Writing & Shooting: A Photo Guide for Scribes

Grapes soon to be made into wine.

More and more online sites are popping up these days seeking content, and you (“the content writer”) will be asked to provide photographs in many cases. I often find myself spending more time shooting, editing and uploading photos than writing. It can be time consuming – calling businesses for stock photos and running around town snapping pics of my own. I’ve included a few tips to help you with this visual aspect of journalism, making the most of your time and capturing the best shots possible.

Make a plan. Figure out what photos you need and where to get them. If possible, save time and ask for in-house or stock photos. Always ask for the name of the photographer and make sure you have his/her permission to reprint.

Complement your article with the right shots. Think about what makes sense when planning your shooting session(s). Is it a restaurant review? Shots may include the exterior, signage and interior, but, most importantly, the FOOD. Get in close and make the dishes look as appetizing as possible. Think about the lighting and use flash, if necessary, though natural light is usually preferable.

 

Lighting is important. When shooting outdoors, keep the sun behind you. Fill flashes work well in situations when the person you’re shooting is back lit. Don’t forget about shooting at the “golden hour” (late afternoon when the sun makes everything look golden).

Think about the background. A solid colored background is nice, if you have it, and will make your subject pop more. De-clutter and minimize distracting elements. When shooting people, note if anything is “growing” out of the person’s head – palm trees, poles, etc.? If so, move and change your angle.

Shoot from multiple angles. Don’t just take pictures from one vantage point, which is usually eye-level from where you’re standing. Squat down, stand on something, shoot through an object and get creative.

Shooting with your camera phone. Though no match for a digital camera, your cell phone can (sometimes) provide acceptable pics for the web. Obviously, the quality is not going to be as good. Turn off the digital zoom on your camera, if you have one — it results in grainy-looking photos.

 

Learn basic photo editing. Almost every photo you take can benefit from a bit of editing, whether it’s simple cropping, rotating, resizing, etc. I highly recommend learning Photoshop, which does some amazing stuff; the trick is to be subtle about it so nobody can tell.

Web size and resolution. Images for the web are fine at 72dpi (300 dpi for print) and can generally be sized about 100KB and 640 x 480 pixels when sending. These are general suggestions, but it’s best to check with your editor or photo editor. Always make a digital copy of a larger original jpg to work on. If you shrink it down for the web and later try to enlarge it for print, it will look bad.

Above all, take lots of pictures—the more you take, the better you’ll get. If, indeed, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” then maybe next time you’ll be able to finish that feature in a snap.

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