Case Study: Juggling Photography and Video at a News Event

As the transition from film to digital photography continues, there is general agreement that the new medium offers distinct advantages in productivity and creativity over prior wet processes and routines. For many photographers, however, the shift to digital has also included the addition of shooting video for the Web. While some embrace the challenges of shooting video along with still images at events, others express frustration over what they perceive as an additional burden.

Kevin Launius [pictured], a staff photographer at the Grants Pass (Ore.) Daily Courier, is one of thousands of small and mid-sized circulation news photographers who are facing the challenge of adapting to producing content for both online and print editions of their newspapers. Launius has mixed feelings about having to work with both still pictures and video.

“It has been thrown in our lap — it’s like, here take this and make beautiful pictures now,” said Launius, who has been shooting video for the newspaper for more than a year. “I’m getting used to it. It’s the way the job is expanding.”

Launius, a 10-year veteran photojournalist, recognizes that many newspapers now expect much more from staff as journalism increasingly moves from print to online content. Doing the work traditionally done by two or three people seems to increasingly be the norm at smaller circulation papers.

Covering an Obama Rally for Online and Print Audiences

Observing Launius and others cover a recent Barack Obama campaign rally in Southern Oregon sheds light on how the addition of video is having an impact on the work of photojournalists.

For Launius, excelling at making and transmitting images in both still and video formats appears daunting. Not only do photojournalists concern themselves with the quality of images — static and moving — but they must also worry about audio.

Moving back and forth between working a video camera, capturing still images from a variety of angles and transmitting the images back to the newspaper on deadline throughout the event intensifies what the main objective of visual reportage should be — conveying salient and compelling images that embody the spirit of the event so that readers can become more informed.

In essence, what Launius is doing is preparing content for two different audiences, one a traditional print-based readership and the other an online readership. Although these audiences may eventually merge, some news organizations are forcing a vision of the future of news on staff — one that requires them to think of online content as a cross between print and broadcast journalism.

Challenges of a Cross-Platform World

Although some photojournalists have adapted to juggling the two specializations, others are being dragged reluctantly into a field that they were neither trained for or that they have interest in. The dilemma, for some photojournalists, seems to be that even if they are forced to capture more content across multiple platforms, the quality of what they ultimately produce will suffer.

In a cross-platform world, photojournalists are increasingly expected to be able to produce not only edifying decisive moments in still photography, but also compelling visual narratives with video as well. Newspapers, during a time of decreased readership and consolidation, have little choice but to expect staff to make this adjustment across platforms.

[tags]photojournalism, videography[/tags]

6 Responses to “Case Study: Juggling Photography and Video at a News Event”

  1. kevin is an amazing creator and visionary, and has an amazing eye for his photojournalistic imagery.

  2. Another large problem for shooting the same event with two media (vid & still), is which one to use when shooting the "decisive moment" at an event. There are several shots made at the hoop of a basketball game but the winner only crosses the finish line once in a 1,200 yard run. BOTH departments (Web and Daily) want the "finish" shot but with one person acting as two, there is a constant dilemma as to which piece of equipment to use at a specific time.
    And so true, "Bad audio makes for Bad Video."

  3. Coming from a spot news perspective:

    I shot stills for many years and then began to do video for television news. At the beginning I had both cameras and tried to shoot both still and video for a year or two. While the video camera was rolling capturing the events unfolding before me I would think "that would have been a great photo", but I had to let the camera run for many seconds so that moment went past. While shooting stills - I thought, I need to get this on video I am missing this! Since TV paid more it made sense to concentrate on that. My stills became static overview shots of scenes that anyone who was present could have shot, that was discouraging, it most likey is frustrating for other photographers who will constantly think of what they could or should have done in one medium or the other. We second guess ourselves enough already!

    I do not believe that anyone can do the best work and present anything more than the basic "we were there and this is what it looked like" photojournalism when trying to shoot both video and stills at the same time.

    This may be ok for small newspapers, but the results of one or both will most likely be mediocre at best, after all photographers are still equipped with only two hands, two eyes and one visual brain!

  4. How long before one camera is capable of video and also of producing high quality stills from the video capture? Years? Months? Weeks?
    This split in still and video photography in journalism is on its way out.

  5. Larry Erickson is right on the money with his response. Maybe I came across as overwhelmed that morning, but it was quite a frantic situation juggling stills, babysitting a video camera on a tripod, and sending photos back to my paper on deadline - all under the suspicious eyes of secret service men with machine guns!
    much less serious..

  6. I have worked as a videographer for about 25 years, during that time I have become a decent still photographer as well. I now find that my bosses (at the Television station) are demanding stills of stories, in addition to video. Shooting well composed, well lit video, (with audio suitable for television) is hard enough but adding stills compromises everything! The saddest part is i seem to be the only one bothered by the compromise in quality! last week i had an assignment editor tell me "no one really care about quality"

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