discussions. It’s well worth the time to read what one of the most successful photo editors in the biz has to say:

Joe Elbert’s Memo

Next is an expanded discussion of the Hierarchy.

Joe Elbert’s Hierarchy

Like I said, your mid-term exam and final exam will include this material, but don’t wait to cram. Read through them now! I want you to begin incorporating these concepts into your thought process. When you’re shooting assignments. When your editing assignments. When you’re discussing photos.

You don’t need to download the following document, but if you want to review the presentation and photos we looked at in class, here is a PDF version of the last presentation, including my presenter’s notes:

Presentation: The Power of Photography

Additionally, if you want to review some the videos from the past couple of classes, here they are:




As alway, contact me if you have any questions.