Playing With Music and Emotions

A few years back I did a talk at the Grandfather Mountain Camera Clinic titled, Photojournalism, Instagram and Artificial Authenticity. You can probably figure out where it went, that applying the latest filters to pristine images was playing with the emotions of your viewers, not helping them comprehend what was happening in the image before them. I am, after all, a strict constructionist and very limited when it comes to the artistic pursuits of photography – a picture should be accurate, that’s what I profess to believe to be true.

My students often ask me about putting music into their videos – news videos – and I always walk them through some questions. What’s missing from your story that you feel the need to decorate your story? What are the emotional consequences of doing this? And, lastly, what are the copyright concerns that you have to wrestle with?

After seven years of teaching video at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, I believe I’ve only had two pieces come in with music – and one of them the student wrote and performed it.

Al Tompkins down at the Poynter Institute has taken on this same subject this week, adding various types of music to UAV footage of fireworks.

He brings up the same issues but handles it more elegantly than I do.

My short answer to the question: News is news, let the story tell itself. Illustrate, don’t decorate.

Mark E. Johnson

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