Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Wayne State Digital Photojournalism final projects showcase multiple skills

“This assignment was truly a culmination of skills, and I exercised them all to the best of my ability. After this assignment I’ve realized just how artful photojournalism is and the work people put in to doing it. For me the hardest part was still the photos, the technique. I now know that as a photojournalist you also have to create your style, your ‘way of doing,’ to create this common thread in your images and that thread is you. What you’re looking at through your lenses, what composition you’re using, how you’re using light, what moments you capture. You’re given the tools and the skills but once you’re out shooting it all comes down to you.” – Pulled quote from blog post of Kayla Cockrel, fall semester 2016 Wayne State Digital Photojournalism student.

   What a succinct way of describing what photojournalists do!
   It is certainly true that once you’re out there with camera in hand, whatever and wherever it is, it all comes down to you, the shooter: What lens you choose. What composition you see. How you evaluate light. What moment you capture.
   Kayla learned this through experiencing those important choices via the assignments given in the Digital Photojournalism class at Wayne State University in Detroit.
   I’ve heard grumblings from former students complaining that the course is too advanced. Too difficult. They come in on that first day thinking it’s basically a camera class, but find out as the course progresses that it’s much more than learning apertures and shutter speeds.
   Lessons include:

  • What news and photojournalism is. This includes identifying all parts of a print newspaper, learning the history of journalism, and identifying eight news values
  • The camera: Learning ISO, shutter speed, aperture; composition; reading light; capturing the moment
  • Setting up and maintaining social media sites: Wordpress blogs, Twitter and Instagram
  • Writing AP style captions
  • Law & Ethics
  • Collecting and editing audio
  • Shooting feature, portrait, sports and photo story assignments
  • Using industry standard software: Photo Mechanic; Photoshop; Adobe Premiere Pro CC; Audacity
Screen grab: Blog post by Morgan Kollen
Yes, it’s progressive. But because this is the only photojournalism course available in the journalism program, I stand by the curriculum. 
Because I understand this is a difficult course for the novice photographer, which most of them are, I allow them to turn in assignments late. This gives them time to soak in the information; reshoot weak assignments; give them confidence and time to get out of their comfort zones.
   Even if they will never use a camera again, they, as journalism and PR majors, will undoubtedly work with photojournalists, or manage them. Now they will have an appreciation of what photojournalists do, and what they need to get the job done.
    The final project is a culmination of all of the aforementioned lessons. I’m proud to say most of the students did amazingly well. Rather than have a strict rule on how it should be presented, they were encouraged to follow their guts, and hearts. Considering most of these students knew absolutely nothing about cameras and storytelling four months ago, I think they did a great job putting their stories together.
   This proves to me that I am on the right track in keeping the curriculum challenging, but giving them time and room to grow. Most students walk into class with a minimal digital footprint, and depart with a Wordpress blog showcasing a variety of photojournalism content. 
   Now, I present to you three wonderful, very different examples of their work. These are their final projects: 

Ryan Miller – a conversation interview format, shot in a difficult lighting situation:

Morgan Kollen – a poetic tribute to the City of Detroit:

Chris Ehrmann – a video story on his trip with fellow WSU classmates to Ghana in October:

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