MA Multimedia Journalism: it’s about delving deep, framing your world and getting the look you want …
I am beginning to understand more about the art of storytelling and what it means to be a masters student in multimedia journalism at Westminster University.
My decision to undertake a masters was done with painstaking deliberation. So far it has been intense — a steep learning curve, relentless in the hours of work, with constant deadlines that has been a major challenge. But rewarding!
But why journalism and why now?
I have always been curious about the world around me — especially when it does not make sense. As a child I got into serious trouble whenever I asked a question. This was a major obstacle for me as I always wanted to know why.
I put it down to my early years as a dumb child — I could not talk and considered a lost cause until the age of seven. Institutional care was a dark, silent and lonely place that made little sense. I am told my only response was to stories, nursery rhymes and so it was through sound, music, pictures and watching TV that I came to learn about the world around me.
So it seems appropriate that the world of multimedia journalism is what I have chosen for those “who have no voice”.
Journalistic “muscle memory”
It’s been over a month since the cohort of MA multimedia journalists 2015 met. We hit the ground running with little breathing space to consider the basic photographic skills to support our known journalistic talents.
It’s “muscle memory” David Dunkley Gyimah, Westminster multimedia senior lecturer reassures us. Dunkley warns us of the next big “news day” event — putting us next generation journalist through our paces — with the expectation of at least 5 breaking news stories to include photos, embedded video footage and other human interest stories in a time frame that means there’s no time for lunch.
Dunkley, award-winning, international veteran journalist has the natural flair and jaw-dropping career portfolio — to know that a career in multimedia journalism — the bar is set very high.
I admit my photography is more about “shooting from the hip”. With crossed fingers and held breath I hope that I’ve got something decent when I am behind the camera. It’s tricky as I have worked hard to develop a Pavlov response to knowing what buttons to press and get settings spot on.
You see it and you want to shoot it.
But knowing how to get the right exposure, how to frame it and get the right composition is something that does not come automatically to most. I would like to get tack sharp pictures consistently or get that creamy bokeh background where the subject just pops out at you.
So how to take those images like a pro and get them to look the way you want is the challenge. But an acceptance that it is likely to take years of practise is the first step.
But it’s so easy these days — high resolution smartphone cameras let’s you snap away and shoot video — to get that image wherever you are.
True — but knowing how to get those images to look the way you want is the real art.
It’s fine when you have all the time in the world but under pressurised deadlines and at live events the tendency is to go for the safe shots and do no more.
The definition of a professional photographer is that you get paid for your work. I shoot business events and I have had pictures published in magazines. I get paid for my work. I classify myself as a functional photographer that can do.
I want to be more than a can do photographer.
The reality the ground is shifting and new technology has made it easy for any person to call themselves a photographer, photo journalist where to make any sort of living with photographs is not easy.
So what’s the future?
MoJo — mobile journalist
Mobile journalism is an emerging form of new media storytelling where reporters use portable electronic devices with network connectivity to gather, edit and distribute news.
The Westminster masters programme is part of this movement in developing a new breed of reporters — known as mojos (mobile journalist) — who have their camera “go bag” — and just go.
For the purist — there’s nothing like getting your hands on a D-SLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) to learn the fundamentals of photography and for capturing video that has that has a bit more of an edge.
I started with an entry Nikon D5000 but recently invested in Panasonic GH4 that just feels right even though I have yet to master it fully. It’s smaller, lighter and more compact and allows me to use my old lenses.
They say you are either a Cannon or Nikon shooter and once you get the bug don’t be surprised if you spend countless hours reading about the different camera bodies and lenses. But the main consideration for me was versatility and portability — having to “run and gun”.
So if you want to get started and are thinking of investing in something more than your smartphone I would look to Wirecutter — a great resource for the best gadgets and gear in helping you understand the market and help with knowing what to get.
How to get your images the way you want
You may have read everything there is to know — all the theory of exposure triangle: ISO, F-stops and shutter speed — the reality and truth — to get those images to get those pictures you want and make others say “that’s a great shot” — it’s practise, practise, practise.
But once you have got your image — how do you get it the way you want it?
There is much debate regarding the optimisation for images for the web. Why does this matter?
In a nutshell cameras produce high resolution images that is a heavy load when opening a page on a website. Google gets really upset and penalises those websites giving less “Google juice” so your page can’t be found.
It’s a bit confusing whether it’s really necessary but my experience is to play it safe. Once you get more experienced and start loading images through code it is more significant — as it does affect response time.
If you are using wordpress there are also a few image optimizer plugins that worth knowing about that does it automatically as you upload photos. It is definitely worth knowing alternative methods.
There’s lots of different photo manipulation software but Adobe Photoshop is the professional industry standard. As a verb — “photoshopped” is used extensively to manipulate photos. For a reasonable amount of £8.50 a month for Adobe’s subscription you get the basic software to do any photographic work. But if you are short of those pennies — there are also plenty of completely free alternatives to Photoshop - with open source alternatives such as GIMP.
So here are some considerations:
- Under Image Size set the resolution to 72 — if you want to know more follow this thread that raises the issues of print, download times although does seem to consider webpage load times.
Select File →Export →Save for the Web (CC 2015) and you can play around with the settings to get the fastest page loads.
JPEG and PNG are standard formats. I generally set to medium and play around with the Quality parameter.
2. Cropping is one of the most useful tools. This brings up handles that you can resize to your liking. It conveniently brings up grid system using the rule of thirds that’s very helpful in composition.
3. Filters are fun to work with and can get creative juices flowing. The filters in Adobe allows lens correction and photo effects and well worth trying out.