Teaching Photojournalism

Michele Wanke
Teaching photojournalism is challenging and rewarding.

Teaching photojournalism is more complicated than ever before due in large part to advances in technology. Fortunately, there are ways to teach photojournalism so that the art of picture taking doesn't become a victim of technological lassitude.

Technology's Impact on Photojournalism

Many individuals who teach photojournalism complain that the boom in technology and the introduction of digital photography has robbed the field of emotion. Photography students work with tools that feature auto everything. Cameras come equipped with auto focus, auto exposure, auto image stabilizers, and auto ISO settings. It's gotten to the point where the photographer has become part of the mechanical process rather than the entity in charge of creating an awe-inspiring image.

Getting Back to Basics

Given this technological conundrum, photojournalism teachers must encourage their students to get back to basics or potentially suffer the consequences of forging a disconnect between subject and shooter. By promoting a real connection between human consciousness and picture taking, teachers will be better able to preserve the art of photojournalism.

A lesson in the fundamentals of photojournalism should include creating a minimum of eight basic images:

  • Wide shot--vertical and horizontal
  • Medium shot--vertical and horizontal
  • Close-up shot--vertical and horizontal
  • Extreme close-up shot--vertical and horizontal

In addition, while teaching photojournalism one must stress the importance of ethics and context. Also, since digital photography is rooted in giving photographer's immediate gratification, it's vital to teach students ways to hone their observation, imagination and interpretation skills in an effort to take images that tell stories.

Tips For Teaching Photojournalism

Teaching photojournalism demands that the integrity of picture taking be upheld. The following tips will help you accomplish this goal in the classroom:

Reduce Sensationalism

The Internet, camera phones and the popularity of video sharing sites such as YouTube have changed the way photojournalism is viewed. These days the public demands sensational images and many media organizations comply in order to keep regular viewers and attract new ones.

Despite society's insatiable appetite for sensational images, it's important to help individual photojournalists to find a humanistic approach to picture taking. Stress the need to document real situations rather than pick certain points and sensationalize them.

Careful Editing

Technology has provided photojournalists with the ability to edit their shots with the click of a mouse. Photo editing software is a lifesaver for many photographers. However, as a photojournalism teacher you should emphasis the dangers of over editing. An edit should enhance an image without compromising its integrity or context.

Truth in Picture Taking

Truth in photojournalism is more than accuracy; rather it means that the viewer must see enough of an event to connect and sympathize with the people and situation. A photojournalism student should be able to apply the basic fundamentals of shooting, such as:

  • Lighting
  • Composition
  • Focus
  • Exposure
  • Color balance

In doing so, he will be able to create images that enhance a news story. Shots should be able to tell a story on their own and speak to the totality of an event and not a single portion of it.

Promote Creativity

Photojournalists should avoid getting stuck in a rut and shooting cookie cutter images to add to a story. One of the most important lessons in photojournalism is fostering creativity. Critics of high-tech photo tools maintain that photojournalism has used new technology to improve its efficiency, but not to improve its ideas. It that's the case then photojournalism teachers must give students opportunities to use their cameras as communication devices, so their pictures illustrate written stories in a way that will impact and inspire the world around us.

Teaching Photojournalism