Beyond the Snapshot – Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan: Beyond the Snapshot

Overview

Photographs must do more than just capture a memory. They must capture a moment in time and tell a story.

Critical Engagement Questions

  • What makes a photograph catch your attention?
  • How do we recognize a good photograph?
  • What can we do to take more interesting photographs?
  • Why are photographs an important element in media?
  • Why do we respond to certain images?

Objectives

  • Photograph the “moment”, or peak action that tells the story.
  • Watch for the human side of the story
  • Face and hands reveal emotion
  • Get the facts (ask for names, correct spelling, other caption information)

Activities and Procedures

Activity 1

  • Students will watch a Powerpoint slideshow that introduces photographic composition techniques such as cropping and the rule of thirds.
  • Students will be asked to view magazines and newspapers and to select photographs that appeal to them. The students will analyze the photos to determine why they were appealing and explain how and which composition rules are used.

 Activity 2

  • After being introduced through lecture on photography basics, the class will take a walking tour of campus and be required to take photographs of “hands, feet, and faces”. These images must illustrate various concepts such as rule of thirds, standard daylight exposure, back lighting, depth of field, panning etc. They must also reveal emotion.

Activity 3

  • For homework, students will continue working on their “hands, feet and faces” photo assignment. After the photos are developed or printed, each student will submit at least five images. In addition, they will mount their best photograph to a piece of black construction paper and will present it to the class.

Resources and Materials:

  • paper (black construction paper)
  • pencils/pens
  • camera
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Roles and responsibilities of the media

There are two important points that need to be reiterated.

First, as I stressed many times before, journalists must not mislead.

Next, we need to remember why we need photojournalists.

The role of the media is to inform the public, to share accurate information and more importantly, the truth.

The four fake Asiana Air pilot names should never have been broadcast.

A summer intern working at the National Transportation Safety Board was blamed for this fiasco.

Intern or not, this problem shows that there needs to be better communication between government agencies and the media.

I previously wrote in Why Media Literacy Matters – Times of Crisis:

Media involvement in the emergency management process can help minimize misunderstanding. The goal is after all, to provide the public with accurate information as quickly as possible. Media agencies are great at doing that.

This means that journalists and government agencies need to work together and establish positive mutual working relationships. However, it is important to note that journalists are not the only source of media.

Another news organization recently got rid of its entire photography staff.

According to Jim Romenesko, Michael Gebhart, the chief executive of Southern Community Newspapers (in Georgia) wrote in an email, “How many photographers need dark room skills to develop film and make prints?”

Like many other professional photographers, I have not used a darkroom in a very long time. With the advancement of technology and digital cameras, no one really needs a darkroom anymore.

Gebhart obviously does not understand the importance of professional photographers.

Photography is a powerful tool and a universal language that can be used to inform the public and share with them the truth about what is going on in the world around them.

I previously stressed that reporting and photography require different levels of training and understanding.

I wrote in Importance of professional photographers, Part II:

So does having a blog make you a journalist? Does having a professional camera make you a photographer?

Anyone is capable of taking a snapshot or writing an article but the answer to both questions is no. They might possess the tools and equipment but that does not mean they have the technical expertise to do the job.

They are different forms of storytelling and we need them both.

Reporters and photographers are different types of storytellers and neither is more important than the other.

But one thing is for certain, as journalists they are responsible for telling the truth.

The media needs to remind themselves that people need to be informed, not misled.

Journalism is not dead, importance of storytelling

A recent study conducted by Bankrate.com shows journalism as one of the worst  return of investment for a bachelors degree. According to Bankrate.com, it will take 31.83 years for journalists to repay their student loans.

Ken Layne suggests that sailing would be a better career than journalism.

Journalism, however, is not dead.

Newspapers might be declining but storytelling continues to play an important role in our daily lives.

Nic Coury explains on Sports Shooter, an online resource for photographers and photojournalists, that he was a journalism major and loved it. According to Coury, who works as both a reporter and photographer for the Monterey County Weekly newspaper, even with the decline of newspapers there will still be crime, politics and sports that needs to be covered.

I was also a journalism major and to this day, I believe that it was a valuable investment.

The skills I learned through my journalism courses taught me how to become a better storyteller, a better communicator.

Earlier this week, I stressed that photography and journalism are different forms of storytelling and that we need them both.

There are also other important forms of storytelling, which will be discussed in future blogs.

Storytelling is an important form of media that teaches people how to think critically and to improve their communication skills.

This brings us back to the importance of media literacy.

Media literacy is about teaching people critical thinking skills and helping them understand the complex messages presented by the media. However more importantly, it is about teaching communication skills.

A journalism education teaches students how to become better storytellers, a skill that is useful in every field.

We need to emphasize the importance of journalism and photography as forms of storytelling.

In previous blogs, I stress how students used photography for storytelling, as a means to express themselves and to learn about others. I also explain how photographs can make a difference.

Stories can make a difference.

Importance of professional photographers, Part II

In my previous blog, I stressed the importance of professional photographers.

First it was Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who said “there’s really no such thing as professional photographers anymore.”

Then the Chicago Sun-TImes eliminated its entire photo staff.

Really?

According to Sally Kalson, a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Eliminating the entire photo department has to be the dumbest, most wrongheaded move any news organization has made in recent memory.

As both a journalist and photographer, I need to stress that both are different forms of communication and require different skill sets.

Neither is more important than the other. Both are equally important.

So does having a blog make you a journalist? Does having a professional camera make you a photographer?

Anyone is capable of taking a snapshot or writing an article but the answer to both questions is no. They might possess the tools and equipment but that does not mean they have the technical expertise to do the job.

Both jobs require different levels of training and understanding.

As Chicago Tribune photojournalist Alex Garcia said, “Reporters are ill equipped to take over”.

Garcia explains:

That’s because the best reporters use a different hemisphere of the brain to do their jobs than the best photographers. Visual and spatial thinking in three dimensions is very different than verbal and analytical thinking. Even if you don’t believe that bit of science, the reality is that visual reporting and written reporting will take you to different parts of a scene and hold you there longer. I have never been in a newsroom where you could do someone else’s job and also do yours well. Even when I shoot video and stills on an assignment, with the same camera, both tend to suffer. They require different ways of thinking, involving motion and sound.

In Why Media Literacy Matters – Photojournalism and Diversity, I explained:

Photojournalism is a universal language that uses photographs for storytelling and allows people of all races and cultures to find the things they have in common.

Through photography, students in Massachusetts and South Korea were encouraged to express themselves through storytelling.

Previously, I also talked about the importance of photojournalism. I shared my story about why I wanted to become a photojournalist. I explained that I wanted to use photographs to educate people about important events around the world.

I stressed how a photograph can make a difference in someone’s life.

Photography and journalism are different forms of storytelling and we need them both.

Importance of professional photographers

Earlier this week, Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo said in a press conference, “there’s really no such thing as professional photographers anymore.”

As Jim Colton expressed on his blog, this is an insult to all professional photographers (and photojournalists).

The average person might have access to the same tools and social media makes it easy to share photographs.

But there are major differences between a professional photographer and the average citizen or so-called citizen journalist.

Professional photographers are willing to risk their lives in order to do their jobs as evident in recent crisis situations such as the Boston Marathon bombing and the tornado that struck Oklahoma City.

Chicago Tribune photographer Alex Garcia wrote on his blog:

When spectators with cameras were fleeing, they headed towards the madness of the explosion. [Boston Globe photojournalist John] Tlumacki took his iconic picture just 15 seconds after the first explosion.

Garcia explains that news photographers have a unique mission to share and bear witness unlike the casual observer with a camera.

Journalists have a responsibility to inform the public and to not mislead them.

In previous posts, I discussed the importance of ethics and the role that journalists (photojournalists) play, especially during times of crisis.

In addition, news photographers are expected to abide by a code of ethics.

As I wrote  in Why Media Literacy Matters – Quality journalism and ethics:

To ensure that photojournalists do not alter photographs or report stories that deceive the public, news organizations and the NPPA have established codes of ethics that they must abide by. Credibility is the greatest asset of journalists. It is wrong to alter the content of a photograph in any way (electronically or in the darkroom) that deceives the public. The preamble of the NPPA Code of Ethics states that photographs can cause great harm if they are manipulated.

Another difference between the professional and the average citizen is that professionals are trained to do their jobs.

 

Why Media Literacy Matters – Quality journalism and ethics, part 2

Journalists must not mislead.

Whether through words or images, they must always tell the truth.

In my previous post, I talked about ethics and why journalists must not manipulate their images.

People see the world, through the images and the stories presented by the media. The public has given journalists their trust and therefore they cannot mislead them.

The Washington Post photograph as it appeared on the Post web site (above) and as it was entered in the WHNPA contest (below).

The Washington Post photograph as it appeared on the Post web site (above) and as it was entered in the WHNPA contest (below).

Earlier this week, the White House News Photographers Association released a statement saying that they would disqualify a Washington Post photograph that recently won an award in the WHNPA annual contest.

The photographer entered a photograph that was digitally altered.

Editors at the Post discovered that the altered image was different from the one originally published.

The Post has a code of ethics that prohibits photo manipulation.

As I have previously stressed, even journalists need an understanding of media literacy.

They need to know how their work influence the public.

There is a need for professional ethics education.

Education programs are important because they serve to provide guidelines to help people make ethical decisions.

People who have a desire to work in the field of journalism need to be taught how to correctly use the tools.

However, guidelines and codes of ethics are not enough. Even Enron had a set of values and rules that was supposed to emphasize integrity and respect. Yet, the company lost its way and allowed unethical behavior to destroy the company.

An organization needs to have a code of ethics and conduct but they also need leaders who promote ethical behavior by setting an example.

Kudos to the Post for taking action.

Why Media Literacy Matters – Quality journalism and ethics

In a previous post I talked about the importance of quality journalism and why journalists also need media literacy education.

Photojournalists need to remind themselves about the ethics of journalism. This applies to both contests and published work.

Allen Murabayashi wrote an article titled, “Why Do Photo Contest Winners Look Like Movie Posters?”

In another article, Murabayashi explains that the next two photos are the World Press Photo of the Year 2012. The top image is the submitted image that won, and the lower image is how it was first published.

According to Murabayashi,

“The range of emotions expressed (anger, grief, despair), the position of the people and bodies, and proximity of the photographer to the subject make it an incredible moment in time. And because of these elements, this photo was deservedly named the World Press Photo of the Year. It also looks like an illustration.”

Like Murabayashi, I also prefer the “original” image better.

This is not the first time an entry has been manipulated.

Brian Patrick, an award-winning photojournalist, manipulated an image he took of a wildfire in 2009 that he submitted to the San Francisco Bay Area Press Photographers Association’s annual photo contest. For more information, visit http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/161983/sacramento-bee-fires-bryan-patrick-for-photo-manipulation/

This is also not the first instance of photojournalists manipulating their images.

Patrick was fired from the Sacramento Bee on February 4, 2012 for the violation of ethics by digitally altering photographs. Patrick had digitally altered photographs on more than one occasion.

In April 2003, the Los Angeles Times fired Brian Walski, a photographer who covered the war in Iraq for the newspaper. According to Kenneth Irby of the Poynter Institute, Walski was fired on April 1, 2003 for submitting a photograph that was a composite of two different photographs he had taken.

Patrick Schneider is another photojournalist that was fired for digitally manipulating photographs. Schneider altered images on more than one occasion. According to Sherry Ricchiardi, on August 15, 2003, the North Carolina Press Photographers Association revoked three awards that were given to him, ruling he had improperly manipulated images in the editing process.

To ensure that photojournalists do not alter photographs or report stories that deceive the public, news organizations and the NPPA have established codes of ethics that they must abide by. Credibility is the greatest asset of journalists. It is wrong to alter the content of a photograph in any way (electronically or in the darkroom) that deceives the public. The preamble of the NPPA Code of Ethics states that photographs can cause great harm if they are manipulated.

Falsified images are unethical because they deceive the viewer.

Even journalists need an understanding of media literacy. They need to be careful and ensure that accurate information is shared. They need to know how their work influence the public.

As I said in a previous post, most professional journalists are trained to report truthfully and have a strong grasp on media literacy. However, they are human and can make mistakes.

It does not hurt to reevaluate the importance of media literacy training.

It is the responsibility of journalists to inform and educate the public on important issues that affect their lives and the world. But in order for journalists to accomplish this task, they must have the trust of the people.

People see the world, through the images and the stories presented by the media. The public has given journalists their trust and therefore they cannot mislead them.

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References

Irby, K. (2003, April 2). L.A. Times Photographer Fired Over Altered Image. Poynter Institute. Retrieved from http://www.poynter.org/how-tos/newsgathering-storytelling/9289/l-a-times-photographer-fired-over-altered-image/

Ricchiardi, S. (2007). Distorted Picture. American Journalism Review, August/September. Retrieved from http://www.ajr.org/article.asp?id=4383

Murabayashi, A. (2013). Why Do Photo Contest Winners Look Like Movie Posters?. Retrieved from http://blog.photoshelter.com/2013/02/why-do-photo-contest-winners-look-like-movie-posters/

Murabayashi, A. (2013). Darkrooms are Irrelevant and The Truth Matters. Retrieved from http://blog.photoshelter.com/2013/02/darkrooms-are-irrelevant-and-the-truth-matters/

National Press Photographers Association. (n.d). NPPA Code of Ethics. Retrieved from             https://nppa.org/code_of_ethics