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Archives: April 2008

10 Tips for taking better photos

When it comes to photography, I’m nowhere near professional but I’d like to think I’m a step above amateur. Here is what I’ve learned in my quest to become a better photographer:

Have the camera ready and snap it quick

My number one frustration is not capturing a fleeting moment. If the opportunity for a great photo is imminent, have the camera powered up and ready before the moment has passed.

Don’t be afraid to get down and dirty

Sometimes getting close to a subject may invade his or her personal space (or yours), but the result is often a better photo. Don’t rely on the zoom to capture something from far away.

Switch up your angles

One of the first lessons I learned some years ago is photos don’t have to be shot straight on all the time. Tilt the camera or find a different perspective that is interesting to the eye. (Thank you Valerie Soe, wherever you are.)

Look for the unusual

If a fire is happening, its easy to start taking pictures of just the flames, but the real story is what is happening around the fire. Find those interesting, human moments that tell the story behind the tragedy or triumph.

Here are some non-work related photos I took recently around my hometown. You be the judge:




More photos from me are up for viewing at Flickr. Now let’s hear from the professionals. These tips were culled from the web and I encourage you to visit each site for even more lessons on great photography:

From modemlooper’s 7 Excellent Photography Tips:

Learn your camera’s settings

Chances are you shoot most of your pictures utilizing your camera’s “automatic” mode. This will get you average results. If you are striving for great shots, you’ll need to learn about other modes too. Take the time to read your camera’s manual to understand when to use each shooting mode.

Take more photos

Before going crazy buying the most expensive equipment right away, you had better take more photos because the more photos you take, the more you’ll know about what kind of camera to get when it’s time to upgrade. In other words, you can always delete the bad ones later.

From SEO Smarty’s How To Optimize Images For Search Engines, Social Media and People

(Clean, clear) faces in an image get more eye fixation. (don’t use abstract images too often).

Keep them relevant: images are not the first thing a visitor sees on a web page but they can compel him to stay

From Photojojo’s Ten Legal Commandments of Photography

V. People can be photographed if they are in public (without their consent) unless they have secluded themselves and can expect a reasonable degree of privacy.

VII. Although “security” is often given as the reason somebody doesn’t want you to take photos, it’s rarely valid. Taking a photo of a publicly visible subject does not constitute terrorism, nor does it infringe on a company’s trade secrets.

(BTW, Photojojo is an excellent blog for both aspiring and professional photographers.)

For examples of beautiful photography that we all can aspire to, check out Smashing Magazine’s (Really) Stunning Pictures and Photos.

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CNN headlines themselves making news

It’s no secret that 10,000 Words is a fan of CNN (here and here), especially its iReport program that empowers citizen journalists, but we have to agree there are some bizarre happenings over at it its website, particularly when it comes to its headlines.

A great blog encapsulating the phenomenon is CNN is like the worst “news” source. Ever. Blogger/artist Kelly Chambers takes the week’s most interesting headlines and draws an illustration to accompany it. The results are hilarious, especially “Kids put in dryer and tumbled, police say” and “Drunk newlyweds tasered, jailed.”

Another equally interesting blog is WTFCNN?, a collection of the news site’s most questionable headlines. Some of the offenders include “Worst hair day ever involved a monkey,” “No LOL, Doctors don’t answer emails,” and “Co-ed strips for her honors thesis, gets a B.”

Breaking News or Not? users also take aim at CNN by determining whether a story is actually news and therefore warrants placement on the site. Some of the decisions are faulty as “Massive power outage hits Central and South Florida” was deemed as not news, but it is interesting to see what users think. BNON also covers a number of other news sources including Fox News, the BBC and The New York Times.

If you’re a fan of the CNN and its infamous, yet iconic, headlines, the cable news network has made them available on t-shirts for you to wear proudly around the newsroom. Recent and past headlines are available to choose from and are written in the famous font.

Speaking of t-shirts, the season for professional journalism conferences is fast approaching and if you are a young journalist looking for that first gig or a seasoned pro looking to switch lanes, you may want to grab yourself a Resume Tee. Blackbird Tees will print your curriculum vitae on a t-shirt and a witticism on the front. Just remember if you get hired, tell em you saw it here.

For more journalism tees, check out the 10,000 Words online store.

How to create a Google Map in about 30 minutes

I was driving around Los Angeles Tuesday afternoon and had some time to kill, so I made a detour to the UCLA campus with the intention of driving home soon after. I quickly realized I was near the westernmost part of world-famous Sunset Boulevard. I decided to travel the entire length of the winding road and take a photograph every time I stopped at a red light. Always a multimedia journalist, I decided I would later create a Google Map of the resulting photos and locations.

So in an unintentional finale to College Week at 10,000 words, here is my road trip from UCLA to Olvera Street near Downtown L.A.:

View Larger Map

And now creating the map…

I wrote previously about quick ways to create a Google Map but now I will break down the process for a quick tutorial and demonstrate how easy it really is.

I take the images out of the iPhone, crop them for focus and upload them to the web. Because I did not geotag any of the 26 photos, I have to retrace my steps and catalog unfamiliar intersections. Once I have a handwritten list of locations that correspond to my photos, I am ready to start building.

I choose Google My Maps because it is easy to use and simple to draw lines on a map.

I give the map a title and a description. I decide to make it public so everyone can check it out.

I begin drawing lines to represent my trip down Sunset Blvd. The street is very curvy in parts so it takes a little more effort than I expected.

I place my first marker on the map at Cesar Chavez & Lyon in East L.A. and add a photo. It was the last stop on my trip and because I ended up listing the points in reverse order, I will work backwards to create the map.

As I’m placing the points I realize some of the lines are not exactly on Sunset, so I fix them along the way using the handles that appear when I rollover them.

28 points later, I’m done!

I click “Link to this page” to embed the map. I change the default size settings and set the zoom.

I copy the resulting code and place it into a new Blogger post. Voila! New Google Map!

Also on 10,000 Words

5 Ways to create a Google Map in minutes
10 Mind-blowing maps (and 3 ways to create them)
8 Beautifully Designed Maps

Online college newspapers: 4 common design mistakes

Newspaper style

They say old habits die hard and one habit that doesn’t seem to be doing too much dying on college newspaper sites is adhering to newspaper layout. This usually means having a story or two above the fold and major navigation elements several scroll lengths down the page. This works great on broadsheet, but it ca be frustrating for web users. Instead, divide the page into columns and ensure that a list of recent or breaking news stories is somewhere near the top.

No RSS feed

More often than not it is an identifiable RSS icon that is missing but there are a few sites that are missing RSS feeds altogether. In an internet age where an RSS feed is a de facto part of every website, big or small, not enabling RSS is blasphemous. Most importantly, it keeps users who may not visit the online student paper every day a way to still be updated on breaking news. Start off by checking out or speak to your site administrator to ensure that this all-important feature is available to your readers.

Slow loading time

The two most common reasons most online student news sites take forever to load are the heavy use of large images and large amounts of content on one page. Large images (like the ones taking up this week’s posts) look great but, for the students in the dorm all trying to connect to one weak wi-fi connection, can be a pain in the posterior. Images as navigation should be used sparingly. Images solely comprised of text should be replaced with actual text. This will speed up the loading process and is more SEO friendly.

Placing every photo slideshow or video in your paper’s arsenal on one page can be debilitating to the users who really want to see it. Instead, break up heavy content over several pages and use numbers or text links to increase flow-through.

White space

Ah, white space. The mortal enemy of most online student newspaper sites. Many student-run websites are incredibly uneven either because the list of stories or the ads run past the rest of the content, leaving a narrow column surrounded by nothing. A lot of it stems trying to get the entire staff member’s story on the front page (which is unnecessary) or laying out the page like a newspaper (which is, of course, wrong). A lesser culprit is placing the full text or complete list of stories on one page which often exceeds the navigation or rail. To slay the dreaded white space, split up and paginate long stories or simply extend the navigation. Also, be sure to make use of a footer so the page doesn’t end when the story ends. Once a reader is done, you want them to check out the rest of your excellent content.

Also on 10,000 Words

What does a great college newspaper site look like?
How online college newspapers are using multimedia
College Newspapers: Outstanding online design

What does a great college newspaper site look like?

The best college newspaper websites have a combination of integrated print stories, online only features, great site design, technical skill and most importantly the incorporation of unique multimedia elements. Here are some great examples from around the US:

InsideVandy, Vanderbilt University

What it lacks in cohesive organization, InsideVandy makes up for in its massive amounts of content. Well-written print stories take residence next to video, podcasts and slideshows. The site also has a host of bloggers to provide fresh content and a section of stories and multimedia specifically targeted toward new students.

The University Daily Kansan, University of Kansas

Professional design is only the backbone of the journalistic prowess happening at The Kansan. The site features 12 blogs, three podcast series and a smattering of video on everything from sports to politics.

The State News, Michigan State University

At first glance The State News’ online presence looks a little bare bones. But once you start clicking around you’ll find incredible video pieces, one-of-a-kind interactives and sports coverage of more than 15 teams. It’s clear that multimedia is the star at The State News.

The State Hornet, California State University, Sacramento

Aside from its forward-thinking “Eat Me or Not” and comprehensive YouTube channel, the Hornet also has a varied number of podcasts to accompany its features, sports and opinions section and video of campus news. The useful information in The Hornet’s election section is supplemented by audio clips and message boards. The icing on the cake is the site’s well-designed pages that highlight its comprehensive news coverage.

Indiana Daily Student, Indiana University

Arguably the most impressive feature of the Indiana Daily Student are its student blogs on sports, news, politics and the arts, each with easily identifiable icons that make subscribing to RSS feeds a snap. Its many slideshows, videos and podcasts are top notch and organized in a user-friendly layout. Other outstanding content includes a dining guide, a religious directory for searching area churches and a housing guide for finding the perfect pad. This is all supplemented with polls and video from the Associated Press.

The Ithacan, Ithaca College

Perhaps the only thing preventing The Ithacan from perfection is the wonky and distracting slideshow element on the front page. Everything else, design-wise, is clean and well-organized which makes reading stories on the site a pleasant experience. Its six blogs, excluding one on hiatus, cover campus news, pop culture, music and more. Most importantly, they are constantly updated. The Ithacan’s multimedia page takes a life of its own with well-reported video and podcasts and stunning photo galleries and audio slideshows.

The Independent Florida Alligator, University of Florida

The Alligator is hands down the best online student newspaper and rivals the pros in its news coverage and use of multimedia elements. Just listing the stellar components that make up the site warrant its own individual post. The Alligator’s standout features are the Gainesville Explorer, a look at the surrounding city using video and audio slideshows, the use of Google Maps mashups to illustrate problems like apartment overcrowding and rising gas prices, and its 11 blogs that cover pretty much every spectrum of news. Admittedly The Alligator works on a larger scale than most student newspapers, but it is nevertheless an exceptional example of the possibility of online student journalism.

Also on 10,000 Words

How online college newspapers are using multimedia
College Newspapers: Outstanding online design
Online College Newspapers: 4 Common design mistakes