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.”
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