How to think like a Journalist: Snapshots

We are attracted to the visual.

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling, Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, and Raphael’s The School of Athens took us by our senses in the Renaissance.

Picasso’s Guernica and Goya’s The Third of May 1808 showed us what war was all about in all its senseless brutality.

The New York Times described Matthew Brady’s American Civil War photographs as bringing the war to America’s doorsteps in all its graphic details.

What does this mean for the modern journalist?

As busy newsrooms get smaller and more digitized, I feel there will be a need for every reporter to be a good visual storyteller one who captures the public’s attention.

Sure, reporters must first be great writers, cock-sure of their abilities to write copy with style and polish. But, photos should not take second stage either.

Try to introduce the snapshot with these simple rules:

  • Get inside and personal, snapshots that close in on an emotional level.
  • Try a variety of medium range, long distance, and close up shots.
  • And take photos, photos and more photos.

Don’t believe that one photo will be enough. There were many times in my journalism career when I did not go far enough. This has resulted in awkward photos like heads being cut off, faces not clearly being seen, blurred images, and other off-the-cuff results.

We reporters may think we don’t have time to take exceptional snapshots of people and events, but given the visual nature of our senses, we should think about it more.

And by so doing, chronicle the lives of our times.

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