Where to begin …
Let’s begin without visuals, with just words. The East Bay Times won a 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News Reporting, these are the words in the lede paragraph from their initial story:
24 a a a and and art as at cluttered converted crudely deadliest Doomed fires floor Friday Help Help history in killing labyrinth late least living makeshift more night Oakland’s of of of on one partygoers people possibly ripped screamed second spaces structure the the through tinderbox trapped us! us! warehouse with
Those are the words that the Pulitzer committee decided were worthy of the highest award in journalism. Those very words.
Do you have any idea what that graf is about? What’s wrong with it? Perhaps it will make more sense if we change the hierarchy, the order in which the words are sequenced:
Doomed partygoers trapped on the second floor of a crudely converted warehouse screamed, “Help us! Help us!” as one of the deadliest structure fires in Oakland’s history ripped through a tinderbox of makeshift living spaces and a labyrinth cluttered with art late Friday night, killing at least 24 people and possibly more.
What’s the difference? What do we learn from this? That we need to bring order and structure – hierarchy – to communication tools. Many of our discussions will be about the idea of visual hierarchy, of structuring a photograph so those who were not there will understand it.
So what is this class about? At its core, it’s about community and how we connect its members. Here’s how one former student described it in a course evaluation:
This is not a class about photojournalism. It is a class about journalism and photography and computers and software and ethics and law and chemistry and physics and optics and civics and courts and history and religion and psychology and art and color theory and kinesiology and motion and cars and snow tires and health and memory and dance. Yes, dance. Sometimes we danced.
For the record, I don’t dance. I’m not opposed to it happening, but I’ll probably just make some pictures of it.
For those who need a more traditional breakdown, here’s what we will cover:
- History of photography and visual journalism
- Visual ethics
- The digital camera
- The mechanics of exposure
- The equivalent exposure
- Focus and focal lengths
- Digital workflow
- Caption collection and data preservation
- Composing for an unknown viewer
- Subject selection
The end goal of this class is for you to learn how to communicate visually, for you to learn to control a camera, to compose an image and to capture a moment that others will understand. (That last part? That’s the hard part.)
Equipment and Supplies
You will need to read On Being A Photographer by Bill Jay and David Hurn. You can find it, used, online for under $12 or you can get it through Amazon Kindle for $6. (If you don’t have a tablet of some sort and don’t want to read it on your phone, you can get an app for your laptop to read it.)
You are required to have your own digital SLR camera that meets the following requirements:
- Sensor resolution: 12 megapixel minium
- Sensor size: APS-C or full frame
- Controls: full manual control over aperture, shutter speed, ISO, focus and white balance
- File format: JPG
- Media: SD or Compact Flash card
- Viewfinder: Optical
- Lens: 3x normal zoom (approximately 18 mm to 55 mm for an APS-C sensor; 24-75 for a full frame sensor)
You will also need to have a laptop with Adobe Creative Cloud installed. (Specifically, you will need Bridge, Photoshop and Premiere Pro. I’ll also recommend you download and install Audacity, which is a free audio editing package. You can use Audition if you like, but Audacity is a little easier to learn.) Please note that the best way to purchase this software is through the University System of Georgia’s Technology Store – it’ll be $75 for a one year subscription as opposed to $240 through Adobe’s education pricing. The Department of Journalism recommends a Mac laptop as that is what will be demonstrated in person and in video tutorials. If you will be doing a lot of video and photo work, I would recommend a MacBook Pro with 16 GB of RAM and at least 256 GB of storage. You can work with less, but you’ll be happier with more memory. You can use a Windows machine, but I won’t be able to answer any technical questions.
An audio recorder will be helpful later in the semester but not required, your phone will work for recording but will impact the quality of your work.
If you cannot afford these items, the department has a financial need application we can work with to help you out. If you have questions about whether you have the right gear, let me know – I speak geek.
As this is a shooting class, you must bring your equipment to every meeting. In-class exercises and shooting assignments will happen. Be prepared.
Assignments & Grading
We will discuss all of these assignments in class and I’ll give you a written description on this site at least a week before these are due. Unless otherwise noted when the assignment is given, the deadline will be at 12 noon on the due date.
- Visual Nouns & Verbs (Due: September 3) 5%
- 36 Faces (Due: September 17) 5%
- One Face, One Story (Due: October 8) 15%
- The Smartphone Portrait (Due: October 22) 10%
- The Event Package (Due: November 5) 15%
- The Multimedia Profile(Due: November 19) 20%
- The Portfolio (Due: December 11) 20%
- Quizzes (As Assigned) 5%
- Participation 5%
General Course Policies
All of the course policies have been collected together on one page, you are required to click through and read them.
Academic Integrity and Professional Values
All academic work must meet the standards contained in A Culture of Honesty. Each student is responsible for informing themselves about these standards before performing any academic work.
The only reason readers continue to support news organizations is because they believe they are credible. All work done for this course must be your own and done this semester. If you are assisted during a shoot, it is advisable to notify the instructor prior to submission.
The ethics of the visual journalist are extremely important and we will use the National Press Photographers Association’s Code of Ethics as a guide. Learn it, live by it.
It is very easy, and very tempting, to digitally enhance or retouch your images. If it is suspected that you have retouched an image to alter its meaning or content in any way you will be asked to provide all of the original files from the shoot. If it is found that you have manipulated the image – either digitally or through subject direction – a report will be filed with the Office of the Vice President for Instruction in accordance with the University of Georgia’s Academic Honesty Policy. Failure to provide requested, supporting information or files will result in a grade of zero and notification to the Office of the Vice President for Instruction.
Diversity issues in journalism come in numerous forms, from how a newsroom is staffed to how decisions are made on those we document. We will spend time discussing how we continue to diversify the journalism ranks as well as analyzing how we select stories and images for publications. You will be challenged to ensure your visual reporting is reflective of the community you serve and helps bring awareness to those who are underserved or underreported.
The Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications requires that, irrespective of their particular specialization, all graduates should be aware of certain core values and competencies and be able to:
1. understand and apply the principles and laws of freedom of speech and press for the country in which the institution that invites ACEJMC is located, as well as receive instruction in and understand the range of systems of freedom of expression around the world, including the right to dissent, to monitor and criticize power, and to assemble and petition for redress of grievances; 2. demonstrate an understanding of the history and role of professionals and institutions in shaping communications; 3. demonstrate an understanding of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and, as appropriate, other forms of diversity in domestic society in relation to mass communications; 4. demonstrate an understanding of the diversity of peoples and cultures and of the significance and impact of mass communications in a global society; 5. understand concepts and apply theories in the use and presentation of images and information; 6. demonstrate an understanding of professional ethical principles and work ethically in pursuit of truth, accuracy, fairness and diversity; 7. think critically, creatively and independently; 8. conduct research and evaluate information by methods appropriate to the communications professions in which they work; 9. write correctly and clearly in forms and styles appropriate for the communications professions, audiences and purposes they serve; 10. critically evaluate their own work and that of others for accuracy and fairness, clarity, appropriate style and grammatical correctness; 11. apply basic numerical and statistical concepts; 12. apply current tools and technologies appropriate for the communications professions in which they work, and to understand the digital world.
The Department of Journalism has noted five of these standards that are specific to this course:
- understand concepts and apply theories in the use and presentation of images and information – We will spend a great deal of time analyzing how the public will respond to your images, including discussions on the differences between snapshots and news photographs. You will make photographs for those who were not there, not as memory triggers.
- demonstrate an understanding of professional ethical principles and work ethically in pursuit of truth, accuracy, fairness and diversity – As discussed elsewhere, we will apply the National Press Photographers Association’s Code of Ethics to all of our work and we will analyze issues that have arisen throughout the history of photojournalism.
- think critically, creatively and independently – We will discuss how to assess various news situations, seeking out moments that will illuminate stories and not decorate them.
- critically evaluate their own work and that of others for accuracy and fairness, clarity, appropriate style and grammatical correctness – A core component of this class is the belief that journalism is a public act. Most assignments will be reviewed in class allowing you to get feedback from your peers as well as develop your own ability to assess photojournalism imagery. Captions will be critically important, as well, and we will focus on writing accurate and informative captions to give editors the information they need for publication.
- apply current tools and technologies appropriate for the communications professions in which they work, and to understand the digital world – In short, we will geek out a bit. We will not use technology to be more creative for individual works but will use it to tell more comprehensive stories. By blending visual and audio elements, we will develop stronger stories.
The course syllabus is a general plan for the course; deviations announced to the class by the instructor may be necessary.
Special Needs Students
The Disability Resource Center provides academic services to eligible students who have a documented physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more life activities. Students with a disability or health-related issue who need a class accommodation should make an appointment to speak with the instructor as soon as possible.