photography

Want to shoot better-looking interviews? Use your hand

To anyone who uses a camera in TV news: would you like a simple tool to help your shooting without giving you anything else to carry?

Have I got your attention?

It’s your hand.

Right?

The next time you get ready to interview someone but you’re unsure about the lighting, put your hand out. Stretch your arm and open your palm so you can see all of its features.

How does it look? Is it shiny? Is it backlit? Does the light flatter your skin – make it smooth, soft, the same shade up and down – or accentuate the folds and wrinkles?

Here’s the problem: our chief photographer does this and gets made fun of. Our chief photographer has won major awards. Our chief photographer has shot pieces that look like they should be presented on a golden platter.

Why does he get teased? Because it looks silly? Because it seems too easy?

What’s wrong with easy?

Does it work? Then easy is the way.

But why does he really get teased? Because the people who tease him might not value what he’s doing.

Lighting may not seem like it matters anymore. Most young MMJs I meet haven’t been taught the basics. And who would teach them? College professors have much larger points to make, and news managers at any level don’t have the time to dig so deep.

Except lighting is a bedrock. Learn it, and it’s an instant upgrade. Learn it, and your stories will have that indefinable quality that just looks good. But it’s not indefinable. It’s good lighting.

And it doesn’t require actual lights. Lighting is everywhere, in every shot. It’s in a bulb on the ceiling or the sun in the sky.

So when our chief photographer opens his hand to test an interview, he’s showing respect to one of the key factors that determine the quality of his shot. And he’s doing it in three seconds, with no extra gear.

I saw him do it nine months ago. I’ve done it about nine times since. I can usually guess the lighting by looking around, but sometimes it’s unclear. So I put out a hand. And it answers the question.

Maybe the lesson here is to value lighting. Or maybe it’s to stop teasing chief photographers. Most likely it’s this: when you see people who know more than you, and they’re doing something that looks strange, ask them why they’re doing it. Learn first, then judge. Or learn first, then think critically about what you’ve learned, and judge last. But don’t judge like a final decree. Absorb the information and understand why you’ve chosen to incorporate it – or why you haven’t. And don’t get too attached to either direction.

So try the hand. Or not. But don’t worry about looking silly. Worry about telling a great story.

svj-cover-2

The Solo Video Journalist is available for purchase. You can find it on AmazonBarnes & Noble, and the publisher’s web site.

Matt Pearl is the author of the Telling the Story blog and podcast. Feel free to comment below or e-mail Matt at matt@tellingthestoryblog.com. You can also follow Matt on Facebook and Twitter.

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Nik Wallenda, Boston, & an execution

Every week, I shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.

The Wal-Mart of the high wire (10/2/15, BuzzFeed): I continue to be impressed by BuzzFeed’s legitimate credibility as a destination for longform journalism.

I have mentioned their work before, and this latest feature is a worthy addition to their canon.

Steve Kandell, BuzzFeed’s news features director, produces a profile of the high-flying wire-walker Nik Wallenda, whose notoriety has become a source of contention within both his industry and his family. Wallenda continues the tradition of performers who may not be the best at their jobs but are the best at self-promotion.

Kandell perfectly weaves these stories of conflict with under-the-tightrope visuals and descriptions. BuzzFeed’s web editors succeed here as well, filling the story with dazzling images and videos of Wallenda’s high-wire feats.

Call it another win for an unlikely web site.

(more…)

PODCAST EPISODE #34: Ben Garvin, photographer, KARE-TV

Play

When I first started this blog, many newspaper photographers were staring into a future of cutbacks, layoffs, and competition with everyone’s iPhones.

Ben Garvin surveyed the landscape from his perch at the St. Paul Pioneer Press. In 2007 he was named Minnesota Photographer of the Year. In 2011 he was named Journalist of the Year by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Despite the accolades, Garvin knew he was not immune from the large-scale changes occurring across the industry.

But this past year, he found refuge by switching lanes.

Garvin still works as a still photographer, but now he does it for a TV station: KARE-TV in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

And he does it with an innovator’s spirit. Last week I shouted out Garvin in my 3 Great Stories segment for a sweetly touching piece about a grandfather and grandson spending the day together at Vikings training camp. Technically Garvin produced a video, but it consisted strictly of still photos with audio weaved in from Garvin’s interviews.

Garvin is my guest on Episode #34 of the Telling The Story podcast.

Speaking to me from a swing on his porch (!), Garvin discusses a variety of subjects: the ability to be a hybrid in today’s media world; the importance of photographs in social media; and the versatility required to succeed on a higher level.

(more…)

PODCAST EPISODE #28: Michael DelGiudice, photographer, WNBC-TV

Play

Michael DelGiudice has won more Emmy awards than the number of weeks in a year.

Michael DelGiudice has won more Emmy awards than the number of Super Bowls.

Michael DelGiudice has won more Emmy awards than the number in a famous Beatles song.

Michael DelGiudice, during his 30-year career in television, has won 65 regional Emmys.

The photographer has captured a slew of other awards as well, and he was just named this year’s NPPA Photographer of the Year for the East Top region — an extraordinary honor in what he calls “a dogfight” of a competition.

But what most impresses me about DelGiudice is not his award count but his location.

He has achieved this type of success, and preached the gospel of storytelling, in the largest market in the country: New York City.

The Big Apple has a reputation for wanting the hardest of news; its stations fly through their newscasts, rarely staying on one story for very long. But within those parameters, DelGiudice — along with the reporters who work alongside him — has developed his own reputation as a photographer who finds humanity in his subjects.

He joins me on Episode #28 of the Telling The Story podcast.

DelGiudice and I discuss his tried-and-true techniques, tips for younger journalists, and the ups and downs of working in a market that swarms with media. He is a New York native (it shows in his voice), and he has made a tremendous living in his home city.

(more…)

#GoodMorningAtlanta: Photos from 1/12-1/16

In October 2014 I began posting a photo every weekday morning with the hashtag #GoodMorningAtlanta. The goal? To inspire, enlighten, or just plain help others start their day with a smile. See each week’s photos by clicking on the #GoodMorningAtlanta category, and view the daily photo by following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Let’s be clear: winter in Atlanta is far tamer than winter elsewhere in the U.S.

When I look at single-digit temperatures in Chicago, Milwaukee, Boston, and Buffalo, I know we’ve got it good. (Sometimes I feel slightly differently in the summer, though.)

That said, cold weather still comes, the trees still lose their leaves, and a normally outdoorsy city becomes less so. With that in mind, here are five photos from warmer times in the city of Atlanta:

(more…)

PODCAST EPISODE #24: Natalie Amrossi, @Misshattan

Play

New York can be a competitive place.

Just look at Instagram.

As of this writing, the hashtag #newyorkcity had been used on more than 4 million Instagram posts. Even the less obvious hashtag #newyorknewyork had been used 200,000 times.

New York City may be the most photographed city in the world.

And my guest on this episode of the Telling The Story podcast may be its most popular Instagram photographer.

Natalie Amrossi is a freelance photographer who is better known by her Instagram name: Misshattan. She uses her account to showcase spectacular photos of the Big Apple, usually from an aerial or rooftop view. With barely a thousand posts under her online belt, Amrossi has already amassed more than 200,000 Instagram followers.

That accomplishment becomes even more impressive with the knowledge that Amrossi is not a full-time photographer … or, at least, she wasn’t until last November. She was holding down a corporate job when she decided, in part because of her Instagram success, to become a freelancer and make a living solely from her photos.

“It was definitely emotional the day I decided to leave my job,” Amrossi told me. “I haven’t looked back since. Whether I make it or I fail, it doesn’t matter. The fact is, I don’t want to look back and wonder.”

Amrossi is not a journalist by trade, but she is certainly a storyteller, and she makes for a fascinating interview. We discuss a variety of topics, including the paradox of showcasing her mural-worthy photos on the tiny screen of a phone.

(more…)

#GoodMorningAtlanta: Photos from 12/15-12/19

In October 2014 I began posting a photo every weekday morning with the hashtag #GoodMorningAtlanta. The goal? To inspire, enlighten, or just plain help others start their day with a smile. See each week’s photos by clicking on the #GoodMorningAtlanta category, and view the daily photo by following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

I’m cheating again.

But I am too fond of the photos I just took to mind.

I spent much of last week in New York City, and I got the chance to visit some of the Big Apple’s biggest spots. Here are five that stood out; enjoy!

(more…)

#GoodMorningAtlanta: Photos from 12/8-12/12

In October 2014 I began posting a photo every weekday morning with the hashtag #GoodMorningAtlanta. The goal? To inspire, enlighten, or just plain help others start their day with a smile. See each week’s photos by clicking on the #GoodMorningAtlanta category, and view the daily photo by following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

I’m cheating a little this week.

The #GoodMorningAtlanta photos you see below are nowhere near Atlanta.

They are from California.

But having just returned from the magnificent Joshua Tree National Park, I felt compelled to make that beautiful desert sand-scape the subject of my weekly paean to photography. Enjoy!

(more…)

#GoodMorningAtlanta: Photos from 11/17-11/21

In October 2014 I began posting a photo every weekday morning with the hashtag #GoodMorningAtlanta. The goal? To inspire, enlighten, or just plain help others start their day with a smile. See each week’s photos by clicking on the #GoodMorningAtlanta category, and view the daily photo by following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

One of the crown jewels of the city of Atlanta is its botanical gardens.

And one of the crown jewels of the botanical gardens is its holiday lights display.

I do not normally go wild for holiday cheer, but here I make an exception. The display is elegant, ornate, and timeless, with unique experiences to be found every year. Here are some photos from this year’s display, which just opened this past weekend.

(more…)

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring November sweeps

Every week, I shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.

Bay Area photographer uses kite to capture bird’s-eye view (11/11/14, KGO-TV): November, in TV terms, is a giant ratings month.

Naturally, numerous local TV stations use the month to unleash some of their strongest work.

Such is the case with this clever visual piece from KGO-TV multimedia journalist Wayne Freedman. The industry veteran has received enough awards and done enough powerful stories to fill a book.

The good news is: he can practice what he preaches. Freedman tells the story of a local photographer who has published his own book, featuring photos from a camera the author attaches to a kite. Freedman uses the kite as a photographic device; he combines it with some heartfelt storytelling to produce a smile-worthy piece. (more…)