Cooper City H.S.
Cooper City, FLA.
A photo can tell several stories, depending on how it is cropped. Leaving this photo full-frame shows the three runners who are leading the pack of bunched-up runners farther back. However, by eliminating some of the pack of runners on the right side of the print, the editor can shift attention and feature the intense competition among the lead runners. An editor needs to be careful when cropping a photo merely to fit a horizontal spot on the layout. The tragic amputation of feet, in the case of this photo, would end any chance these athletes might have had for effective contribution to the spread.
During the Great Depression, Roy Stryker from Columbia University was appointed to lead a team of photographers in documenting the hardships of those times. One day, during a discussion about the effects of photographs, Stryker thought a photo of eroded soil would show what water could do to land. One of the photographers, Ben Shahn, replied: “You’re not going to move anybody with this eroded soil – but the effect this eroded soil has on a kid who looks starved, this is going to move people.” Shahn’s comment is the essence of documentary photography, the art of telling a story through photography, which should be taught among the fundamental principles of good yearbook photojournalism. Here are five ideas for understanding and applying documentary photography.
1. Think of your camera as a writing tool. As a photographer, think of yourself as a reporter first. With your camera, you use light instead of pen and paper to tell stories and inform people.
2. Plan ahead to get information. A photographer must understand the situation. Conduct interviews, watch and listen – do not just point the camera and shoot. Interviewing opens up stories you might not find otherwise. On the high school level, you might find out that your 70-year-old counselor plans to ride her bike on a cross-state bike ride; or the award-winning history teacher has a 20-year-old son with disabilities who needs constant care.
3. Tell the truth. Do not set up shots. Your photos must be believed to carry any weight. If you missed the shot you wanted in the art class, return the next day or shoot another class hour or go to a different class. Once you cross the line of faking photos, your credibility will vanish.
4. Look for storytelling images. Find the point where the essence of the story is being told; that is the establishing shot. Look for it. Explore with your camera and look for interaction shots between people in the story. There may be a point where a close-up, detail shot would help tell the story. Hands at work often make a good detail shot.
5. Portraits help tell the story. Look for parallel action going on in your viewfinder. Also, part of the story may make an ending shot. It is not the last shot you take, but seems to sum up the main ideas or emotions of the story.
Even if you are only getting one good shot for a yearbook spread, by shooting in this in depth fashion, you enhance your chances for success. Think of it this way: a reporter needing good quotes will spend an hour interviewing rather than five minutes. Do not be a five-minute photographer. As Cliff Edom, who coined the term photojournalist, used to tell his students at the University of Missouri, “Be a reporter with a camera.”
Choosing the right photos
Written by Idea File Staff
You need to consider many aspects of photography when selecting the right images for what ever you are taking the photos for. It’s about more than whether a photo is simply in focus.
Use the following suggestions when deciding on the images that can make your project better.
- Pick a dominant image that shows intense emotion or action, and draws the viewer into the mages
- Avoid photos that simply contain people “mugging” for the camera. Candid images will bring more of a storytelling quality to most projects.
- Go for a variety of content.
- Try to get a mix of horizontal and vertical images, as well as a mix of wide, close-up and mid-range shots.
Expanding the classroom walls.
As a teacher of photography and journalism, and a publications adviser, I was always looking for ways to make my classroom bigger, more up-to-date and more interesting. Computers certainly helped, especially when photo CDs became available that could reinforce my lessons.
While advisers now have the world at their fingertips, you can waste a lot of time surfing the internet looking for educational sites. Many of you have found the links on Walsworth’s website helpful. Let me add some websites devoted to photojournalism that can help advance your curriculum and publications.
First, all of these sites I’m sharing have examples of excellent photos. Just looking at these photos will help students see possibilities in their camera craft, but also provide a wealth of resources for discussions on all aspects of photojournalism.
However, these sites provide much more than a photo gallery.
For example, the College Photographer of the Year(cpoy.org) website, sponsored by the University of Missouri School of Journalism, has added a podcast that allows viewers to see the final rounds of judging and hear the judges’ comments as they narrow the field.
Rita Reed, director of CPOY and associate professor of photojournalism, is excited about this new addition to the website.
“These are leading experts in the field talking about photographs,” Reed said. “There is a real educational benefit. You get some great discussions of handling color and the differences of telling a story in color. There were good ethics discussions and composition, all the classic things we talk about in class. This is good for students to hear.”
More than 500 students from nearly 100 colleges and universities entered more than 20,000 images in the annual contest. University of Missouri students have always been able to sit in on the judging, but now students from all over the world can share the experience, although the podcasts are delayed about an hour.
Reed sees how the website with podcasts could greatly benefit high school students.
“They could learn how to talk like a photographer, learn the vocabulary, the terms used to explain why a photo is good. If they have to be an advocate for their own work, they will know how,” Reed said.
Another helpful site is sharpestpixel.com by Tim Janicke, editor of The Kansas City Star Magazine and photojournalism teacher at the University of Kansas.
This site shares the culmination of a week-long spring break photo project from KU students. As Janicke explained, the project is basically free to KU students, but can also be taken for credit.
For the past two years, the William Allen White School of Journalism at KU has teamed with newspapers in Ottawa and Emporia, Kan., to sponsor the project. Students are required to find a story, take the pictures, write a story and create a multimedia production- in one week.
“All of these students have done daily assignments,” Janicke said. “Not many have done work in-depth. After this week, they know they can go back and do more in-depth work. The experience shows them the potential if they put in the time and effort.”
Besides the website, students’ work is printed in the partner newspaper over a period of months.
Sharpestpixel.com allows you to see high-quality photo work coupled with the stories and captions. Advisers should be requiring writing skills of their photographers, and this site provides examples to critique.
Another nice area in this site is the multimedia component. Janicke said his students need the experience of creating multimedia to get jobs. He said every student hired recently has had a multimedia requirement to their job.
The Missouri Photo Workshop (mophotoworkshop.org) is starting its 62nd year of professional photographers descending on a Missouri town for a week of finding and shooting documentary photo stories.
Both the MPW website and the Pictures of the Year International website (poyi.org) are extensions of the educational process at the University of Missouri, according to David Rees, chair, Photojournalism sequence.
What is great about the websites is their reach, Reese said. “We are able to extend what makes a good picture to a larger community.”
POYi is one of the largest photojournalism competitions in the world and is in its 64th year.
“Websites can be an inspirational tool,” Reese says. “They can be used in the classroom, but some of the best students consider it just a part of their research. It challenges them to be better.”
The Missouri Photo Workshop is driven by the concepts of documentary photojournalism. The approach taps into the power of narrative, visual story-telling and has world-wide appeal, Reese said.
“We get responses from the four corners of the earth. Some of those responding end up coming to the workshop in a few years.”
What I like about the POYi website is the vast number of inspiring images in dozens of categories, such as portraits, sports and storytelling. Trying to teach students to go in depth when covering events or issues becomes somewhat easier when they can study some of the best photo stories in the world in categories such as Community Awareness Award or World Understanding Award.
The MPW website also has wonderful stories from small town America for students to study. They can learn to understand concepts such as establishing shot, interaction, environmental portrait, pairs and ending shot. They can also see the value of writing their own captions.
One of the things I like about this website is the link to the Rangefinder, the daily publication that the workshop creates during the week. It has wonderful, insightful comments by the professional faculty. The quotes on picture editing were educational, but the one that caught my eye and fits in with this Photo Quest is this:
“Looking at pictures by other people, especially earlier people, feeds your spirit and it feeds your vision.”
It taps into why I always wanted my students to study the great photographers who came before them.
Finally, I would recommend the websites by Canon and Nikon (usa.canon.com and nikonusa.com) to learn more about digital equipment. You may want to bookmark the websites of other commercial companies, but that comes down to personal preference.