Tips for your photo assignment

First, READ the Photo 1 assignment carefully.

Second, read the Soundslides 1 assignment.

Think about the fact that these photos are intended for inclusion in your Soundslides. The audio on that slideshow will be one person, who will be interviewed by you. There will be NO narration.

There won’t be a lot of variety in your photos if all are shot at one location. Don’t your people go anywhere else? Remember the Soundslides about the Vietnam vet with PSD? Great interview. Boring pictures — because they were all from inside his apartment!

Review the slideshows about the rodeo lessons and the human cannonball couple. Remember why you liked these? Why were they interesting? What makes one better than the other?

Cropping and toning — if a photo does not need it, don’t do it. Most photos will look better if the levels are adjusted — a little bit.

All photos MUST be resized to fit within the dimensions specified in the assignment.

Don’t forget the detail shots — the super-close ones! Hands, mouth, eyes — feet if they are part of the story.

Captions — NOT YET.

But DON’T FORGET to get the full names and contact info (cell, e-mail, IM) for people in your photos!

Audio — you can gather it this week, or wait until next week.

Questions? I have office hours Tuesday from 1 until 5 p.m. And there’s always e-mail!

And … BLOG POSTS: Several of you are doing great! Keep up with your posts!

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Today’s class (Sept. 20)

What we did today:

First, we discussed the Soundslides 1 assignment. Even though the due date is far in the future (Week 10), you have to know what your story is NOW — because your Photo 1 assignment is to shoot the very same photos you will be using in that first Soundslides.

  • Week 5 (today)
  • Week 6: Photo 1 due
  • Week 7: Nothing due (work on photo reshoots and/or audio)
  • Week 8: Blogging 2 due
  • Week 9: Nothing due (work on photo captions and/or audio)
  • Week 10: Soundslides 1 due

As I cautioned in class, it is up to you to budget your time and gather your AUDIO, as well as your photos, for Soundslides 1.

Signing Out the Audio Gear

You might be wondering how to get the audio gear so you can gather your audio. (Hmm … no one asked that in class.) Well, you will be signing out the audio equipment from one of our grad students, Gary Ritzenthaler.

The way to do it: Go to the IML (Interactive Media Lab, 3219 Weimer) during Gary’s OFFICE HOURS (see chart on this page) and sign out the equipment. Gary will handle everything. Pay attention to the return time — everybody has to share the equipment! Do not keep it out late!

DO NOT go to the IML at times other than Gary’s office hours. No one else in the IML is authorized to help you or give you the gear. There are classes held in that lab. If you waltz in at another time, you might be interrupting a professor’s class!

If you have your own recorder, Gary can sign out a microphone and cable to you (without a recorder). MAKE SURE you always use a proper external mic — and WEAR YOUR HEADPHONES.

Kobré Text

We discussed the assigned readings, especially the ethics chapter. I emphasized these points:

  1. NEVER ask anyone to do anything (except for a portrait)
  2. We are NOT doing any portraits, ever, in this class
  3. Using a model: NEVER (except in a photo illustration)
  4. We are NOT doing any photo illustrations, ever, in this class
  5. NEVER move anything, e.g., the Coke bottle

Eisa and Shifen noted that the standards discussed in the Kobré text are not practiced in many other countries. This is very true! Of course, since we are here, we will follow U.S. professional standards for photojournalism.

I also emphasized:

  1. Cropping a photo is okay.
  2. Erasing is not okay.
  3. Dodging and burning is questionable.
  4. Never erase anything.
  5. Never add anything.

We discussed “readers’ favorites” vs. what photo editors consider the “best” photos (MSNBC: Year in Pictures, 2005).

As for the photo editing chapter: You should read and re-read the first part about how photo editors judge and select pictures. These later sections are important for your continued reference:

  • Cropping (pp. 209–11)
  • Sizing (pp. 211–16): Make sure you have read this!!
  • Captions (pp. 220–223): You will need this for your Soundslides!!

The slideshow I showed you to illustrate “the rule of thirds” and other principles of photo composition is in the “Handouts” folder on the L: drive. You can access the L: drive from any computer lab in Weimer (log in with your usual mmc6936a login). You may copy the PowerPoint, but for your own use only. Do not e-mail it or post it online.

Photo Editing in Photoshop

Students practiced being a photo editor by selecting the best three photos from another student’s take from last week. After selecting the three, they then had to edit them for the Web. In Photoshop:

  1. Crop the photo (if necessary)
  2. Adjust the levels (Image menu — Adjustments — Levels) as necessary; don’t overdo it
  3. Change the RESOLUTION to 72 ppi (see the handout); this is for the Web — it would be different if we were printing or publishing in print
  4. Change the width OR height — in PIXELS (also in the handout)
  5. Save for Web (explained in the handout)

Note that it is always important, when preparing photos for the Web, to know the maximum width and the maximum height that are required. Your Photo 1 assignment specifies a maximum width and height. Make sure you use them!

Note: It is not necessary that a photo have the maximum in both dimensions. ONE dimension (either width OR height) will be LESS THAN the maximum for that dimension, while the other will be equal to the maximum.

How a photojournalist works

 It’s always good to look at great examples. You learn a lot by doing so.

Over the course of six weeks, photographer John Stanmeyer traveled through the cities and villages along the Malacca Strait [in Southeast Asia] for National Geographic magazine’s story about high seas piracy in the region.

Read the short Q&A with Stanmeyer.

View his stunning pictures!

Photo and audio on the scene

How would you cover a live news event involving hundreds, or thousands, of people?

Read this brief account by USA Today reporter

Then watch his video.

Reporters have told me that when they sit down to edit this kind of visual story, what they are trying to do is give the viewers a sense of how it felt to be there, on the scene.

Photo composition tips

Have a look at these photo tips — I will talk about these in class (in conjunction with photo editing) on Thursday.

Also, for examples of great pictures, browse the 2007 Best of Photojournalism winners (from the National Press Photographers Association).

Amazing, beautiful photos from Iraq by photojournalist Samantha Appleton. Notice her wonderful composition. (Where to stand, and when to press the button. Plus, shoot a thousand shots.)

Finally, a new selection every week at MSNBC.com: The Week in Pictures (some of the best photo editors in the world select these images, and there is always a wide variety of features and news).

Today’s class, Sept. 13

We started photo work today with a simple in-class exercise. The preliminary work looks good. Next week the students will edit their take from today.

Here is what they were told to do:

  1. Choose one normal activity that each of you can do, individually. (For example: get a bottled drink from a drink machine; wash your hands; read a book.)
  2. Choose ONE location and stay there.
  3. First, student A does the activity, while student B shoots.
  4. Second, student B does the activity, while student A shoots. (Each of you does the SAME activity in the same place.)
  5. Each of you must shoot the following types of shots of the other student:
    • Overall (at least 4)
    • Medium (at least 6)
    • Close-up (at least 6)
    • Detail (super-close: hands, feet, wherever the action is — at least 4)
    • Total = at least 20 photos!!!! You can have more!
  6. DO NOT tell your subject what to do. The subject simply repeats the activity until the photographer says s/he is finished.
  7. Try to get VARIETY in each type of shot. Remember: low or high angle. Unusual angle.

Your goal is to get comfortable shooting a person a whole lot, and try to make the shots look good.

The student who is the subject should try to ignore the photographer as much as possible. Do not talk to the photographer. Just perform the activity repeatedly until you are told to stop.

This is not journalism. This is fake.

Students’ blogs

As students send me their blog URLs for the class, I am posting them in my blogroll (at right).

The first blogging assignment is due by 9 a.m. today.

Class meeting, Sept. 6

Today’s class was about blogging and related social technologies, including del.icio.us and RSS readers.

We discussed comments (on blogs and on stories), linking, and SEO techniques.

Finally, we went to WordPress.com, and everyone in the class started a new blog. This is a requirement for the course, and each student’s blog will be graded three times in the semester.

The students’ Audio 1 assignment was due this morning at 9 a.m. I’m delighted to note that everyone made the deadline!

Class meeting, Aug. 30

Here’s what we did:

12:50 Discuss the three Soundslides assigned, focus on audio

1:20 Explain audio gear and gathering

1:40 Send them out to do interview (30 min.)

2:10 How to open file in Audition (convert WMA to WAV); using their own USB drive instead of network drive; importance of SAVING the audio file securely before returning the recorder

2:35 Collect recorders and mics; BREAK

2:50 How to edit in Audacity

3:10 Time for them to edit

3:40 What’s due next week — look at online syllabus (Audio 1)

3:50 End

First class meeting, Aug. 23

Here’s an outline of what we did:

12:50 McAdams introduction; syllabus and gear list; sign up for lab logins (sheet 1); supply alternate e-mail address, nickname (sheet 2)

1:15 Discuss gear handout

1:30 Show four Soundslides examples (linked on the syllabus)

1:45 Break into groups of three; discuss and list good and bad points of each of the four examples

2:00 Discuss as whole class: Why was x “good” and y “bad”?

2:30 BREAK

2:45 Story exercise: I told this story as a four-point outline:

  1. A man goes into the rain forest of northwestern Brazil to live with the Pirahã, a primitive tribal group (pronounced pee-da-HAN)
  2. That was in 1977. He stayed for 7 years, until 1984.
  3. He came back 15 years later, in 1999.
  4. He now lives there for half the year, living in the U.S. the rest of the time. He has lived among the Pirahã on and off for 30 years.

Asked students: What questions are unanswered? Goal: Make them think about questions and CURIOSITY (traits of a good reporter; requirements for a good story)

3:10 Break into groups of two; create a list of digital assets you would need to gather to tell this story; decide whom you would you need to interview; what would make good video, good audio; other assets?

3:30 Discuss as whole class

3:50 End