Two Hundred Fifty Things a Photojournalist Should Know

In 2018, architectural critic and designer Michael Sorkin published a list of Two Hundred Fifty Things an Architect Should Know. Sorkin, who wrote for the Village Voice for many years, was an early victim of the pandemic.

I heard excerpts of his list on a podcast one evening in the spring and it got me to noodling. Every few mornings, I added a few lines to this: Two Hundred Fifty Things a Photojournalist Should Know.

While extensive, it is not exhaustive. There is always more light to be shown.

  1. The total weight of all the gear you wish to own.
  2. The three things that control depth of field.
  3. How to develop curiosity.
  4. How to clean a lens.
  5. The cost of a UV filter.
  6. The value of a UV filter.
  7. Why Velcro doesn’t belong on camera bags.
  8. The advantage of a swiveling camera strap.
  9. Patience.
  10. The inverse square rule.
  11. When dust spots are most likely to appear in a digital image.
  12. Why one over the focal length is important.
  13. Why one over the focal length is not important.
  14. Why one over the focal length is not enough.
  15. How to be an active listener.
  16. How to sit quietly and observe.
  17. When the light will glow.
  18. When the light will go.
  19. The minimum focusing distance on all your lenses.
  20. How to manually focus.
  21. How to set a custom white balance.
  22. A naming convention.
  23. How to make a politician smile.
  24. How far your longest lens needs to be turned to go from ten feet to 30 feet.
  25. The impact of ISO on aperture and shutter speed.
  26. The impact of aperture on ISO and shutter speed.
  27. The impact of shutter speed on ISO and aperture.
  28. How to use spot metering.
  29. Who was the last local police officer to retire.
  30. Who has taught at your local high school the longest.
  31. A source within your school district who will not be featured in a story.
  32. A source within city hall who will not be featured in a story.
  33. A source within the police department who will not be featured in a story.
  34. How to measure distance on a paper map.
  35. How to fold a paper map.
  36. How to read a topographical map.
  37. Who to contact at the department of public works about getting a pot hole filled in.
  38. The names of all the photographers who worked at your publication over the last 50 years.
  39. When the blue hour starts tomorrow.
  40. How to check the air pressure on your car tires.
  41. How to change a tire.
  42. How far you can travel on a full tank of gas.
  43. How much weight the roof of your car can support.
  44. How much ground clearance you have.
  45. How to clean out battery corrosion.
  46. The names of the mayor’s family members.
  47. The route of the Fourth of July parade.
  48. Who puts out the flags for Memorial Day.
  49. Who to talk to about getting on the roof of the tallest building in town.
  50. The longest-working building inspector.
  51. Who decides where the municipal mowing crews go.
  52. The highest point in your coverage area.
  53. The oldest home in your coverage area.
  54. The oldest business in your town.
  55. The oldest farm in your coverage area.
  56. How to remove a broken filter.
  57. When to replace a worn shoulder strap.
  58. How long it will take water to seep into your waterproof shoes.
  59. How many layers you need to wear to cover the winter holiday parade.
  60. The oldest bridge in town.
  61. When the first water main was installed.
  62. The borders of all the city council districts.
  63. Who your federal representatives are.
  64. Who your state representatives are.
  65. The cell phone number of one senior state police officer.
  66. The color temperture of the lights on your biggest high school football field.
  67. The range of your radio triggers.
  68. How much wind your umbrella can withstand.
  69. How to handle a migraine.
  70. What pain medication works best for sore knees and backs.
  71. How to apply sunscreen.
  72. If you can read your camera displays with sunglasses on.
  73. What polarized lenses mean.
  74. What invention Edwin Land tried to license at Polaroid.
  75. Why Kodachrome was so good.
  76. How to make a 360 degree photo on your smartphone.
  77. The names of the faith leaders in your community.
  78. Where the smallest church, synagogue and mosque are.
  79. Two restaurant owners who are also head chefs.
  80. Where the lawyers gather after hours.
  81. The best fishing spot.
  82. Three private pilots and the types of planes they own.
  83. One person who owns a metal detector.
  84. How to compose for black and white.
  85. Someone who can repair a sail.
  86. The spouse of a politician.
  87. A teacher at every school.
  88. One music composer.
  89. One potter.
  90. Two piano teachers.
  91. The tow truck drivers on the police department’s call list.
  92. One arborist who owns a bucket truck.
  93. The smell of burning plastic.
  94. The different smells of brush fires, forest fires, house fires and car fires.
  95. How to adjust a hard hat.
  96. Six places to buy ear protection.
  97. The difference between a RN, a LPN and a NP.
  98. How to turn off the biometric access to your phone.
  99. How to treat tear gas.
  100. What poison ivy looks like.
  101. How to adjust a tripod for uneven ground.
  102. Three local businesses that do no advertising.
  103. How to meter for diffused light.
  104. The plot to five young adult books.
  105. The leaf shape and bark texture of the major trees in your community.
  106. The advantages of the sRGB color space.
  107. The color space your three primary clients prefer.
  108. The copyright needs of your three primary clients.
  109. The invoicing terms for your three primary clients.
  110. The closing date for each of your credit card statements.
  111. The most advantageous way to use your credit card points for your business.
  112. The dates of three photo conferences you need to attend.
  113. The location of your favorite photographer’s archive.
  114. Where your favorite photograph was made.
  115. Who inspired your favorite photographer.
  116. A painter whose work resembles your favorite photographer.
  117. A writer whose work resembles your favorite photographer.
  118. A sculptor whose work resembles your favorite photographer.
  119. A musician whose work resembles your favorite photographer.
  120. A song that sounds like how you see.
  121. How many images you can fit on all the memory cards in your bag.
  122. How a polarizing filter works.
  123. How diffraction affects sharpness.
  124. Why your lenses are coated.
  125. How many elements there are in your favorite lens.
  126. How many aperture blades there are in your favorite lens.
  127. What the sharpest lens in your bag is.
  128. What the least sharp lens in your bag is.
  129. The size of screwdriver you need to tighten up your lenses.
  130. Where the screws are located on you lens barrels.
  131. The lens used to make your favorite photograph.
  132. Where your favorite photograph was first published.
  133. How to load film on a stainless steel reel.
  134. How to check the oil on your car.
  135. Where to add oil on your car.
  136. The type of oil you need in your car.
  137. Whether your car uses standard or metric nuts and bolts.
  138. A good local carpenter.
  139. A good local plumber.
  140. The oldest funeral director in your community.
  141. The newest pastor in your community.
  142. The leader of the largest faith organization in your community.
  143. All of the holy days that are celebrated by members of your community.
  144. The value of a metal lens hood versus a plastic hood.
  145. The filter sizes on all of your lenses.
  146. The date of the earliest snowfall.
  147. The record high temperature.
  148. The record low temperature.
  149. The highest point above sea level in your community.
  150. The lowest point above sea level in your community.
  151. The oldest road in your community.
  152. The longest road in your community.
  153. The shortest road in your community.
  154. The oldest building in your community.
  155. Where the water for your community comes from.
  156. Where the water in your community goes to.
  157. Where the electricity in your community comes from.
  158. Who uses the most electricity in your community.
  159. Who uses the most water in your community.
  160. Who owns the largest tract of contiguous land.
  161. Who owns the smallest tract of contiguous land.
  162. Where the largest collection of high school yearbooks are kept.
  163. Where the last roll of film was developed in your community.
  164. Where the largest collection of magazines is sold.
  165. Where the photo books are kept in your local library.
  166. The phone number for the town historian.
  167. Who inspects the bridges.
  168. Who inspects the restaurants.
  169. Who is in charge of accreditation at your local schools.
  170. Who runs the VFW and American Legion posts.
  171. When the VFW bar opens.
  172. Where you can still smoke indoors.
  173. Who organizes the Fourth of July parade.
  174. When the holiday lights go up.
  175. Who takes the holiday lights down.
  176. Who assembles the stage for the high school graduation.
  177. When does kindergarten registration start.
  178. What college has enrolled the most local graduates.
  179. What military branch high school graduates are most likely to enter.
  180. What’s the oldest family run business in town.
  181. Who owns the oldest car dealership in town.
  182. Where does the bread get baked.
  183. Who owns the oldest restaurant in town.
  184. What restaurant has the largest dining room.
  185. What restaurant has the smallest dining room.
  186. A secure, redundant, off-site archiving system.
  187. Who decides to close a road.
  188. How to use a tilt-shift lens to correct for keystoning.
  189. Where the town gossip hangs out.
  190. Where tent city is in your community.
  191. When the gates to the skate park are supposed to be closed.
  192. When is league night at the bowling alley.
  193. Where can you play darts.
  194. Who the best pool player in town is.
  195. When will the farmers start preparing their fields.
  196. Who decides where vendors set up at the farmers market.
  197. Who has the best lumber in town, based on quality, not price.
  198. How to use a torque wrench.
  199. Where your eye glass prescription is.
  200. When is the best time to call your best friend.
  201. The best place to park near city hall.
  202. The back way to the high school on a Friday night.
  203. Four places to photograph rush hour traffic from.
  204. When hunting season starts.
  205. Two mechanics.
  206. Where the astronomy club meets for outings.
  207. How to change your windshield wipers.
  208. When your license, car registration and passport expire.
  209. Two ways to transfer images from your camera to your phone.
  210. How long the mayor, council members and/or selectman serve.
  211. Which government positions are elected and which are appointed.
  212. One SCUBA certified diver.
  213. What the state police, hospital and military helicopters in your area look and sound like.
  214. The phone number for your local airport’s control tower.
  215. What kind of car the mayor drives.
  216. What types of vehicles your police department uses, marked and unmarked.
  217. The newsroom editor of your competitor.
  218. Two independent journalists who you trust not to steal your clients.
  219. The best thrift store in your community.
  220. The median income in your community.
  221. The median home price in your community.
  222. The range of rents in your community.
  223. The rules on non-related people living together.
  224. Where building permits are posted.
  225. How to read a health inspection report.
  226. What the three most common languages used in your community are.
  227. How to introduce yourself in all of them.
  228. How much a first year teacher makes.
  229. How much the superintendent of schools makes.
  230. How much the football coach makes.
  231. How much the softball coach makes.
  232. How to synchronize your flashes.
  233. Who makes the best burger in town.
  234. How to clean your camera bag.
  235. How to stretch.
  236. How long your coffee will stay warm.
  237. How long newsroom pizza is good for.
  238. What FAA Part 107 means.
  239. The four tests for fair use.
  240. The best sledding hill in town.
  241. When the highest ranking federal official last visited.
  242. The most photographed, non-elected person in your community.
  243. Five signs (at least) that someone is experiencing a mental health crisis.
  244. How to use a password manager.
  245. How to use ear plugs.
  246. The impact one of your images has had on an individual.
  247. How to fill the frame.
  248. How to control the background.
  249. How to wait for moments.
  250. How to care.

Mark E. Johnson

4 Responses

  1. Fun and useful list. I would add ‘the difference between bokeh and depth of field’. And following your style, ‘the difference between depth of field and bokeh.’
    Re 94 – I used to roll down my car window an route to fires. Helps.

  2. Great list for everyone on both sides of the camera!! My favorite.. and I might add something I’ve tested for video and live shots more than once.. is how much weight will your car roof hold! Thanks for sharing !! (Ps at the risk of being that guy.. I think you’ll want to correct #223 🙂

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