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As a journalist there are a number of different image options you can use to enhance the story. There are also design issues to take into consideration as you have to pick the right image to go with the story, both in terms of how it relates and what kind of tone the picture sets.

Image courtesy of Ecadamy.com

Sourcing

There are 5 main different ways of obtaining an image to connect with a major story.

  • Press Offices

Every company will have its own press office where they will have a range of images that may or may not relate to the subject or story you’re writing. The positives is that they are usually willing to give you one to promote their product but they may not give you the image they want. If you’re writing a story about a Ferrari being set on fire, Ferrari probably don’t have or want that image circulate. They will usually oblige with a photograph but will give you the photograph they want you to use to make the product look good.

  • News Agencies

Associated Press or Reuters are two big companies that have hundreds of people in each country working for them. They attend any story that they think someone might be worth writing about and will usually have a wide range of stylistic photographs from many different perspectives. The drawback to these guys is cost and as they are usually photographs about a certain thing, they can usually only be used for one story. Paying a lot of money for the rights to one image when it’ll be worthless after you post the story is not always worth it. As these agencies are so big they will also supply to many other people. You may see the image you paid a lot of money for splashed over many other news outlets.

  • Archives and Picture Libraries

If you’re working on a budget these can be good because you won’t always have to pay for it, or at least it may not cost you much. However these images aren’t hugely up to date as the main reason they have it is because the rights have expired. If you want a photograph of Rupert Murdoch, they may have one, but one from when he first inherited his newspapers.

  • Indivduals

If you are a local writer, or a national news story has broken about a local issue or tragedy, you can go to the individual the story is about. This is a good way to get an exclusive photograph if you are there before anybody else. It can potentially cost very little. If you give £20 to someone for the official rights to use a photograph that means very little to them personally, but may have exclusive headline image, you could then sell the rights on for £20,000 if the story picks up speed in the national press. This can sometimes be unethical and immoral. If the story is about a personal tragedy, do you really want to go into the home of a story subject, connect with them and exploit them for a poxy image?

  • Commissioned Shots

The good old fashioned way of getting a photograph is getting a camera yourself or pay a highly skilled photographer to get it for you. Once again this is an issue of cost – the better the photographer or photograph, the more you’ll pay. It does take away the personal backache of chasing down a photo and you can usually ask for a very specific photo i.e. someone looking sad, coming out of a courtroom after an unsuccessful trial,

 

What’s wrong with online images?

If you’re going down a low budget route you can go on to websites like newspress.co.uk or search through rights free image websites like morguefile.com, you can of course search through thousands of images on Google.

This brings up it’s own problems of who owns the rights to each image (and quite often you may have to sift through thousands of pornographic photos before you find that image of two women genuinely playing table tennis). If you go to the Google Images homepage however you can adjust the search settings in Advanced Search options. Tick the box to search for Commercial Use.

Design

Image courtesy of Smash&Peas

  • Do you want landscape or portrait?
  • If you are looking for a striking image of a single person you probably want him in the centre of the photograph.
  • You may want to include background business, try cutting in the image in to 3rds. Get the focus of the image on the cross-hairs of two of the 3rds – this can help show situation or circumstance.
  • The depth of the field is important and in particular what’s in focus. Change the F/number to adjust the subject.
  • Movement

    Courtesy of Chris Grosser Photography

Shutter speed can dramatically change the style and feel of an image. It can be used to get the best effect for cars driving, runners… running or perhaps if there’s a lot of action happening like a music performance.

If you are looking for not much blur you want a fast shutter speed like 1/500th of a second.

If you want a lot of blur slow shutter speed (1/15th) is what you’re after.

Panning can also help the effect of your blur. This can be especially brilliant when shooting a racing car.

  • Distortion and Perspective

If you want a promotional shot that looks quite dramatic and exciting you’ll want an extreme perspective but for a simple shot to fully capture the ‘real’ essence of the subject a flat perspective – similar to your personal digital camera will do.

  • Colourfulness

Speaks for itself.

Usage

The right image has to suit the story’s slant and angle. For this you need to focus on the colour of the image, the pose of the subject, the angle the photo was taken from. These variants will have different results. What may be good for an labum cover, may not be good for a news story. What may be good for a news story, may not be good for a feature.

Obviously News Value is important, if it’s not topical it might not be worth anything – I’ll refer you to the Rupert Murdoch comparison I made earlier.

Availability is important – you may know of a photo, but can you get to it. Is it sendable? Printable? Has it been exclusively paid for by another company? Rights of the image will link in to this.

What information does the image convey? There used to be a time where to find out the 5 W’s of a photograph, all you had to do was turn it over and read the information written on the back of the image. In a digital age this isn’t all that possible but sometimes there will be telling signs in the photo. Perhaps there’s a road sign, or a name tag around someones neck. Maybe the image has the poster of the titled event you are reviewing. If the image has an unnamed person standing in front of a perfectly plain brick wall – that may say nothing.

Technical Quality

Sharpness

Contrast/Saturation

Exposure

Colour Balance

Original Size, resolution and compression

All the above are hugely important in what you can and cannot use in different media forms.

Online                            Image                                   Print

72 dpi                            Resolution                        288 dpi

JPG, GIF, PNG            File Format                       JPG, TIFF

High                              Compression                    None, Low

Small                             File Size                             Doesn’t Matter

Examples

25 pixels                      Small Image                      300 pixels wide

100 pixels                    Big Image                           5000 pixels wide

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