Picking Shareable Images For Social Media: Shutterstock Shares Tips

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We’ve all heard “content is king,” and in the social media world imagery is no exception. But what kinds of images get the most attention? To help us solve the mystery, we turned to the visual experts at Shutterstock. Who better to help crack the shareable-image case than an online stock photo shop with 35 million images?

The Shutterstock social media team took a look at some of their most shareable images to help Ebyline figure out what elements make a photo share-worthy.

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Can Rawporter make crowdsourced video work?

Rawporter fire

Crowdsourced journalism has had its up and downs over the past few years, with critics ranting about quality issues and evangelists predicting it could be the future of journalism.

A new entry into the market, Charlotte, N.C.-based startup company Rawporter, is trying to create a marketplace where media outlets can buy raw photo and video directly from bloggers, citizen journalists and news enthusiasts. Rawporter launched its initial iPhone app last November and landed several thousand beta testers in its first few months.

“Our goal was to just build the most basic product that we could with as little money as possible and gauge market reaction,” says Kevin Davis who, along with cofounder Rob Gaige, quit his marketing job at Bank of America earlier this year to focus on Rawporter full time after witnessing an auto accident and bystanders shooting video on their smartphones. “We didn’t want to over-engineer something.” Davis admits that those early iterations of Rawporter were buggy at times, but says they’ve spent the last several months polishing the product.

Now, several iterations later, the app is in beta with plans to release the official version soon. In September, they announced $300,000 in seed funding from three institutional investors. Davis says they’re focusing on growth for now and hoping “for a bigger raise down the road.”

Here’s how Rawporter works: when a user shoots photos or video and uploads it to the app, Rawporter automatically stamps it with the time, date and location. Users set the rate at which they’re willing to license the content to media outlets and Rawporter advertises the content and charges media outlets a flat fee of $5 on top of the licensing fee.

While the site boasts plenty of $5 images and $20 videos, Gaige says one user earned five figures for photos of Orlando Bloom, Miranda Kerr and their son shot while the amateur photojournalist was in Bora Bora on his honeymoon. “He snapped five photos and sent them to us and we shopped them around,” explains Gaige. “Because they’re such international stars, we were able to sell them exclusively in Australia and New Zealand and Europe and they’ve cleared $20,000. It’s a great example of someone being at the right place at the right time and working with Rawporter to protect those photos to get the appropriate compensation deserved.”

Unlike other experiments in crowdsourced journalism, Rawporter deals only in raw photos and video, allowing media outlets to incorporate footage of breaking news or celebrities into their own newscasts or webpages and exercise more control over the quality and format  of the finished product.

Craig Stark, associate professor of communications at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pa., sees potential in the crowdsourcing business models. “I think it’s good for freelance people and individuals who aren’t tied into major outlets, and it’s good for students,” he says. Media outlets also benefit from the ability to “give some different perspectives on something when it happens, not just one or two cameras,” he adds.

However, Stark cautions that understanding and enforcing copyright has been problematic for other crowdsourced projects. Gaige and Davis have given the copyright issue some thought and added a “copyright card” to each item so that media outlets have to license the content to use it. “We’re gonna water mark it and let the media know that if they’re interested, you’ve established a price tag,” says Davis.

Gaige says Rawporter is a “win for the media properties, because if there is something really interesting that they want, it’s easy to get. They don’t’ have to track down the owner. The copyright card that adds a level of validation and credibility.”

Although it’s still in the early stages, Rawporter has users in over 50 countries and has had photos published by more than two dozen media properties around the world. Davis declined to say how much revenue the startup has but says, “we’ve been almost entirely dedicated to technology development rather than partnership development at this early stage but we are starting to focus on growth in coming months.” A former MTV and Viacom intern now working on media technology, Davis relocated to New York City to be closer to potential clients and recently found himself live-tweeting the election from NPR’s headquarters as part of its #NPRMeetup, an experience he described as an “amazing and hopefully not a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Tech Review: Canon 60D DSLR, a Good Choice for Reporters

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Cannon cameraOver the past couple years, I’ve stepped up my photography skills and equipment so I can use them to generate another revenue stream. Photography is a great adjunct for freelance writers since it can be done while reporting, or researching pertinent information to a topic.

That’s why I recently purchased a Canon 60D single lens reflex (SLR) camera because I wanted to document all of my stories including those unexpected opportunities. The 60D doesn’t doesn’t really have a pocketable form factor but its polycarbonate body is relatively lightweight when compared to more full sized cameras like my Canon 5D. So the 60D fits right into my reporter bag without too much sag.

Although most photo editors will assign a dedicated photographer to shoot your story, there are always opportunities that may pop up that only you are able to document. That’s why you should just photograph everything that relates to your story, even if it’s for your own reference. Having reference photos can also help you sell pitches to editors. The 60D works well on the sly since it has great low light capability that can capture dark scenes without a flash.

The 60D can also record high definition 1080p video at broadcast quality. Assuming that you expose and compose your shots properly, video is another product that you can package with your story. Be aware that most SLRs, including the 60D, can only record up to 4 gb file sizes (about 15 minutes at 1080p, longer at lower resolution). You won’t be able to leave the camera unattended for long periods, but you can just hit the record button again and the camera will start a new video file. To shoot video, you’ll also need to purchase decent removable SD flash cards that are rated at class 10 or higher. Stick with San Disk, Lexar and Transcend which are reliable brands.

Some of my friends have the cheaper but capable Canon Rebel. I think the 60D is worth the extra money since it’s far easier to operate on the go. The 60D has a second LCD screen on top with dedicated buttons that operate many camera functions. On the Rebel, you have to scroll through multiple menus on the rear LCD to change features like white balance, a feature that allows you to properly match the camera to the lighting of your scene.

Overall, the 60D is really not much bigger than the larger “compact super-zoom” cameras like the Panasonic Lumix series. But the 60D has far more capability to produce high quality shots that are suitable for print publication. The 18 megapixel sensor, which is the same one used in the higher end Canon 7D, can produce high resolution, tabloid sized photos. But it’s important to mate the 60D with good lenses. Note that the 60D has an APS-C sized sensor, which is smaller than a 35mm negative. This means that the very affordable 50mm f/1.8 lens will actually be more like a 70mm lens, which puts it into portrait range.

Shooting Photographs in JPEG vs RAW

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Today’s digital cameras have a lot of picture quality options. Most settings are designed to be web-friendly and take up less space on your storage card. But if you’re looking to sell photographs with your story and copywriting services, you’ll want to set your camera to shoot at its highest resolution. This will give photo editors more options to scale your images for print without any loss in quality.

Printing presses, for example, will reproduce the tones of a photograph with tiny dots on the printing press that are measured in lines per inch (lpi). Newspapers are typically printed at 85 lpi while glossy magazines are printed at 133 lpi or higher. Fine art books are typically printed at 175 lpi. A good rule of thumb is to double the lpi when adjusting the dots per inch (dpi) resolution of your photo. So if your photographs are destined to be used in a print magazine, your image should be set in at 266 dpi. Most people just round up to 300 dpi.

Note that you may have to scale your images since most digital cameras will simply scale up the image while leaving the resolution at 72 dpi. But size is inversely proportional to resolution so a 72 dpi, 10” x 20” image will scale down to a 300 dpi, 2.3” x 5.6” image without any quality loss.

You’ll also want to save your files in an uncompressed file format like TIFF and RAW. JPEG is suitable for web but is a compressed format that compromises image quality for a smaller file size. Really, the camera’s RAW setting is the ideal setting if you have the right software to process it like Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, or Elements. RAW files are “raw” sensor data files that have far more image data that allows you to broadly adjust the luminosity and contrast of an underdeveloped or overexposed photograph by two or more f/stops. That’s two aperture sizes bigger, hence more light, on your camera. If you were to just increase or decrease the brightness and contrast of a badly exposed JPEG image in Photoshop, you’d just blow out the image highlights or details in black.

RAW files can also be adjusted for white balance after the photo is taken. White balance pertains to the color temperature of the lighting. You may have noticed that many indoor photographs have an orange or yellow cast. The reason is because camera automatic settings don’t handle indoor lighting well and incandescent bulbs give off a warmer and more reddish or yellow cast. Fluorescent bulbs will give off a green tint. Ideally, you want a cooler daylight colored balance that’s more bluish and whiter.

Once you process the RAW image file, save it in uncompressed or lightly compressed TIFF, EPS or PDF file format. The latter seems to be standard at a lot of publications that I’ve worked for. All of the mentioned will be a lot bigger than a comparable JPEG so you will probably have to FTP (file transfer protocol) the file to your clients website or use an online attachment service like WhaleMail. Your editor should have a system in place to transfer large files.

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How Freelance Writers Can Take Their Photography Skills to the Next Level

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Journalism is largely driven by opportunity, which is why you should always carry a camera. Your photographs may end up being the only documentation available for your story or for some random, newsworthy event that you may stumble upon while walking home. Everyone has taken a picture or two, but taking great photos can help make you a little more cash as a freelancer. Here are some tips to bring your photo skills to the next level:

1. Learn how to use your camera’s manual functions. The automatic settings are easily fooled by challenging conditions like backlighting. So knowing how to balance aperture, shutter speed and flash can help you produce salable photos even with a point-and-shoot. A faster shutter, for example, will freeze action but let in less light. A bigger aperture will let in more light but give you a shallower depth-of-field. At f2.8, your background will blur out, providing nice isolation of your portrait.

2. Your chances of selling a photo increases with quality. This means always shooting at the highest quality image setting you camera offers (RAW is best) and actually taking time to compose shots. Train yourself to look around and behind your subject to see if anything intrudes into frame like a pole coming out of the top your subjects head. Don’t center every shot or shoot everybody in front of a wall. Experiment with different angles.

3. Choose a camera with fully manual and semi-automatic settings like aperture priority or shutter priority. The two latter functions are probably what you’ll use most. They allow you to manually set either shutter or aperture and the camera will do the rest. You also want a camera with an optical viewfinder as opposed to focusing with the LCD. An optical viewfinder allows you to shoot on a bright day. A Canon G10, G11 or G12 is what many photojournalists carry around when not working since it’s a relatively simple camera with decent lens quality and a full manual mode. The new class of micro Four Thirds is even smaller and has interchangeable lens capability. Most Four Thirds don’t have optical viewfinders, though.

I use a Canon 5D digital SLR (single-lens reflex). It’s an amazing camera but pricey, an beast of a machine for any upcoming freelance writers. A more affordable option would be a used Canon 40D or a T2i with a good lens or two. It’s always better to buy good glass over an expensive camera body for anybody that can’t afford both. So if you already have an old Canon 20D, upgrade your lenses. You’ll be amazed at the quality you can get from a professional grade “L” lens. And if you don’t have one already, buy a 50mm 1.8. It’s the sharpest and fastest lens that you can buy for $110.

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