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Photojournalism Basics. Photojournalism is the use of photos to either tell a story on their own or complement the text of a story. The reality is that nearly as many people look at the paper for the photos as they do for the stories. Thrills and Chills.

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Photojournalism basics
Photojournalism Basics

  • Photojournalism is the use of photos to either tell a story on their own or complement the text of a story. The reality is that nearly as many people look at the paper for the photos as they do for the stories.

Thrills and chills
Thrills and Chills

  • Being a photojournalist can be one of the most exciting jobs in the world. It can mean traveling to and taking photos of wars, natural disasters, and key political events.

Close to home
Close to Home

  • Being a photojournalist also means documenting the things that are important to people in the community. People want to see photos of the Heritage Parade, Girl Scouts selling cookies, and kids fishing at the local pond.

The artist
The Artist

  • Being a photojournalist is also much like being an artist. It’s using the camera to paint a picture. It means looking beyond the obvious and seeing the world in a unique way.

Tools of the trade
Tools of the Trade

  • A photojournalist’s most important tool is the eye. Cameras come in many forms, from the cheapest disposable point-and-shoots to elaborate digital SLRs, but “seeing” the shot is how it all starts.

Three types of photos
Three Types of Photos

  • In a very general sense, photographs for newspapers and magazines can be broken into three categories: news, feature, and sports.

News photos
News Photos

  • News photos attempt to capture “a moment.” That moment can be as dramatic as the Space Shuttle exploding…

News photos1
News Photos

  • … or as subtle as the tears of a Hurricane Katrina survivor as she cares for her little sister.

Feature photos
Feature Photos

  • Feature photos should be strong enough to stand alone with little more than a cutline. They are often just something or someone that catches the photographer’s eye. They can be as basic as two girls playing on a swingset…

Feature photos1
Feature Photos

  • …or as abstract as a piece in the Museum of Modern Art.

Sports photos
Sports Photos

  • Sports photos attempt to capture that which occurs in the fields or competitive or recreational sports. They can be shots as action-packed as Barry Bonds hitting his record-breaking home run…

Sports photos1
Sports Photos

  • …or as emotion-packed as Jerome Bettis and Hines Ward embracing after the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Superbowl victory.


  • There are many things that go into making a great photo. Sometimes just being in the right place at the right time – and a dash of luck – is enough to get a great photo, but most of the time, the photographer needs to apply certain composition techniques. Some techniques are very basic, while others require a bit of creativity.


  • Many of the basic principles of composition are derived from the theory of Gestalt perception, which refers to the way the mind views images. The five basic laws of Gestalt perception are:

    • Figure-Ground

    • Proximity

    • Similarity

    • Closure

    • Continuation

Figure ground

  • The mind separates a subject from its surrounding area. The object is the “figure” and the background is the “ground.”


  • Proximity occurs when elements are placed close together. The are perceived as a group.


  • Similarity occurs when objects look like one another. People perceive them as a group or pattern.


  • Closure occurs when an object is incomplete or a space is not completely enclosed. If enough of the shape is indicated, people see the whole by filling in the missing information.


  • Continuation occurs when the viewer’s eye naturally follows a line or curve. When those lines lead to the subject of the photo, they are called leading lines.

More composition basics
More Composition Basics

  • There are many other basic approaches to taking photos. They include, but are not limited to:

    • Shooting Angles

    • Rule of Thirds

    • Framing


  • A great way to make an old subject look new is to shoot it from a unique angle. In addition, getting low and shooting upward at a subject will often reduce unnecessary clutter in the background.

Rule of thirds
Rule of Thirds

  • Imagine a tic-tac-toe pattern drawn onto your photo. The eye is drawn to objects that appear at the intersections of those lines or along those lines.


  • A good way to draw attention to your subject is to frame it. A photographic frame is an object in the photo that acts as a border for your subject.

Capturing motion
Capturing Motion

  • There are three basic ways to capture motion. They are:

    • Stopping the action

    • Blurring the action

    • Blurring the background

Stopping the action
Stopping the Action

  • Stopping the action makes the subject of the photo appear caught in mid-motion. Both the subject and the background are in focus. It’s important, however, that the movement is clear.

Blurring the action
Blurring the Action

  • Blurring the action makes the subject of the photo appear to be moving. The background is sharp, however, to ensure the illusion of motion.

Blurring the background
Blurring the Background

  • Blurring the background and keeping the subject in focus also makes the subject of the photo appear to be moving. The camera must move with the subject to create this effect.