Setting Up Your Camera

Now that you’ve been playing a bit, let’s dive into the menus on your camera and change a few settings. Since we have different camera models in use, you may need to hunt around for some of these.

(This order is based roughly on what you’d find in the Canon models.)

  • Quality – You want this on the highest JPG quality you can get, which will usually look like smooth piece of pie.
  • Beep – The quickest way to find an amateur is to listen for the beeping camera. Turn it off.
  • Shoot w/o Card – I love Canon, I really do, but their default is for this to be On. Set it to Off. If you leave it on, you can spend a full day making pictures without a memory card and you won’t have a single pixel to show for your efforts.
  • Review Time – Set this to Off. The screen is the biggest power draw on your camera, having an image pop up immediately every time you make one will cut down on your battery life. You can still see your images by hitting the play button.
  • Color Space – You want this on Adobe RGB, not sRGB which is a smaller color gamut. Computer screens and mobile devices work with the smaller sRGB color range but you want to capture as much as you can and convert it later.
  • Date/Time – Make sure you have the right date and time on your camera. Most of them will have the input in military (or 24 hour) time, so 2:00 p.m. will be 14:00.

Look for the formatting routine in your manual. DO NOT DO THIS NOW as you’ll wipe out your images, but after you’ve downloaded your card you’ll want to do this. You do not want to delete images from the card, either through the camera or your computer, that causes all kinds of problems with the file allocation tables the camera creates to index the card.

On the side of your lens, you should find two switches. One of them is to turn the autofocus mechanism off and on – set that to off (or MF, for manual focus). For the first few assignments, I want you manually setting the focus on your camera. Later on, we’ll talk about using autofocus properly.

The second switch is for image stabilization, I’ll recommend you turn that off for now, as well. (If you have a Nikon, it may be tabled as vibration reduction.) We can do a deep dive on what image stabilization is, how it works and when it’s useful. As a general rule of thumb, it’s not super useful for journalism – it’s designed to help cope with camera movement at low shutter speeds but has no effect on subject movement. And since we tend to photograph people who move, it’s not going to help and will put a drain on your battery.

ASSIGNMENT: Nouns and Verbs

So, a bunch of things for you to work on this week …

Let’s start with this New York Times piece by Jessica Bennett on failing. A big chunk of this class is about making mistakes – big ones at first, little ones later on – but then learning from them. You will make hundreds, if not thousands, of mistakes – and that is both okay and fully encouraged.

(Aside: While your reading that Times piece, look at the portraits – what do you think of the work Lauren Lancaster did there?)

Done with that? Okay, let’s watch this short video about Randy Olson, an amazing visual journalist …

Intrigued? Go check out some of his work now, spend a few minutes learning about the work he does with Melissa Farlow and then come back here.

Now, let’s jump back in time. Photojournalism has had a couple of Golden Ages, and one of the most prominent would have to be during the Civil Rights Movement. Charles Moore was one of those who was on the front line and made many of the iconic images you’ve seen in history books and documentaries.

This video, titled, “I Fight With My Camera,” will give you an understanding of why he did what he did.

But not everything is always as it seems … Bill Hudson made another of the iconic images of the time, similar to one of Moore’s images of a German Shepherd attacking a protestor. Hudson’s was turned into a statue, but the story behind it, as told through the Revisionist History podcast, will have you questioning what you believe to be true about images. Put that on your phone and listen while walking to class one day.

So, that was a lot of stuff to get through before getting to your assignment. Your first one, are you a little nervous? Don’t be.

This is an exercise in exercising your fingers, your brain and your eye. The only way to do this wrong is to not do it. You have to get to a point where your fingers just move without you having to think about them. It’s like playing a piano or running hurdles – so much of those are about muscle memory. And the only way you develop that muscle memory is by practicing.

So, here it is – Nouns and Verbs.

Between now and next Wednesday, January 23, you need to shoot at least 400 photos – more is better. Shoot all of these (and all of your assignments this semester) on the manual exposure mode using manual focus. If you go into the auto modes it will show up in your metadata. I strongly recommend that you set your ISO to 400 and just leave it, trying to think in three variables is much harder than two.

The first 200 or so should be nouns – just objects. Trees, fire hydrants, food wrappers – doesn’t matter what it is, this is a chance to practice. Pick a subject and try it at maximum aperture and f/16, at the wide end of your lens and the telephoto end. Shoot with the light at your back and behind the subject. Try to think of as many ways to photograph an object as you can.

Once you’ve got your first 200 frames, move on to verbs – motion, action. This will be tougher as objects in motion don’t wait for you to set your focus and exposure, but so much of what you’ll shoot later in this class will be candid photography.

Here’s a tip for the verbs: Your camera defaults to the single-frame mode, meaning you press the shutter it takes one frame. Look for the continuous mode in the manual and try that. What happens?

Don’t try to shoot these indoors or at night, the low light levels will wreak havoc upon your exposure settings and neither you nor I will get much from this experience. Carve out a little time each day to play.

If you run into any issues or questions, let me know – by email or in person, whatever works for you.

Focusing tip: It’s easier to focus at the telephoto end of your lens than it is at the wide end, so try zooming in, setting the focus, then zooming back out for the composition you want.

Exposure tip: Many of you will try to set your exposure on the display screen of the camera – don’t do that. Set it while looking through the viewfinder. Part of this assignment is learning how to manipulate the controls without looking at them. But the larger issue is if you’re holding the camera so you can see the screen, the lens (and meter) are not looking at your subject – your exposures could end up being way, way off.

You will need to watch the tutorial on Adobe Bridge (below) to learn how to batch process your images – they will need to be renamed and captioned. We will discuss some of this in class next week, but you need to watch the video first.

To submit this assignment, you will need to compress (zip) the folder of images and upload it to ELC by noon on Friday, January 25. You will get some additional instructions on how to resize and compress your images next week. (ELC has a file size limit and this first assignment will massively exceed it – this is a one-time issue for the class, all your other assignments will come through just fine.)

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Send me a message or stop by, I’m here to help you get through all of this.

ASSIGNMENT: Week One Work

First off, welcome to the Photo Cave. It’s a magical place.

Second, you need to spend some time with the syllabus, please make sure that you read through all of it and the policies page so you understand what’s expected of you. It’s possible you’ll be quizzed on it plus it’ll give you a clearer vision of what’s ahead.

You have some other reading, watching and listening to do, as well:

  • Please read your camera manual. Yes, the whole thing – it has great details but not much of a plot. You need to understand everything that’s in there, that camera must disappear in your hands, become an extension of your hands and eyes. (If you don’t have your manual, most manufacturers have PDFs posted online.) Pay close attention to the sections on controls, manual exposure and how to set the three main inputs (ISO, aperture and shutter speed). There may be a quiz on your camera some day, be prepared.
  • This Michael Johnston piece has little to do with photojournalism but much to do with learning to see and make images.
  • You also need to carve out an hour to watch this Amy Herman talk on Visual Intelligence. One of our struggles will be in how we talk about images, how do we develop a visual vocabulary. This will help.

  • Lastly, this podcast interview with Karen Kasmauski is just wonderful. In it, she talks about her start in photojournalism and rising up to working for National Geographic. There’s a segment in there about photographers and their “style” – especially the current shallow-depth-of-field-portraiture-in-the-middle-of-a-place that’s all the rage of late. Listen to how she talks about her work with NGOs, as well – we’ll come back to that later on in the semester. (You should be able to find that podcast on most of the popular platforms, though I do encourage you to listen to it with intent and take notes – you may be asked to read from your notes next week.)

Make sure that you’re checking back in here from time to time as anything that’s posted more than 24 hours before class you’re responsible for.

I’ll be sending out a survey later this week to help me help you, keep an eye out for that.

Good things ahead.

How to Survive JOUR3330

I’m guessing most of you have heard some rumors about this course, I’m guessing some of you have significant concerns about what you’ve signed on for. In class, we discussed some of those, but let me give you some tips on how to survive this class.

As you’ve probably guessed, I take this stuff pretty seriously. I’ve been committed to photojournalism for a really long time. I never did it to make money (truth: there isn’t much money in it), I never did it because it was cool (truth: it is not cool, no matter how it looks in the movies). I did it because it’s a calling, I did it because it was the thing I felt I could do to help my communities. I’m not smart enough to be a doctor, not brave enough to be a police officer – but I can analyze a situation, I can ask questions, I can listen really well and I can assemble what I’ve observed into a cohesive piece of visual communication.

To me, there was nothing else in the world I ever wanted to do. (Well, okay, I really wanted to drive race cars and, while I have driven some, I knew early on I couldn’t make a living doing it. Also, not sure driving race cars was a path to saving the world or, at least, helping my community.)

My passion for this can be overbearing at times, I’m okay admitting that. You’re here because you chose UGA, you chose Grady and you chose journalism. We live in a phenomenally visual era, you are bombarded with photos and videos every moment of your day – you need to learn how to both make them and process them. I’m here to help.

That’s a little on how to survive me, but I’m not the class. (Really, there is a difference – I am not as interesting as the class. Just ask my kids.) How do you survive the class?

There’s a short list of things you need to understand and do.

  1. There’s no way around this, you have to be willing to fail. A lot of things are going to go wrong, that’s okay. I’ve built the class so you can fail, a lot, so long as you learn from those failures. Almost everything is redo-able.
  2. You also have to be willing to work. This is not an easy class and if you expect it to be about just making pretty pictures, someone misled you along the way. I don’t like pretty photos. I like images that make me feel something, that help me build knowledge.
  3. You need to understand that shortcuts will kill you. You may think you’re smarter than me, but there’s a reason why I teach you to do things in a certain way. If you don’t follow the processes, something will eventually go wrong – and those errors can be academically fatal. You probably are smarter than me, but I’m just a little bit wiser.
  4. You have to put yourself in positions to succeed. You can’t wait until 11 p.m. the night before an assignment is due, you have to think critically about both what you’re going to report on and when. The majority of the work in great images is done before
  5. You have to be present. That’s a physical attendance issue, a mental attendance issue and an intellectual attendance issue – for both the class and your assignments. You may be used to making photos at random moments, you may believe you can squeeze off a few frames between other things and get your homework done. But this takes a massive amount of intellectual energy to do well, you have to be intentional about this work. You have to be focused on the people you are documenting as well as the camera in your hands.

The last thing, and this is maybe the most important thing to surviving this class, is you have to communicate. There’s a lot of technical stuff, if it doesn’t make sense you have to ask a question. If you’re struggling, you have to ask a question. I don’t care what the question is, ask it. Photography, workflow, composition, light, interpersonal interactions, automotive concerns, ethical worries – all are perfectly legitimate topics for discussion.

I’m here all the time, my job is to help you learn and succeed – let me do my job.

ASSIGNMENT: Multimedia and Portfolio

For the final version of your multimedia project, the redo will come in with your final portfolio. Prior to the last class, I’ll send you the format for graphics (titles, IDs, end credits) and you’ll be able to import them into your Premiere project.

Please make sure that you are exporting according to the handouts – H.264 and either the YouTube HD or Vimeo HD presets. Once you have exported your file, click on it once and do a Get Info (or look at the Properties) to make sure it’s showing a resolution of 1920×1080. If it’s not, go back and figure out why. It should have a .mp4 extension on it – if you’re seeing something else, again, go back and figure out why.

You want to edit with headphones on – not your computer speakers – and you want to watch your audio meters. Many of the initial projects came in far too quiet, you need to be peaking between -12 and -6 db. I also recommend you listen to your audio (through headphones) with your eyes closed. Listen for cadence, listen for gaps, listen for sudden audio changes.

On your images, make sure every one of them is sharp and well exposed. If it’s not sharp, it does not belong in your piece. Make sure the transition from image to image matches with the audio – wherever you would have a period, comma, colon or semicolon is a natural place to transition from one image to the next.

You should have straight cuts in your story with the exception of the final image, which can fade into your ending graphic (with your name, copyright and contact info).

Your final portfolio is due on eLC by 12 noon on Monday, December 10. That is an absolute deadline – at noon, eLC will stop taking in work, even if you have started the upload before then it has to be finished by then. Please do not tempt fate on that day – get your portfolio in early.

Your portfolio is ten images that you made this semester, fully captioned, cropped and appropriately toned. They should show a variety of image types (long, medium, closeup, portrait, news, feature, etc.) to demonstrate the competencies you have mastered. Look for great light, good moments, clean compositions and storytelling.

That last part – storytelling – means a lot. It also means images without stories don’t belong here, so nothing from the Nouns & Verbs, 36 Faces or Depth of Field assignments.

You may have packages of 2-3 photos from the same subject (each image will be considered as one image), but those photos need to work as a package. You can use images from your multimedia project so long as they are not the same or substantially similar.

Do not, under any circumstances, submit images that bring your ethics into question. No friends, no family members, no fraternity brothers or sorority sisters, no one from clubs, churches or other organizations you’re a part of. An image with a provable conflict of interest issue will result in a grade of zero.

To submit, create a folder titled LastName_portfolio and inside that put your ten images plus the final version of your multimedia project, compress it and upload it.

Things to watch out for …

  • Not saving files as true JPGs – We’ve seen many images come in as Photoshop (.psd) or raw files, make sure you are doing a Save As out of Photoshop and setting the Format pull down to JPG. Just changing the extension will not work. Images not saved as a JPG will not be accepted.
  • Errors on your captions – Have someone proofread your captions. Refer back to the handout from earlier this semester, all you need is two sentences, to style, with your credit info and their contact info properly formatted. This is a bad place to be giving up points.
  • Having your caption in the wrong field – In the Adobe software, your caption goes in the Description box. Don’t put it in the Keywords field as that will be considered a missing caption.
  • Not properly naming your images – Double check to make sure the coding is right: six digit date code, your initials, story or assignment name, sequence number. We’re still seeing some images coming in with camera-assigned or improperly formatted file names. Improperly named files won’t be accepted.
  • Not having ten images – Silly, but it happens.
  • Turning in images that are not sharp – By now, you should be able to recognize an image that is sharp or not sharp. Look for fine detail, if it isn’t there it isn’t sharp.
  • Turning in images that are not properly exposed – Same thing, if it’s significantly under or over exposed, it doesn’t belong in your portfolio.

ASSIGNMNET: Multimedia

For this assignment, you need to produce an audio slideshow that is 90-120 seconds in length. This project should bring everything you have learned together in one portfolio quality story. This is due on eLC by 12 noon on November 13.

Every image should be technically flawless – sharp, properly exposed and with good color rendering. Every image should be exceptionally well controlled – a dynamic composition with great background and edge control. And every image should add some level of knowledge to the viewer’s understanding.

The audio should be clean (think carefully about where you interview) and have some natural sounds layered in.

You need to choose a person to profile – think about someone who is newsworthy, who does something visual and who exists in good light. (I can’t stress this enough: don’t torture yourself with fighting low light situations. Don’t choose the night watchman, don’t choose the early morning chef at your favorite diner. We won’t care how amazing her story is if all your images are a wreck.)

On your first visit, pay attention to who they are and why they do the thing they do. Look for interactions, look for details. Start thinking about what your story is, what are the key elements.

On your second visit, plan on doing your interview. Find a quiet place to record – that may not be where they work. Sketch out in your head the questions you want to ask them. Remember to be flexible – if you come in with seven questions written down and stick to those seven, you might miss a great opportunity to tell a story.

After listening to your interview, start thinking about how the audio will be sequenced together – do you have visuals to match what they say?

The third visit should be to round out your photos and collect the nat sound pops that will add life to your story.

Once you have all that done, edit your audio. Use the videos and handouts on the Tutorials page, I’ll answer questions if I can. Once the audio is exported, start getting your images together. Crop and tone them in Photoshop, saving them into one folder (preferably the folder with your exported audio).

Once they’re done, you’re ready to get into Premiere and build your audio slideshow. Again, the Tutorials page has videos and a handout.

Build it, tweak it and export it. It’s due on eLC by 12 noon on Tuesday, November 13.

Warnings: Based off of past classes, these are the things that hurt:

  • Waiting to decide – if you delay, your options on subject matter narrow and you end up trying to force a bad idea
  • Waiting to start – if you delay, you won’t have the images you need
  • Waiting to record – if you delay, they may not be available
  • Waiting to start production – as a general rule, a minute of audio will take you an hour of editing; video production will take longer
  • Waiting to export – video rendering takes a long time unless you have a high end computer, do not wait until deadline day to do this
  • Waiting to upload – your internet connection is not that fast, this will be a big file, akin to the size of Nouns and Verbs. Plan on uploading the night before at the absolute latest.

Happy to answer questions as they arise, but be aware I may take some time – I won’t be answering emails at 3 a.m. on deadline day. (Unless something has really gone wrong in my life … which is possible.)

ASSIGNMENT: Features

Johnson Mark 024

Two feature photos, due on eLC by 12 noon on Tuesday, November 27.

Look for a great moment, a telling slice-of-life image that speaks to what living, studying or working on the UGA campus or other area is like. This is to be a found moment – meaning it’s not from a scheduled or regularly occurring event. This is why you carry your camera everywhere, waiting for those little moments that makes us feel our world a little more.

Light matters: use a different type of light in each photo (hard, soft or, perhaps, diffused). Moments matter, relationships matter, story matters.

I promised you more on Dave LaBelle, so here are all of the videos on him that Francis Gardler did:

Wait until you get to Chapter 2 … powerful stuff.

Now that you’ve fallen for him (everyone does, it’s okay to admit it), head over to order your own copy of The Great Picture Hunt 2. It truly is the greatest community journalism book.

ASSIGNMENT: Multimedia, Part One

Choose a person to profile. Think about who has an interesting story, one that involves visual interactions, preferably in good light.

You want to make sure you have the ability to go back to them to add to your visual report. Do not chose an event or someone about to embark on a journey – you’ll need to make 3-5 visits would be my estimation.

Think about visual variety constantly. What does the space they exist in look like? How do they interact with that space? Look for relationships – he best images in the Smith Country Doctor story are the ones of him interacting with the patients. You will need some details, as well – your final story will be 90-120 seconds long so you’ll need 15-20 photos total.

Start listening as you document.

Start the process. Don’t delay – shallowness shows.

November 4 will be the first check-in, November 13 is the final deadline.

ASSIGNMENT: Audio Exercise

You need to tell a short story in just sounds, no voices on it. Choose something you’ll have easy access to – since this is an exercise, you can work with a friend or roommate.

Decide on a multi-step process that makes some sort of noise and then record each of the elements. Edit it together into a 20-30 second long audio narrative. Editing is key here – you need to control the pacing, levels and audio quality so we can determine what it is we’re listening to.

Email me the MP3 file by 8 p.m. on Tuesday, October 30.

There are tutorials on audio recording and editing on the Tutorials page if you need a hand.