Thursday, July 23, 2015

Why an old dog can teach young smartphone pups new tricks of the camera

   On cellphone photography.
   Once again I ponder this question while updating the syllabus: Should I teach cellphone photography to students when it’s already so much a part of their lives?
   Considering my tech addicted teen daughters are still teaching me about my own iPhone6, does it make sense to add a cellphone lesson to a syllabus for college journalism students?
   I don’t doubt that most of my Wayne State photojournalism students are also tech addicted, so what could I possible teach them that they don’t know already?
   Quite a bit, actually. In fact, social media is such an essential part of journalism these days that many universities are now offering entire courses dedicated to mobile reportage.
   Here are a few lessons that I think might benefit students:
Lesson One: Selfies
   This is the age of the selfies. Yes, our youth has mastered taking photos of themselves. I certainly don’t have to teach them that! In fact, this selfie lesson is about what NOT to do. Stop taking selfies!
   Yep, I advise to stop doing it, especially while students are job searching. Potential employers expect a high level of maturity. It is no secret that companies do background checks on social media accounts. Would you hire someone who excessively documents her own exploits?  This is a red flag.
   But, if they must do it, then I advise them to create two accounts: one personal and one professional, making the professional easier to find.
Lesson Two: Law and Ethics
   Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Students need to know what’s right and wrong when publishing and sharing cellphone photos.
   The first lesson I teach them in class is about the NPPA Code of Ethics. This code should be adhered to, whether the photos are shot with a cellphone or DSLR camera.
   Consider No. 5: ‘While photographing subjects do not intentionally contribute to, alter, or seek to alter or influence events.’ To me, that means no filters. Keep the image real.
   Also think about the ease of being sneaky with a cellphone, meaning that if a DSLR camera is not allowed (private funeral of slain victim, for example), then neither is a cellphone camera. It is not right, in most cases, to slyly record or photograph a subject when they are not aware.
   And lastly, you have the right to photograph police or authority figures in a public place with your cell. If they take away your device despite you following all of the rules (staying behind the police tape), they you probably have a case for a law suit.
Lesson Three: Available tools
   A smartphone camera has lots of options. So, let’s go over a few:
·      Get to know your shooting and editing tools, like flash, color correction, cropping and toning. But that's as far as it should go. No fancy stuff. Again, keep it real.
- Sometimes it’s not enough to simply point and shoot, especially if you’re publishing straight to a blog or social media site. Set your parameters first (color temperature, for example) to make your post-production work easier.
·      Download still and video editing apps, like Snapseed and Videolicious. Editing and producing your still photos and videos will make you more valuable (and hirable) in the field. Learn to use these apps, and then add this skill to your resume!
       ·      Taking a photo is part one, and writing the caption is part two. Captions are the journalism in photojournalism. So, figure out how to quickly write or transfer an AP style caption for every photo you post on Instagram, Twitter, blog, email to editor, etc. Also include your byline!
     ·      And don’t forget about #hashtags when posting to Instagram or Twitter. These can help your photos, or hurt them. Hashtags need to be smart and concise. They shouldn’t be overdone, like the Jimmy Fallon comedy skit #funny #thatisnothowyoudoit #photojournalism #cellphonelessons #oncellphones
   There are probably many more lessons and tips to share, and I'm sure I've left other important stuff out, but these are good starting points.

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