Discussion notes: Online journalism and audience

May 14, 2013 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: news web sites, photojournalism, web journalism.

The Big Picture principles and concepts of photojournalism


>Importance of the single image. Nothing gets into our heads and stays there like the single, iconic image. Many of examples of this throughout history. See What did Abraham Lincoln look like? here on JPROF.

All journalists are photojournalists. When they were first introduced in the late 1830s, cameras quickly became widely popular. Their popularity has never waned. Now cameras are even more prevalent. Demands of the profession make it imperative that every journalist carry a camera, know how to use it and know what to do with photos.

Text and photos. No picture can stand alone. It needs text to explain its action and context.

Accuracy. Photos can give an incorrect impression or even lie in some circumstances. Journalists must take care to explain photos carefully, handle the editing with great care, and make sure that viewers gain a level of factual truth from them.

Ethics. The power of the image gives rise to special ethical considerations. This includes the preparation of photos as well as their presentation.

Print vs. web. On the web, photos are usually smaller, but there is greater capacity and potential for versatility.

Carry your camera. Be ready to use it.

The practice of photojournalism
general considerations

point of view – find different angles, unique aspects

contrast – subject-background differences

framing – look at all parts of what’s in the fame, not just the subject of the picture

composition – rule of thirds

lighting – know the source of light; learn to judge the lighting conditions (outside is better than inside)

distance – three types of photos: long shots, medium shots, close-ups (see photos at right)

decisive moment – what tells the story of a news event, captures the elements of the day, time, people, weather, subject; sometimes you can plan for this, sometimes you can’t; be ready
See Heller’s Guide to Making Strong Photographs

Practices and techniques

plan, plan, plan

take lots of pictures – longs, mediums, close-ups

know your equipment and push it

move around – don’t be self-conscious

be creative

See Guidelines for the student photojournalist


Downloading, editing photos

— Become familiar with you camera and the settings with which it records pictures (large pictures at low resolution; small pictures at high resolution; etc.).
— Develop a system for downloading your photos efficiently; file your photos in some order and rename the files if necessary; use descriptive file names for efficiency
— Learn basic photo editing functions and techniques of Photoshop; Photoshop offers some free editing tools. Free alternatives to Photoshop: Photobucket, Picnik, others. Low-cost alternative ($60): Pixelmator.com.

Editing photos
–the trick is not to do too much

  • selection
  • cropping
  • lightening
  • sharpening
  • sizing

Getting photos web ready
— photos should be sized properly for the web site for which they are prepared; if you don’t know what size works best, ask. And always change the resolution to 72 pixels per inch. (right)

See Preparing images for the web (PDF file)



— At the picture-taking stage of the process, you should be carrying a notebook and writing down information for each picture or set of pictures that you take. Do not trust your memory. With some exceptions, you will need to identify every person whose face is visible in your photographs.

  • Use the present to describe the action in a picture. 
  • Always double-check identifications; never guess. 
  • Be specific. 
  • Avoid cutline clichés. 
  • AP style rules.

Constructing the picture story

A picture story should be developed around a single event or subject that the photographer has thought through beforehand.
— Begin with basics: who, what, when, where, why and how.
— What is the main action of the story, the main event; what are the secondary actions and events.
— What are the photo possibilities: people, actions, angles.
— What are the restrictions, physical and otherwise (children, etc.).
Remember: If it is happening in a publicly accessible place, you can take a picture of it. You are not violating anyone’s rights when you do. People in public places, or visible from public places, have no reasonable expectations of privacy.


Remember that even with a slideshow or photo story, you are single images – the photo in isolation. One of the big questions then is sequence — how are the photos presented to the viewer?
–If the story is about an event, the sequence is likely to be chronological so that you can the story from beginning to end.
–If the story is about a subject that is not an event, the sequence can be whatever the reporter/photographer decides it should be.

Make sure your cutlines are accurate and complete.

Are your pictures of the highest quality you can make them?

You should write some kind of an introduction to the photo story in addition to the cutlines themselves.

Have you included links on the page that would take readers to other information?

You can use a variety of galleries and slideshows that are available for free on the web: Photobucket, Picasaweb (Google), Flickr. Mac users also have the slideshow function of iPhoto available. These can be embedded onto your stie. (The Tennessee Journalist content management system Ochs has its own photo viewer/gallery function.)


Audio slideshows
marrying sound and photos

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