Advice from a former MMC 2100 student

Daron Dean, photographer at the St. Augustine Record, shared his photos and offered advice on taking photos for the students in MMC 2100. Although almost all of the students have cameras, most of them take snapshots — those smile-at-the-camera pictures that can be e-mailed to friends or perhaps posted and tagged on Facebook.

As part of the course, the students are learning how to take photos that could be part of a story package or the photos that can create a Soundslides presentation. Even though the mass media writing textbooks are incorporating more convergence in content, such as blogging and broadcasting,  the textbooks don’t include photography. Fortunately, I have several former students who are excellent photojournalists and can speak to the class. (And I’m a photography enthusiast myself and can include some of my own work in PowerPoint slides.)

In planning for his presentation, Daron and I discussed the photo principles that he would illustrate. We also talked about the selection of his photos to share that would include the inspiring (and he had many photos that illicited signs or gasps from the class) and also the I-could-have-taken-that-photo examples.

Key concepts:

  • Try taking the photo from several angles — eye level, from kneeling, from above, from different sides.
  • Use lighting — Often photos are better with natural light versus a flash. That may mean steadying yourself when taking the photo so you don’t move.
  • Rule of thirds – Typically you don’t put the subject of the photo in the center of the photo. And provide motion going into the photo.

I’ll add another key concept — Have your camera with you. I’m surprised how many students who say they are photojournalism students but never have their cameras with them. That’s the single most important factor. You can’t take a great photo if you don’t have your camera with you. And Daron always had his camera with him when he was a student in MMC 2100.

I really enjoy having former students returning to class to share experiences from the media work and reminding the students of the importance of starting now (if they haven’t done so already) to gain media experience. By the time Daron was a student in MMC 2100, he already was a photographer for The Alligator. We officially met in class when he talked with me about missing class on a test day because he needed to drive to Tampa to photograph President George Bush’s visit to that city.

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