What Is a Journalist?

In my heart, I am and always will be a journalist. Even as a child, before I put pen to paper or picked up a camera, it was part of my makeup. And though I have now left newspapers, this hasn’t changed. So then, what is a journalist? In this environment of layoffs and cutbacks, where some critics seem eager to dance on the grave of the newspaper industry, I think it’s important to remember what makes a journalist — and why the institution of journalism is worth protecting.

Blind Photographers Teach Us New Ways of Seeing

Black Star Rising contributor Dennis Dunleavy recently wrote about the difference between “looking at” something as a photographer and truly “seeing” it. “In a culture saturated with visual messages, our eyes, and by extension our minds and hearts, have become numb and anesthetized to the desire to seek out the deeper meanings of the things we are exposed to,” he wrote. This thought came to mind as I read about an art exhibit by blind photographers now taking place in Israel.

Eye on Image-Making: Cousin Lou Comes to Visit

Two recent events made me think about the future of image-making. First, I read a provocative article about the Internet’s effect on literacy among young people. Second, cousin Lou came to visit and showed me his new digital camera. OK, I don’t blame you if you fail to see the connection right off — I didn’t either. So read on…

Rush of Innovation in Photographic Technology Shows No Sign of Slowing Down

Photographic technologies are moving at a pace beyond anything we could have imagined a few decades ago. The possibilities of capturing images at increasingly high resolutions are staggering. What we are now seeing in advances in digital photography is a perfect example of Moore’s Law in action. In the 1960s, Gordon Moore, director of research and development at Fairchild Semiconductors, predicted that the number of transistors on a computer chip will double every 24 months. We can apply Moore’s law to all matter of electronic manufacturing to get a glimpse of the future.

Why You Should Be Worried About Proposed Orphan Works Legislation

We have a huge admiration for photographers. Virtually all of the photographers Black Star has worked with over the years have been talented and skilled; they’ve also been extremely bright. Put aside the camera and head off to a bar with one of our photographers and, in our experience, you’re going to get some fascinating stories and some carefully thought out analyses of the politics of far-off places.

Get Out of the Heat! Venture to Maine — and Take Your Camera

If you’re planning a trip to New England and haven’t included a few days in the Bar Harbor area of Maine to see Acadia National Park, it’s time to rethink your trip plans. Acadia, the first national park created east of the Mississippi, holds some of the most spectacular and unblemished landscapes in all of New England.

Stop Whining About Copyright Infringement and Start Doing Something About It

When photographers have their work stolen and used by businesses, publications and individuals without permission and in violation of the photographer’s implicit copyright, it is usually the photographer’s fault. It is also the dividing line that separates professionals from amateurs.

Six Ways to Help a Laid-Off Photographer Get Started as a Freelancer

I was, at one time, a staff photographer for a magazine. So was this other guy. Rather than let one of us go, they offered us both half-time. I said yes, panicked that I was; he said no, and left. I thought this meant I could stay, but I was wrong. This began a rushed effort to become self-sufficient and my own boss. It didn’t come at an opportune time — but with Corporate America, it never does.

Do Embedded Photojournalists Actually Work for the Pentagon?

Is the work of embedded photographers in Iraq the kind of journalism we should expect — and demand — in a democracy?

Conflicts always arise when an embedded photojournalist crosses the line from what the military deems acceptable to what the photographer believes is an underreported truth. Inevitably, the military wins these conflicts.

Finding True Independence as a Freelance Photographer

The most successful freelance photographers share one thing in common: they dictate the terms and conditions under which they work. Unfortunately, the reality of the market today is that few freelance photographers operating a small business are able to achieve this level of independence. Publications, wire services and even portrait subjects increasingly demand that photographers sign contracts, giving away their rights, before any work is done.

How I Created My First Coffee-Table Book

For the past three years, I have photographed the Battle of Gettysburg reenactment held annually by the Gettysburg Anniversary Committee. This year was the Civil War battle’s 145th anniversary, and participation in the event was significantly larger than in past years. Every five years the anniversary committee produces “the big one” — and they did not disappoint, with more than 15,000 reenactors and ticket-holders in attendance over the Fourth of July weekend.

Print Media Layoffs Are an Acceptance of Defeat — Not a Strategy for the Future

There has been a lot of talk over the past several months about the shift from print to online methods of news delivery. Reductions in advertising revenue have resulted in reporters, photojournalists, and other newspaper staff being laid off, while management looks at ways of generating sufficient revenue from a Web presence to keep their business going.

Up Your Price with Limited-Edition Photography

At Black Star, we like to feel that we’re helping photographers realize their ambitions. We provide them with the sort of interesting, challenging and rewarding assignments that any photographer would be happy to fulfill, whether that’s creating portraits of some of the world’s leading executives, joining a shoot for an ad company’s billboard campaign or telling a story in images for one of our media clients.

Notes from the VisCom Classroom: Teacher Goes Back to School, Part 2

Wow! Who knew there was so much to learn about teaching video? My wife and I just returned from a week at the Maine Media Workshops, where we attended a course called “Film and Video Teachers.” As the name suggests, this course is aimed at professional teachers –those who currently teach video and filmmaking, and those who may do so in the future.

How to Create Depth in Landscape Photography

One of the toughest visual concepts to communicate in a landscape photograph is depth: the sensation that you’re looking at distance when, in fact, all you’re really looking at is a flat sheet of paper.

Getty, Flickr and the Land of Really, Really Bad Ideas

Just when you thought that Getty Images was in its last throes of existence, before its massive content library gets broken up by the private equity firm Hellman & Friedman and sold off for pieces, Getty comes in and lowers the bar that much further. The only upside to the impending Getty breakup will be the mass exodus of the creative content producers (especially the prolific ones) who decide that PhotoShelter or Digital Railroad are the only two platforms where they can get their images sold.

Tips for Creating a Winning Portfolio

As part of my work for Black Star, I review a lot of photographers’ portfolios. Usually, I treat it as a perk of the job. I’m getting paid to look at beautiful pictures created by some of the world’s most talented photographers. What could be bad about that?

Taking an Interest in People Is a Reward in Itself

According to Mark Twain, “America and England are two great nations separated by a common language.” He was right. For many Americans arriving in the U.K., it’s a shock to discover that American English can be vastly different from English English. When we think we fit right in and don’t stand out from the natives, it’s easy to make some embarrassing mistakes. (Don’t ask for an order “to go” at a British restaurant; it’s a “take-away.”)

What Are Your Creative No-Fly Zones?

Adman Ernie Schenck coined the phrase “creative no-fly zones” to describe places where copywriters and other creatives shouldn’t go in their work. The no-fly zone encompasses ideas that are not only tacky, but likely to offend the public. One example Schenck cited was an Ohio car dealer whose ads promised customers “a jihad of savings!”

How Professional Photographers Can Generate New Business with Flickr

At Black Star, we don’t work directly with Flickr — but it’s hard not to notice the photo-sharing service’s influence. With nearly five million contributors and more than 150 million images, Flickr has become the elephant in the room for any photographer who would choose to ignore it. Flickr’s photo streams and groups are prime destinations for those seeking to upload their images and improve their skills.

When Will Newspapers Hit Bottom?

I remember when I had my first layoff scare five years ago. It was the most stressful, nerve-wracking thing I’d ever experienced. I had not been at the newspaper for a year at that point, and to see so many veteran reporters and editors let go was intimidating. I spent the next few months watching my back, even though I knew that since I was at the bottom of the food chain (and pay scale), my job was probably safe.

Notes from the VisCom Classroom: Teacher Goes Back to School

What happens when the teacher goes back to school? Where I teach, in the School of Journalism at the University of South Carolina, we’re bullish on video. Under the fearless leadership of Professor Van Kornegay, our sequence head, we strive to incorporate video instruction into most of our visual-communication courses. For example, in Introduction to Visual Communications, we have our students work in groups of four to produce short videos on the various topics covered in the course. We then start each class session by showing the video that relates to the topic of the day. Through this exercise, the students get their hands on a video camera — some for the first time — and also learn basic editing and audio skills using iMovie.

Who Owns My Photos — My Publication or Me?

Black Star Rising received the following question from a reader, Darren Gibbins of Fargo, N.D. —

Can you tell me what legal rights I have to publish images I’ve made throughout my photojournalistic career on my website? Some have suggested that the images belong to the various newspapers I’ve worked for. I’ve also been told websites are considered editorial content and I am free to use my images on a site to promote my photography with or without a newspaper’s consent. Please help.

Followup: Where I Was Coming from When I Wrote the Same-Sex Weddings Post

Living in a community as conservative as mine can be difficult. People tend to judge you. Sometimes, in fact, I get phone calls — the anonymous kind. They call to tell me how much trouble I’m in, what I’ve done wrong and whom I’ve upset.

Minneapolis Paper’s Video Push: Innovation or Desperation?

The Minneapolis Star Tribune, a fine newspaper with a rich history, is getting gussied up for the era of video. Editor Nancy Barnes describes the transformation — complete with hair and makeup tips for the paper’s ink-stained wretches — in Sunday’s edition.