Review the presentation on Composition

Due to many technical difficulties, we really didn’t get to spend enough time discussing composition, so here’s a link to the PDF version of the presentation, with my presenters notes:

Presentation: Composition

Contained within the presentation is another document which will not only help you through your latest shooting assignment, but it can help you through the rest of the semester as you shoot assignments and edit your work:

Photo Checklist

Make sure you download this one, and perhaps print it out. You might want to keep it with you. It could help you remember and get better at thinking your way through shooting assignments.

Make sure you review the presentation, especially the parts about compositional creativity and requirements for your next assignment, so you can see examples before you begin shooting Assignment 3: Places and Faces. Like I said, you might want to keep your Photo Checklist with you and start looking for elements, out in the real world, that you could incorporate into your photographic composition.


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.

Dave LaBelle: On Storytelling

We watched this video in class, but I wanted to post it in case you wanted to watch it again.

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.


I’m including a BONUS video! 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 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 …


Make an investment in your subject. Every picture (in a story) is like a word in a sentence. And never forget this: The secret to great storytelling is to get out of the way!


Captions Matter

I’m repeating it again: for your Features assignment (and ALL your shooting assignments, for that matter), make sure you gather enough information for complete AP Style captions to accompany your photos. It’s mandatory!

Over on Mark Johnson’s Visual Journalism blog, he explains the importance of captions: Captions Matter

Without captions, it’s just photography, not photojournalism.

The linked article specifically addresses making photographs of people who are grieving, which is one of the hardest tasks for a photojournalist. But the sentiments expressed really apply to any situation. Never assume people won’t talk to you, even in the most traumatic circumstances.

Mark chose one quote to feature. I choose another, by Kenny Irby of the Poynter Institute:

“Irby says there are two benefits when photographers introduce themselves and interact with their subjects. One is that they can obtain accurate caption information — which ultimately adds more meaning, value and credibility to the photo for the reader. The other is that it can make the experience of being photographed more rewarding for the subject — even in a moment of extreme grief.”

When you express interest in another person, he or she is less likely to feel violated or spied-upon. We are not voyeurs or paparazzi.

There are many reasons that complete captions accompanying your photographs are a basic professional standard. It’s not an arbitrary formality.

One of the greatest qualities of photography is the ability to help viewers connect with the subjects depicted in photographs. And if that is your goal, it’s difficult to achieve if you – the photographer – do not connect with your subjects. And simply talking to them and recording their information is one of the easiest ways to do this.

Be a journalist, no matter what medium you choose to communicate with!


Video: Learning about the process …

Photojournalism isn’t about mindlessly snapping pictures and haphazardly throwing together a group of them for display. There is a process – a distinct and professional approach – and this course is chiefly about learning about and understanding that process.

If you want to see photojournalism practiced at it’s very best, it still doesn’t get any better than National Geographic.  Watch this video if you want to see how the process ideally works: The Sense Of Sight.

The video is 20 years old. The tools have changed, but the process is the same. Photographers, editors, and designers all play a part in producing meaningful content. We will touch on the teamwork aspect during the course, but pay particularly close attention to what the photographer, Joe McNally, has to say about his approach to shooting a story. And watch how he goes about doing his job.

McNally has an excellent blog and posted some thoughts about the video, which documented his first assignment with The Geographic. Check it out here: Starting Off, Looking Back