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News In Picture

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We are using Picture News posters as our assembly focus every week. They are brilliant at catching the children's attention and highlighting current news items in a child friendly way. Thank you for revamping our Assemblies and bringing the news into our school.

In this chapter, we concentrate on newspapers, magazines and online publications, looking at how they can use pictures to tell the news. In the following chapter we discuss various kinds of graphics and how to caption pictures.

Most print media use a combination of words and pictures to tell the news, but some only use words. If you have ever seen a newspaper with no pictures, you will know that it does not look attractive; it does not make you want to read it. It looks as though it will be hard work, and readers are therefore put off. It is also limited in its ability to tell the news accurately.

When we talk about "pictures", we are usually talking about photographs, but there are other kinds of pictures, too. Good drawings, paintings and other graphic work also work well as news pictures. We shall consider those in the next chapter.

That is a pity if some of those stories are well researched and well written, but it is true. The readers who pay money for a newspaper expect their job to be made easy for them. They expect the news to have been sorted out into big stories and little stories, to have been written clearly, and to be presented in a way which is easy to read.

As we saw in Chapter 1: What is news, news is something which is new, unusual, interesting, significant and about people. It is obvious that new, unusual, interesting and significant things about people can be communicated by pictures as well as by words.

There is an old saying in English that "one picture is worth a thousand words". That can be true, but only if it is the kind of story which is suitable to be told by a picture, and only if it is a good picture. We shall look in a moment at what makes a good news picture.

Pictures can sometimes tell the news just by themselves, with a caption to say who the people are and where the event is taking place. At other times, the picture may go with a story, to work as a team with the words. In either case, a news picture must always leave the reader knowing more than he did before. It must carry information.

In societies which do not have television, newspaper photographs are probably the only way that most people can know what these things look like. They may be the only way that people outside the capital city will know what their own leaders look like. Even in societies with television, some areas of the country and some levels of society may have no access to it, and many of the programs may be imported from overseas. The newspapers still have an important job to let readers know what their own news looks like.

A strong news picture has to be about the news. That is, it has to be about something which is new, unusual, interesting, significant and about people. To that extent, it is no different from a news story. However, news pictures also need three other qualities:

To the people involved in the story, though, each of these is a big event - the culmination of months of fund-raising, the fruit of years of study or the end of a lifetime's service. It is the news photographer's job to feel the same excitement which the people involved in the story feel, and to convey that through the picture to the readers.

News pictures should always try to capture this context, the job which the person does, or the reason why they are in the news. If a schoolteacher is in the news because they have won a painting competition, then the relevant context would be the painting. A photograph of them teaching would not provide the correct context.

Every news picture must earn its space on the page. That means that it must tell the story clearly, without needing people to read the story first in order to understand what the picture is all about. In other words, every news picture must have meaning.

A picture of a man pointing at a broken window means nothing. If this is a man whose house has been broken into, by the thieves breaking a window and climbing in, then the story is about the way he feels, as well as the damage done. The picture should show his anger, or distress, in his expression and gestures; behind him and to one side can be the broken window; all around him may be the mess which the thieves left behind. In this way the picture can have meaning to the reader.

It is not possible to give a complete list of types of news picture, any more than it is possible to give a complete list of types of people. People come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and characters; so do news pictures.

Some news pictures will fit into more than one category - a portrait of a person may well be humorous, for example. And there will always be good photographers who can produce good pictures which book authors cannot fit into any category at all. That is what makes journalism so interesting.

There are all sorts of news story, but the big one is the thing which just happened. Perhaps there was an unusual act of nature - an earthquake, a cyclone, an eclipse of the sun. Perhaps there was a man-made drama - a murder, a robbery, a demonstration, a parade. Whatever happened, it was new; and if it was unusual and interesting, then it was news. A photograph of it is just what a newspaper editor wants.

An epitome is something which shows, on a small scale, exactly what something larger is like. For example, a photograph of one student with her head buried in a book might epitomise all the studies being done by all students, and could be a strong news picture as the time of national examinations comes near.

Epitomes are important to news pictures. It is impossible for the human mind to imagine 10,000 people starving to death, or 500 refugees being turned back at a border, or 30,000 miners on strike. These numbers are too vast, and our minds cannot cope.

In each case, by reducing the vast scale of the story to the human scale, the story gains in emotional power. The epitome is the picture which shows in one person what the story actually means to 500, 10,000 or 30,000. It turns statistics into people.

There are also pictures which epitomise situations, in that each part of the picture stands for something bigger. For example, when the Soviet Union sent its army to occupy Czechoslovakia in August 1968, and end the liberal reforms of the Dubcek government, people went out on to the streets of Prague to protest. One memorable photograph showed a young man, still wearing his pyjamas, standing in front of the gun of a Russian tank baring his chest defiantly. The picture summed up the whole situation - the weak humanity of Czechoslovakia being defeated by the metal inhumanity of Russia, but still refusing to accept it. It was a brilliant and memorable epitome.

A picture can do this, if it shows the person's character and the person's context. If the news story is about a man's house being burned down, then we do not want a picture of him smiling: he needs to look sad. He needs to be photographed either in the burned remains of his house, or on the beach where he has to sleep now, or in whatever other context tells the story.

It is part of the job of all the news media to reveal to their readers or listeners what their society is like, and newspapers in particular can publish pictures which force people to see clearly the society they live in.

These pictures may show that crime is committed, that some people live in poor conditions in squatter settlements or shanty towns, that there is social injustice, that there is fighting going on between rival clans in remote parts of the country.

A newspaper without a sense of humour is missing out on an important part of life. People enjoy a joke, and they will like a newspaper more if it can see the funny side of life as well as the serious side.

People do like to look at pictures of pretty scenes or attractive people, and newspapers need to recognise that. But a picture of a pretty scene or a pretty girl which has no news value should not be used in a newspaper as if it was a news picture.

That does not mean that we cannot use these pictures. Pictures of attractive young people, in particular, can find their way into the paper in connection with any artistic or cultural activity, such as dancing, or using the youngsters as models wearing clothes which have been designed or manufactured locally.

If you get back to the office, and find that the one picture you have taken does not really tell the story, it is too late to do anything about it. You cannot gather everybody together again for another attempt.

You should also come up with more than one picture idea, in case one of them does not really work. That means thinking in advance about the story, and imagining what the finished picture could look like.

Now, for each of those, you will need to try a number of different camera settings, to make sure that you get at least one picture with the right light quality. Try several different shutter speeds and several different f stops. (If your camera is fully automatic, this does not apply to you.) In particular, even if the light is not very good - inside a building, for example - always try at least one shot without flash, using available light. If it is too dark, you have lost very little time; if it works, you will almost certainly have a better picture than one which uses flash. Flash makes everything look very flat and dull, and should only be used when there is no alternative.

This is why you need to take more than one picture even when the newspaper will only use one picture. There are also some types of job which require more than one picture to be published in the paper, and these make special demands on the photographer. 153554b96e

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