Waiting for You: Photojournalism's New Frontier

I know you are all working on getting those Boot Camp lighting assignments in tonight. So we are going to take a few minutes to diverge from talking about lighting to introduce you to a journalistic universe that is still in the midst of its own Big Bang.

I have spent the last two days at the Allentown Morning Call with about three dozen other photojournalists and visual managers from the Tribune Company's various newspapers.

We are learning about the seemingly endless range of possibilities that await us as visual storytellers in the world of multimedia publishing.

I have not seen this much genuine excitement from a group of news photographers in years.

For my part, the drive up found me a little anxious about the idea of trying to learn the particulars of online publishing using a variety of techniques and software packages.

But seminar leader Brian Storm, of MediaStorm.org, has pretty much convinced all of us that the opportunities offered by the new medium far outweigh the effort required to learn to work there.

Storm has an impressive resumé. He has been thinking this way for more than a decade at the University of Missouri grad school, MSNBC, Corbis and, most recently, MediaStorm. He has a solid grasp on multimedia visual journalism and what possibilities the new genre offers to still photographers.

I cannot begin to tell you everything I have learned, but here are some broad strokes:
• The online medium allows for far richer storytelling than does any form of print journalism.

• Still photographers are better positioned than journalists from any other genre to exploit the new medium.

• Our finished stories can be formatted in such as way as to be transportable to a variety of other media.

• For the first time in many years I feel like my imagination, energy and level of commitment are the only limitations to what I can accomplish in my working space.

Turn off the Boob Tube for a little while and experience some of the samples that Storm has made available on his company's site.

You'll see traditional photojournalism coexisting with bold new storytelling techniques.

You'll begin to understand how sound can give a voice to a story's subjects and amplify the emotional content of the still photography.

You'll learn how video and animated graphics can complement traditional still photojournalism to take you to new levels of storytelling.

And you'll see how the sheer luxury of time and space in the digital realm makes it possible to use motion and pacing to add nuance and emphasis to a story's various elements far better than white space and relative size allowed in the print medium.

What does this mean for you?

If you are a professional photojournalist, you need to start learning about this stuff yesterday. It's not coming. It's here. You can either ride the wave, or miss it. It is exploding - with or without you.

If you are an amateur, you have just been handed a level playing field. If you can shoot and tell a story well, you can leap past the vast majority of professional journalists working today by embracing the new medium and learning this stuff.

There has never, ever been more opportunity for a talented, passionate amateur who is willing to learn and work hard than there is right now.

Storm's site is a wealth of information and examples.

As a photojournalist, if you are not excited by the medium's possibilities after seeing compelling pieces like "Kingsley's Crossing," or "Never Coming Home," you need to consider pursuing a different line of work.

And the innovative and quirky "1976" will change the way you think of still photography.

If you do start to get the bug, he has laid out a wonderful, free primer on gathering audio that I would grab before he comes to his senses and starts to charge for it.

Lighting is merely a technique. This is a new world. It's a leveled playing field, open to anyone with the desire to tell stories and the willingness to work.

This is not the last you will hear from Strobist about MediaStorm. I will be linking to their future pieces in a box on the sidebar.

I hope you'll get on board the train. It's headed for some wonderful places.

If you are a shooter, spread the word to someone you know.

It's Christmas in July - and every other month - and we have presents to open.

Are you doing any of this? Do you want to know more? Do you find it boring? Exciting? Let me know what you think in the comments section.


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