February 27, 2017 Lecture Recap: The Basics of News Photography

Chris Machian, staff photographer for The Omaha World-Herald (OWH) and University of Nebraska at Omaha alumni spoke with our class about the basics of news photography.

“Your basic goal is to tell a story with photos,” Machian said. “Sometimes with one photo or many different photos.”

Machian led the class through a slideshow of some photos taken in his photojournalism career and gave insight on most such as why he took the photo, how he took the photo, why he chose a certain angle, certain lighting or chose to use a certain lens.

“There are three basic types of photos that you should try to incorporate into your assignment,” said Machian.

Those shots are:

  • Tight/detailed shot
  • Medium shot
  • Wide shot (establishing shot that gives a sense of time and place (i.e. using a wide angle lens)

“The medium shot is your standard shot,” said Machian.

For an example, he showed a medium shot photo of a woman digging out her child’s piggy bank from her home’s rubble after a tornado tore through the town.

“Always have a human or lively element to a photo,” said Machian.

When it comes to wide shots, Machian said, it helps show how many people are in attendance, for example at a sport’s game/arena or a council meeting.

Machian said there are other things to consider with photos aside from how wide or close a shot is such as including:

  • Background
    • Moving and waiting to position a subject and frame/capture the photo in the best way
    • Make sure to pay close attention to what’s in your background so it doesn’t take away from the subject
  • Lighting
    • Whether window light, natural light or flash

“Window lights are your friends in these assignments,” said Machian.

  • Lens Choice
    • i.e. Long lens to blur out background
      • Long lenses can visually compress things (the image)
    • i.e. Wide angle lens to capture everything
  • Layers
    • You’re playing with different fields of depth
    • Not everything has to be in focus
    • You get to pick what’s in focus, and in turn, what’s the most important part of the image
    • You can have multiple layers with a wide shot
      • i.e. With a sports photo on a golf course, you can have out of focus fans watching, but in focus of a man swinging his golf club
  • Captions
    • Make sure to identify the people in photo, include the date (month, day, year), and identify names using “left, right, center” or “from left to right”
    • Use a verb in the caption “So and so doing this…”
    • Unless you’re 100% sure, write only what you know. Be accurate. If you don’t know, ask someone.
  • Ethics
    • Minimize harm
      • “Ethical journalism treats sources, subjects, colleague and members of the public as human beings deserving of respect.”

Little Italy: Through the Eyes of the Community – Kindness and Culture


Daniel Thompson III and his dog, Bob, resting on Grace University’s campus after a long summertime walk around and game of fetch-the-stick.

“I’ve lived in my current home in Little Italy for the past almost two years,” said Daniel Thompson III. “But I’ve lived in this area pretty much since I moved here from Michigan.”

After Thompson graduated with a degree in Photojournalism from Central Michigan University, he packed his bags and moved to Nebraska to work for his friend’s studio, Make Believe Studios. At first he found an apartment in the central part of Omaha, but it was noisy and didn’t have much culture attached to it.

It didn’t take long before he jumped at the opportunity to move to Little Italy with close friends, which a few have become business partners over the years. In 2011 Thompson moved into the area and hasn’t left since.

“Before the place I’m at now, I lived up the street close to Grace University’s quiet campus with some creative friends who were mainly into music and art,” said Thompson. “And before that house on Pine Street, I lived a few blocks in a row house on Hickory Street.”

Thompson said there’s something about the area that’s kept him here as opposed to other eclectic areas like Dundee or Benson. Part of the reason he’s enjoyed the neighborhood is living so close to his business. Thompson is the Creative Director and co-owner of Make Believe New Media (MBNM). He recently moved the business, but from early 2014 to December of 2016, the MBNM office—what he referred to as his second home—was on historic 10th Street.

“Living within a few minutes from and being able to walk to your work is something everyone probably would appreciate,” said Thompson.

Thompson also enjoyed the flexibility of being able to run home on lunch breaks and spend some quality time outside running around with his dog, Bob. There are many options of taking his dog on a walk whether through Dahlman Park, through Grace University’s campus, down to ConAgra Park or the Old Market.

“Bob loves running through this one open field at the campus. During the summer when the weather is perfect, it’s just what he needs,” said Thompson. “Border Collies need tons of exercise and with Dahlman and the campus so close it helps keep him busy whether he’s chasing squirrels or rabbits.”

Thompson joked that it’s not the dog that he’s walking but the dog that forces Dan to get out and enjoy the scenery.

“The views we have at the place we’re at now are great. If we walk up the street at the top of the hill we’re able to get a perfect view of downtown, the Old Market, and the ConAgra Park water fountain when it’s lit up at night,” said Thompson.

He said during the summer he’s even able to hear the Stir Cove concerts across the river.

“If it’s quiet enough you can hear some of the animals at the zoo early in the morning, too,” said Thompson.

The houses and older apartments down here aren’t for everyone. If you’re looking for stainless steel appliances, brand new flooring and Ikea cabinets look elsewhere, and expect to pay a ton. They’re old, he said, 100 plus years old.

“The place I’m at now is 102 years old,” said Thompson. “From what I’ve heard from the landlord and neighbors who’ve lived here for decades, these houses we live in lined up down the street used to have a tunnel connecting all the way down the street. They used it for bootlegging liquor beneath the streets during prohibition.”

In the basement there is a boarded up part of the wall covering that tunnel entrance. The history attached to the houses, the local shops like Orsi’s Italian Bakery & Pizzeria and more are a big reason he likes the area. Shop owners and neighbors have become friends—whether hosting neighbor-night bonfires, catching up with the neighborhood “grandma” down the street. The area is only getting better as time goes on. New families and businesses are settling in and it’s nice to see the progress, he shared.

“The places here have got so much character and memories attached to them,” said Thompson. “From neighbors who have given me dog food when I first got Bob as a puppy, or the bakery down the street that gives me an occasional free loaf of bread, I’ve never seen as much kindness anywhere in Omaha as much as I have down here.”

Little Italy: Through the Eyes of the Community – A Hidden Gem

“My last name is spelled P-I-E-R-C-E, just like the street down here,” said Christina Pierce.


Map of Little Italy, Omaha

Pierce is a licensed massage therapist (LMT) in Little Italy—an Omaha, Nebraska neighborhood she’s spent nearly 30 years of her life growing up in. She’s lived through and witnessed three decades of change in the historic neighborhood and surrounding area.

Running her at-home practice, Omaha Ashiatsu & Bodywork, has its own special connection to the atmosphere of the neighborhood. Little Italy has its unique characteristics and sounds such as the train tracks just down the road.

“The sounds of the trains, even when I’m doing my massage I can hear them sometimes and it blends—to me, it’s like music to my ears—with the [background] music and everything else,” said Pierce. “Little Italy. It’s a hidden gem.”

Her parents moved into their home in Little Italy two years before she was born. At 17 years old, Pierce moved out from her childhood home for six years but didn’t move beyond east of 50th Street. She still stayed connected to the area. As you can imagine, a lot of change can happen in just five years, in ten, or thirty. With additions like Via Farina, the Blue Barn Theater, and soon-to-be Tenth Street Market it’s coming around to be a better area for business. Although the area is a few miles from the Old Market, it’s close enough to walk to and enjoy all the city has to offer but far enough away from the busy downtown hustle and bustle. The area is quiet, quaint, and it’s slowly changing.

“I’m just now seeing change,” said Pierce. “I suppose the biggest moment of change was when they tore down Caniglia’s where I worked as a busser when I was 16.”

The long-standing restaurant closed in 2005. The Caniglia family’s history in Omaha began in the 1910s running a bakery in Little Italy. From the bakery, it became Caniglia’s Pizzaria, then later became a steakhouse called the Original Caniglia’s, located near Seventh and Pierce Streets in 1946, according to the Omaha World-Herald.

Some of Pierce’s favorite memories through the years include sledding the snowy hills at Dahlman Park each winter, or visits to Olsen Bake Shop for doughnuts, eating great Italian food at Angie’s Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge (which closed in 2007), or celebrating special family events at Cascio’s Steakhouse—“a delicious Omaha landmark”. With its bright pink neon sign, Cascio’s Steakhouse is notably busy with packed parking lots every weekend. How does the steakhouse stay so busy?

“There’s no other reason. It’s tradition,” said Pierce.

Tradition has kept a lot of restaurants open and running in the neighborhood, but only few have remained. Orsi’s Italian Bakery & Pizzeria on the corner of Sixth and Pacific Street is one example. It’s truly one of the last remaining landmarks, founded in 1919. Staple restaurants have come and go, but Pierce believes the current changes and additions to the area are bettering the neighborhood.

“I see younger creative people taking to this area, which is heartwarming for me personally because I think there is such a beauty and a rarity in this part of town that takes a certain type of person to really appreciate,” Pierce said.

Pierce believes when the Tenth Street Market, a year-round indoor farmer’s market, officially opens it’ll shift many things in the neighborhood. For those who live in the downtown Omaha area there aren’t many options for grocery stores nearby. If you build it they will come.

“I see Little Italy becoming a new hot spot. Not like Benson because all the attractions or restaurants here aren’t on one street,” said Pierce. “Maybe like a new Blackstone district. Within the next five years I see this being an even better neighborhood for young families, with good grocers nearby, activities in the arts, and a thriving food industry. It’s still close to the zoo and as far as schools, they’re building an elementary school near Grace University soon.”