Photojournalism is hard, and other things I learned this week

“Patience,” my father says, “Is a virtue.” Any unfortunately, it’s one I tend to lack. So of course it’s also the virtue I’ve needed most so far this semester in J7802. Which leads me to this week’s topic:

Week 3 prompt: What have you learned from doing the Seeing Red assignment and the related discussions in class?

Words are fast. Explaining things in words is easy (for me). Photos…less so. It’s slower. More deliberate. Composition in photos requires you to do all your work on the spot as it happens. Composition in words can be done after the fact, once I’ve had time to digest and react.

In the seeing red assignment, I was most focused on not screwing up my lighting and using the camera correctly. What I’m learning is that I need to focus more on composition in the moment. Less guess and check, more do. In my first semester of reporting I was told that what I produced was more important than what I tried to produce, and I’m seeing that’s true in all aspects of journalism. If you can’t produce a good photo, you need to get yourself into a situation where you can, no excuses.

During my work for subsequent assignments, I’ve tried to be more aware of composition, but it’s a lot of moving parts to keep track of at once. I need to get over the fact that some things are beyond my control and just try to work within the situation to get photos that don’t have distracting elements or are off-kilter in some way. It’s going to take patience. And practice. It’s going to require that I be confident in my technical skills so I can focus more on the content. And in time, those things will come.

My short term goals would be to do more thinking of composition in the moment and more careful editing after the fact to consider anything that I can fix to strengthen my photos. I’m used to editing for text; there’s a mental checklist I use with every story so I can make sure I’m not leaving stones unturned.

I don’t have the same comfort here yet. I don’t know everything to look for or what common pitfalls are. I have a teacher and classmates to guide me, but it feels a little like going in blind. It’s been a while, relatively speaking, since I had to learn how to report something from scratch, and I had forgotten how off-putting it felt to be completely new at something and still have to perform like a pro. It’s a little irritating to have to develop a new system, but it’s helpful that at least for text I already know the process I’ll need to go through.

TL;DR: be patient, Shaina. No one mastered photo composition overnight.

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