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The time to learn video is now

As a newspaper photojournalist I’ve seen many trends in photography. I started taking pictures when I was in high school; just about the time digital photography was taking off. It was the perfect time for me to begin my journey into the world of picture taking.

My first experience of newspaper photojournalism came when I interned at The Miami Herald during the summers of my sophomore and junior years of high school. At the time, film cameras were still the primary way newspaper photographers made their images; computers were starting to make their mark as well. When the photographers came back from their assignments, they had to process their film. Afterward, they printed photos in the darkrooms on tight deadlines.

Somewhere around the time I graduated high school – way back in 1996 – I was a regular around the photo department. That year, the photo department bought a number of computers. Each was equipped with Adobe Photoshop and film scanners. Photographers were expected to begin using the machines to scan their images on deadline. As you can imagine, most of the photographers avoided the computers like they had a communicable disease. Eventually, the photographers had no choice. They had to learn to use the computers because the paper would be going to an all digital workflow by the end of the year.

I look back to those days in amazement, because it was only 11 years ago. I was there at a very important time in the paper’s history. The switch to digital photography came fast and furious and I got sandwiched between learning film photography and learning digital photography at the same time.

Today I feel a bit of déjà vu. Photojournalism has once again thrown me a curve ball. In newspapers’ push to multimedia journalism, photojournalists are now expected to know not only the basics of still photography, but video shooting as well. I’ve seen on more than one occasion fellow photojournalists passed over for jobs simply because another candidate has video experience. Once again, I find myself sandwiched between two trends.

Video isn’t my first love; still photography is. However, if I want a job at a newspaper these days, I have no choice but to shoot video.

That is the point of this post: If you want to be a photojournalist for a newspaper, you must learn video. There’s no denying it any longer. Many of us have simply covered our eyes, held our hands over our ears and bit our tongues in an effort to hope video would just go away. It won’t. There are thousands of graduates every year who know how to shoot still photos. If you want to stand out from those people, you need more under your belt.

If I haven’t convinced you yet, take a look at the work of San Jose Mercury News photographer Dai Sugano. I met Sugano recently at the Asian American Journalist Association conference in Miami. I credit him for being the first traditional still photographer turned video guru to make me actually want to learn video. His fashion piece Spring Glow is an incredible example of what can be accomplished with video.

You should also take a look at the blog of Sugano’s colleague Richard Koci Hernandez: MultimediaShooter. It’s packed with great information for anyone interested in video. Learn everything from techniques to what kind of gear he uses.

Many people talk to me about the “coming” of video to newspapers. My reaction is the same every time: video isn’t “coming” to newspapers; it’s already here.

Posted in Video