Photojournalists always encounter the question: what is a good photo story and how to find a good photo story? In Kenneth Kobre’s book Photo Journalism: The Professional’s Approach, Kobre gives us a detailed explanation as well as several excellent examples to illustrate what kind of work can be called good photo stories.

(1) One of the examples that impresses me most is Face to Face with Breast Cancer. The amazing thing here is the subject is the photographer herself. Since she is willing to share with others how she encountered the difficulty and how she tried to overcome it, she really gets very touching pictures to tell us a vivid visual story (page 240-243).

(2) A photo story has a theme. A photo story is not a series of random photos taken in one certain place or at one certain time. In fact, they convey a point or an idea. That means each photo we choose for a story has the same theme. Being clear about the theme of one story can help us with wise photo selections (page 232).

(3) Photos which have visual consistency can form a picture story. The very common example is photos of the same person or the same location. Besides, photos of the same object or of the same mood or perspective can have connections with each other and form a photo story. My favorite example is Show of Hands which show hands of different people. The same subject makes all those photos form connections with each other (page 234, 238 and 244).

(4) A good narrative photo story should have a complication and a resolution. Unfortunately, many of us often shoot pictures which merely have a complication or a resolution. Such pictures can not make a complete and vivid narrative story (page 244, 245).

(5) Sometimes photojournalists need a long period of time to get a narrative photo story with a complete complication and resolution. They may follow their subjects for several years in order to shoot the problems their subjects encounter and how things or situations change. The photo journalists sometimes cannot predict the final resolution or the result. The Motel Dad is an example. The mother was the subject of the photos at first but it turns out finally the story should focus on the father. The photographer follow the story of that family all the time (page 256-260).

(6) When photojournalists only have a few days to work on a photo story and there is no way to follow the whole process of the development of the story, there are some ways to solve the problem. For example, they can shoot a story whose resolution is about to happen. They can also find photos in the album to show the history. In addition, they can shoot a small resolution, that is, a temporary resolution (page 260).

 

The New York Times has several blogs covering varieties of topics. The Caucus is a politics and government blog and the Arts Beat is a culture blog. Comparing the two blogs, we can see the differences and similarities of blogs covering significantly different topics within one news media organization.

The Arts Beat is a blog covering topics of arts and culture. Posts are mainly about news of books, art works, musical festivals, movies or artists. We can see posts in this blog are comparatively shorter than those in the Caucus. Besides, photos are often used in posts, although not in every post. I think this is mainly because topics covered in this blog is more entertaining. Shorter text and more photos can make the posts more relaxing. This blog is targeted to people interested in music, arts or literature. I think the main purpose for audiences to read posts in this blog is to entertain themselves. Many links are internal links, which connect to related articles within the New York Times. Others go outside, connecting to websites of related art organizations or festivals, which gives audiences more information about certain events or art products. Posts in this blog are written by multiple authors.

The Caucus mainly covers political topics. Most posts are about news of government decisions or policy making. Posts are comparatively longer than those in the Arts Beat and only a few posts use pictures. Most posts are written in a way more like a serious news story with varieties of quotes and complete depictions of events. I think it is mainly because the topics in this blog is more serious and the blog is mainly targeted to those who want to know the latest news of policy making and governmental activities. In other words, the posts can be informational to audiences and readers may read them for illumination. Similarly, most posts include links and the links connect to webpages both inside the New York Times and outside the New York Times. The posts are written by multiple authors.

Another thing I find interesting is that although the Arts Beat is a culture and arts blog, the style of the posts is still comparatively more serious than that in other art or entertainment magazines. The posts are still more like formal news stories including leads and other necessary parts in a real news draft. We may conclude that different blogs under the same news organization more or less remain consistent in tones and styles even though topics vary significantly.

It is not so easy for everyone to observe the launching of many hot-air balloons in our real life.The 10 colored photos by David Joles bring us to the scene of the 24th annual Hudson Hot Air Affair. This set of photos won the second place in the February 2013 R5 Monthly Clip Contest. I love this series of photos because they provide us with varieties of  unique visual angles of the whole event.

All of the captions below the photos are really concise, no more than two sentences. The amazing thing is that the short captions describe what is going on in the photos in an effective way. If the photo is about a scene of the event, the caption tells us what is going on. If people are the subjects of the photos, the caption gives us an idea who they are and what they are doing. Since some of the photos are taken from a unique angle, such as the one taken inside the hot air ballon, the caption tells us clearly from what angle we are viewing the subject, which is excellent. The captions also identify the locations and time quite clearly.

The first photo is taken from above. The composition is nice because the balloon is right on the first one third vertical line. The white snow provides a perfect clean background for this colorful balloon. The vibrant colors contrast with the white. Several lines on the ground and figures of people add life and vibrancy to this picture.

In the photo 4 of 10, the colorful circle nearly fills the frame, which makes the photo really appealing and refreshing. The photo also provides with us a very unique visual angle, inside the balloon. The black part in the left seems to destroy the perfect colorful circle at first glance. However, I think it is the black part that adds sort of story and life to this photo. If the photo was merely a perfect colorful circle, it would be really dull. The “imperfect” black part makes us see the balloon is in a real-life situation.

The photo 10 of 10 can be divided into two parts. One of them is filled with several beautiful colors, just like rainbows. The other part is the white sky, white ground covered with snow and white roofs covered with snow. The person is the transition of the two contrasting parts. The person seems to connect the two parts together. The person is the life of this picture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is the photo editors who decide what stories will be unfold in front of audiences and what photos their audiences see in publications. Photo editors actually play a more important role than photographers. The Chapter seven of Kenneth Kobre’s book “Photo Journalism: The Professionals’ Approach” gives us a sense of how photo editors should do their routine jobs.

(1) The purpose of photos in news media is not merely to accompany a written story. Photojournalism sector should find story ideas which can be best illustrated visually. As a result, one of the most important tasks of photo editors is to send photographers to scenes where they may get excellent stories presented by photos (page 126-127).

(2) Photo editors are not necessarily photographers themselves. The important thing is that photo editors should own the instincts and capacity to decide whether a certain photo appeals to audiences. It is the ability to make the right decision that matters (page 128-129).

(3) Sometimes photographers are not objective enough to edit their own photos. They may grant too many credits to their works due to the great effort they have made in taking pictures. However, great efforts does not necessarily lead to excellent results. In addition, they may use their subjective judgement to do self-editting. It would be more objective if someone else does the editing work (page 129-130).

(4) It would be helpful if photographers themselves take the four guidelines, “informational, graphic, emotional and intimate” into consideration when they are completing their assignments. Those four elements are not only illuminating for editors during decision-making process but also important for photographers to learn. In that case, they may get photos better satisfying both the editors and the audiences (page 130-132).

(5) Be sure to use photos to provide audiences with a full picture of the truth. Avoid using photos to present personal bias. Avoid misrepresenting or promoting stereotypes of certain groups. Give a complete depiction of facts. Remember that photojournalism is one type of journalism and principles of journalism apply (page 133-134).

(6) Editors should combine different sizes and multiple images to create a rich, meaningful and attractive photo story. However, they should make a clever choice of  sized-up photos. Size up the photo which appears to be most appealing when it is large and which is most dominant in the series. Also, those combined photos should be able to tell a coherent story (page 142-147).

(7) Captions are important in assigning meanings to pictures, which determines the significant role of captions. Good captions are concise, informational and appealing (page 150-153).

 

 

 

 

 

 

How can photographers find story ideas?  How should reporters and photographers cooperate in doing one single story? How can photographers catch important moments? The Chapter one of Kenneth Kobre’s book “Photo Journalism: The Professional’s Approach” orientates us towards getting ready for photo assignments.

(1)Photographers should find subjects or events to shoot actively themselves instead of waiting for assignments passively. They can use scanner radio to be informed of the latest events and that helps them become one of the earliest ones to shoot the situation. It is also of vital importance that they read all kinds of media products voraciously so that they are updated with what is going on (page 4-6).

(2) Cooperation between reporters and photographers does matter. They can provide each other with valuable new perspectives. Reporters can be photographers’ extra ears and vice versa. Besides, it will be ridiculous if they do not convey consistent ideas in one single story. That may result from lack of communication between them (page 11).

(3) Success in catching impressive moments not only requires technical preparation but also persistence and anticipation. Photographers should get technical keys of the camera such as shutter speed, aperture or ISO ready when they are about to shoot. When they are on the scene, they need to take hundreds of shots of one single scene in order to get an impressive moment. Besides, they need to anticipate when a possible decisive moment may happen so that they won’t miss it (page 18-19, 21-22).

Photojournalists can encounter ethical issues when they are using their visual tools to tell a story. In Kobre’s book, the chapter 15 presents us with some ethical dilemma photojournalists may face and the principles behind the decision-making process.

(1) We should remember photojournalism is a form of journalism, which means ethical standards of print journalism apply to photojournalism. That requires photojournalists should not only represent the scene they are shooting accurately and comprehensively, but they should also give a full picture of  the event. They should avoid presenting their biases (page 357).

(2) Acceptability of control varies between topics of photography. In photo illustrations such as photos of food or fashion, photographers may use studio or poses to make their subjects look as appealing as possible. However, the task of photojournalists of breaking news such as wars or car accident is to present the truth and reality (page 358,361-362).

(3) Sometimes the debate on whether to run a photo resides in the conflict between the good impact on the society in the long run and the harm to audience and people related to the subjects on the photo. Will gruesome pictures make the public aware of the full picture of the truth and thus help them make better decisions in the future? Does that outweigh the harm? Another reality making the situation complicated is that sometimes it is really hard to predict audience’s reaction (page 372-373).

(4) Gatekeeping process in newsroom sometimes has little impact at all today because people can view anything they want from Internet. The wide use of Internet adds new considerations to ethical issues of photojournalism (page 373-374).

The featured essay Syrian Refugees uses 35 black and white photos to present us with Syrians’ life in refugee camps. Those photos especially illuminate us of living conditions of children in those fleeing Syrian refugee families. Although the photographer merely shoots pictures of those Syrian people’s everyday activities such as children waking up, sleeping, playing around and people walking, those pictures incite sorrow and sympathy for those families because all those everyday activities don’t take place in a house or school playground, but in a shabby refugee camp neighborhood, if it can be called a neighborhood at all.

  • The photo 4 of 35 is a sort of overview picture of Zaatari refugee camp. Everything is dusty. Camps far away from us is even blurred by the dust. The tents are shabby and rough, some of which are made with old cloth. The most appealing part in this picture is one person’s figure in such surroundings. We don’t know what he is doing or what kind of facial expression he has. He might be thinking about unfortunate things happening to his family and might be wondering what he is supposed to do. He might be in despair or in hope. That photo makes people think what they would be like if they were that person.
  • In the photo 8 of 35, the focus is on a little girl in a swirl at her dirty refugee home. The swirl is made with a rope and a pillow. The facial expression of the little girl is peaceful and we can infer that the girl may even quite enjoy sitting on the swirl, which generates strong sorrow for her. She should have sat in a real swirl in a kindergarten instead of a shabby little room. The foreground is a little boy sleeping soundly. That might be her little brother. The fact that those two children seem to be used to that kind of life makes audience feel a little pain. We can not see the facial expression of the woman behind. She might be sad or feel comforted just temporarily. There are some words and a drawing of Syrian flag on the wall, which might be written and drawn when those people are teaching children something, which really makes people feel sympathized.
  • The photo 25 of 35 depicts a boy waking up in his family tent. The background is an old cloth, which serves as a wall. We can not see the exact facial expression of that boy. He seemed to be looking outside the window. What is he looking at? He might be afraid. He might be full of hope. We cannot tell.  Similarly, he should have been sleeping in a cozy and comfortable room. The way the boy looks outside in a refugee tent makes people have an uncomfortable feeling beyond description.

camera photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is my Canon 550D. I bought it when I was taking photojournalism class during my sophomore year. This is my first and my only professional camera so far.

This camera actually orientates me towards regarding taking photos as something requiring effort and skills instead of something random and merely for fun. I remember the first thing I do with my camera is to learn how to focus and how to  have the right exposure. Since then I have practiced some basics of taking photographs with it.

Generally speaking, I grasp the basic functions of that camera and have a sense of how to use it to take photos. I know how to change shutter speed, aperture and how to zoom out or in to get the effect I want. However, I find I have more frustrations using this camera than satisfactions.

The first problem is that I find the colors I get in my photos are not so bright. I don’t know whether it is the problem of the camera itself or I just didn’t get the right mode. Sometimes when my friends and I are taking the same picture, I find my friends get more beautiful colors with their Nikon even if when we have the same mode on the camera. I don’t know whether it is a factor.

The second thing annoying me is that when I take pictures indoor with this camera, my picture is sometimes blurred even though I use the largest aperture. I don’t have a tripod right now so it can be hard for me if there is not enough light in a room.

Since I bought this camera, I have taken it everytime I travel to somewhere beautiful. I tried to take some nice photos of the beautiful scene in front of me. However, I always feel the quality of my picture is average. I rarely got pictures I am satisfied with. I think sometimes it is really hard to get an unusual frame. I want to get pictures showing a different angle, but I need to take pictures from an unusual angle at first. The fact is that it is not so easy to find such an angle and find some really unusual  frames.

Although I have such frustrations and concerns, such things actually incite me to practice more to get better photos. I think the only solution is learning more about my camera through practice. I should also watch more great photos. Those great photos with special angles or frames can give me some inspiration.

News companies are nothing like any other commercial companies. They provide information products on which public rely on as news sources. It determines that they must operate in a way which wins public trust. Similarly, journalists are not like any other people in other professions. What they do either enhances or undermines trustworthiness of the media organization they serve. From the example of The New York Times Company Policy on Ethics in Journalism, we can see how the New York Times Company uses regulates behaviors of their news staff. 

(1) I have always assumed that journalists should never conceal their identity when they are doing assigned reporting tasks. The interesting thing, however,  is that I discover it is important for news staff to conceal their identity so that they will be treated as any other normal customer. That makes sense because it serves the objectivity and impartiality of news reporting. If a journalist enjoys better service in a certain hotel than anyone else, how is it possible that he or she will give audience a objective description of what things are really like in that hotel?

(2) Journalists should be very careful when they tend to develop friendship with their sources, which may influence the impartiality of their reporting when interests of those people are involved. It seems that such policy restricting journalists’ own personal relationship is impersonal. However, unlike people in other professions, journalists have a special responsibility to be as objective as possible in their job, which inevitably has to affect their personal life more or less.

(3) Although personal websites of news staff may have nothing to do with the news company where they work, people may still assume what those news people put on their news websites represents the media organization. That determines whatever those people put on their personal websites should have a temperate tone and a decent taste. Besides, those news staff should make it clear that their personal opinions do not represent the news company.

(4) One of the most important ways helping journalists keep independence is that they should never accept financial support or awards from interest groups in the story they are doing unless editorial group gives certain permissions. News company should cover the travel or meal fees of the journalists. Besides, within the news company, the advertising department should never influence decisions of running certain news contents.

(5) It is true that people have their own political standing. So do journalists. Even though, journalists should avoid supporting certain political campaigns or attending marches or rallies publicly. Otherwise, public will assume what those journalists are doing represent the standing of the news company, which undermines public trust.

 

 

 

 

 

(1) News stories are nothing like fictional stories. When people are listening to radio news, they are assuming all things told by a host actually happen. That characteristic requires that radio news should always prioritize accurate representation of facts. (Kern’s book, page 232)

(2) All the edited audio clips more or less change the original meaning of what speakers say. That is just inevitable. On the other hand, however, interviews which are too long need to be shortened so that audience can get points quickly. That means audio producers should be really careful when they are cutting those long talks. They need to shortened the long conversation into one that is as close to the original one as possible. I think one way of figuring it out is to listen to the clip repeatedly and get a full understanding of what the speaker is conveying. Then those producers may be less likely to make bad decisions in cutting. (page 234-235)

(3) Changing orders of sentences do change meanings. Even though all sentences are present in a audio clip, changes of orders of them may lead to change of tones or even change of meaning. I like the example in Kern’s book which illustrates how different orders of sentences convey different representations of attitudes towards the speaker and the child’s experience in the United States. (page 240)

(4) Be careful when background sound is used in audio clips. If a certain kind of sound is not present when the subject is talking, we should never use it as a background as if it is present. That is related to the fact that audience assume all things in the audio truly happen when they are listening to radio news. Representing things in a way that does not respect truth is deceiving audience and journalists should never misrepresent facts. (page 246)

(5) It is a good idea to let audience know more about production process of radio news. It is normal that audience are assuming hosts are actually reporting news events when the hosts are actually sitting in the newsroom. Always informing audience of when and where news events are happening or where hosts or reporters are talking can reduce the chance that audience misunderstand facts. (page 245) The NPR story “Remembering A ‘Brave,’ ‘Lucky’ Hero In The War of 1812” can be used both as a good and a bad example of this point. On the one hand, the host tells us clearly the reporter is actually on the scene of the commemorating activity. And audience get a clear sense that the reporting is narrating what he has seen. However, the confusing part is that we do not know whether the background sound really existed in the battle happening in 1812. It sounds like that the background sound is recorded recently days. That could be misleading to audience.

Nothing makes a journalist more easily to be  trusted by public than a website which presents works or experience of that journalist in a professional and complete way. The website of Kara Kostanich illustrates that point well.

When we review the homepage of her website, we can see a very clear identity under her name: “television anchor and reporter”. There are a total of four big photos of her on that page, all of which were taken when she was in working environment. Another thing I like is that there is one sentence on each of the photo describing her professionalism such as “Kara uncovers truth” or “Kara fights for answers.” The photos and the sentence “Kara’s love for people and desires for truth has paved a path to telling stories that make a difference” gives us an impression that Kara is a responsible reporter who cares about people.

The whole resume part has a white background. The only two colors in textual part are grey and light blue. Even in the photo on this page, Kara is wearing a white coat. The visual effect of the colors is nice because it makes the resume looks clear. Each items in the resume is clear, brief and easy for audience to get.

In the contact page, we can type on the website and send the message to Kara directly, which makes us feel that it is very easy to get in touch with Kara. That is actually very important for journalists because they have to hear from people.

The website uses lots of photos, most of which are taken when Kara was in front of camera. We can also observe that in most photos, Kara dresses professionally and smiles, giving people an impression that she is not only a very professional journalist but also a nice person easy to get close to.

My favorite section in this website is the blog part. Those blogs are not in journalistic style. They mostly record her traveling experience or her feelings about life. The photos she has taken are exquisite. Those blogs presents audience with a woman who loves traveling, loves life and loves others. Although this website does not have a personal statement about herself, audience can tell what kind of person she is through those blogs.

There are a total of eight video clips in the portfolio section. Some of the clips are labeled with genres such as “Anchor Reel” or “Political Reporter Reel”. Others are labeled with the story such as “School Speed Zone” or “Spare Change.” While I was watching those video clips, I really saw a good anchor and reporter being able to interview and report in different situations in a very professional manner. Those video clips present her rich experience and brilliant performance in reporting in front of cameras.