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Archives: October 2010

Why – and how – you should update your photojournalism portfolio

by Chris Dunn

Just over two years ago, Mark showed us 30 outstanding photoblogs and provided a few links to other sites offering advice for aspiring photo bloggers. A year ago, he showed us 20 photojournalists’ portfolio websites. Finally, two months ago, he showed us 11 news photoblogs worth following.

But what distinguishes a photoblog from a portfolio website, and why is it important for photojournalists to have each? Today, I’ll focus on the portfolio website. Next week, I’ll follow with a post about the photojournalist’s photoblog.

The photojournalist’s portfolio

As you probably know or might have guessed, a portfolio website is the place to show your best work. The cream of the crop. The select few that you’d send to a potential employer.

Whether you’re happily/perpetually employed in a newsroom, freelancing on your own, all of the above or on the job hunt, it’s always important to keep a portfolio — and keep it updated. Regularly editing your portfolio is helpful in a number of ways:

  1. It forces you to revisit your recent work. What seemed like an ordinary photo three months ago when you took it may now stand out to you as an exemplary example of your best work.
  2. It helps you notice patterns that you may want to change or continue. A photographer’s “signature” — his/her style, approach, technique, etc. — should be evident throughout his/her portfolio. Looking back on a wide batch of recent photos can help you identify what styles, approaches, techniques, etc., work for you, and which don’t.
  3. It tells others that you’re an active photographer. This is also an important aspect of photoblogs. Your portfolio turnover rate can reflect your growth and activity as a photographer. Most photo editors recommend a tight edit — somewhere between eight and 12 photos, not including a picture story. Because re-editing your portfolio involves replacing old photos with new, better ones, frequent and/or dynamic edits can indicate that you are improving as a photographer.

How you edit your portfolio is up to you. Each photographer has his/her own workflow and style. Whether or not you consider (re-)editing your portfolio to be a labor of love, take your time and don’t be afraid to ask for input.

But once you’ve selected the photos and sequenced them, how should you present them on your website?

Portfolio-publishing tools

Mashable has a list of five (free!) tools that you can use to publish your portfolio photos.

A free tool not on Mashable’s list is Visual LightBox. Many portfolio-publishing tools use Flash, but Visual LightBox is downloaded as an application and uses JavaScript. The application is compatible with Windows and Mac, and has templates for the iPhone, Android and Aero. Knowing how to hand-code comes in handy when using Visual LightBox, but it’s not strictly necessary.

Here’s what Visual LightBox does when you select one of the images in your portfolio: It enlarges the photo, includes the caption and navigational tools and grays out the rest of your website.

Another free portfolio-publishing tool is Galleria. Like Visual LightBox, Galleria is JavaScript-based and uses jquery. Unlike Visual LightBox, Galleria is not a downloadable app, and requires you to do a bit of hand-coding.

There are a few ways to customize the template for different types of display. Below is one example: Thumbnails of the photos are displayed in a grid on the left, caption and navigation are below and the selected photo displays on the right.

Of course, each tool has its own perks and non-perks. Have fun exploring how these different tools function, and figure out what works for you!

What are your favorite portfolio-publishing tools for photographers? And what are other reasons to keep your portfolio up-to-date? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Kinetic typography as a storytelling technique

by Lauren M. Rabaino

You’ve seen the technique before. On TV commercials, on viral music videos, as user-created fan art — words swooping into the screen with flashy graphics while a narrator speaks over it. The technique is called kinetic typography (fancy way of saying “moving text”) and it’s an engaging way of relaying words and stats to your audience.

Put simply, kinetic typography is the practice of telling a text-based story through animated words, supplemented by graphics, charts, photos and/or video.

How journalists can apply the technique to storytelling

There’s huge value in being able to tell a story that people will read all the way through– from start to finish– and then share with all their friends and family. Kinetic type lends itself to exactly that kind of attentiveness and shareability.

I’m not alone in watching those videos all the way through, every time. We’re of a visual era. We like seeing content in a way that engages us, a way that attracts our full attention. These videos are addicting — but not just because they’re fun. You walk away from them with a new wealth of knowledge that is easily digestible and thus easily retainable.

From a journalistic standpoint, kinetic type has the most potential for effectiveness when used for stories that have massive amounts of data and statistics.

There are a few examples of news outlets already using kinetic type as a form of storytelling. GOOD Magainze (disclosue: I’m a huge GOOD fangirl), does it best in videos that integrate graphics, typography and other animation with narration and text:

News21, a student reporting project led by 12 of America’s leading research universities, does an incredible video series on “A Changing America,” and last year’s intro video made great use of kinetic type (focusing more on the graphic aspect that the typography):

The Economist and Shift Happens partner every year to do a “Did You Know?” video which includes statistics focusing on the changing media landscape. This example shows the power of pure text and graphics without any narration:

Kinetic type has been proven as an engaging format for storytelling in other arenas already:

  • Mainstream advertisers: I first saw the technique used on a Ford F150 ad and fell in love with it. Starbucks also used kinetic type for an ad promoting their free coffee on election day.
  • Random people just for fun: Just search “kinetic typography” on YouTube and you’ll find tons of examples from people who make fan-art style videos using scenes from their favorite movies or excerpts from their favorite books. As a testament to the viralness associated with kinetic type videos, take a look at the number of views per video– some have hundreds of thousands.
  • Public relations and advocates: Kinetic type is especially powerful as a means of persuasion. If you have an agenda or viewpoint to push, kinetic type can be mixed with the right typeface, graphics and background music to make it particularly compelling. (Update: a great example of this is from Mindy McAdams in the comments — The Girl Effect– a video about a solution to poverty).

How to do it

To create a kinetic-type-style video with all the bells and whistles, you ideally need Adobe Illustrator and Adobe After Effects. This will allow you to do all the cool zooming, blurs and other effects. (Note: You can mimic the same effect using a series of images and adding a new word to each subsequent image, then dumping them into iMovie or SoundSlides, but it’s not efficient and I don’t recommend it.)

From experience, I have a few tips and tricks for saving time while creating a kinetic type video:

  1. Before you get started, fully flesh out the exact copy you want to use. It’s a pain to go back and change even one word, especially if you’re going to narrate.
  2. Keep the text simple. Short sentences. Think about which words and phrases are important from the start so you can later highlight them with a different color or motion.
  3. Watch a few tutorials to get a feel for how it will all come together in the end. There are kinetic type tutorials all over the web. I recommend this thorough, step-by-step video tutorial as a starting point.
  4. Record the narration after you’re absolutely sure of the text you want to use. After you have a good working version, mix in your audio loop (I prefer getting free loops from Flashkit). Then match the text animation to the narration and the music.
  5. I also recommend storyboarding. Do it by hand on a piece of paper or use a quick and easy mockup tool like GoMockingbird to get the general gist of which graphics/photos you want to include through the sequence.
  6. Update: In the comments, Jeremy Pennycook notified me that you can also do this same technique using Apple’s Motion application which comes with Final Cut Studio.

You don’t have to be a graphic designer to be able to pull this off. You will need a few hours’ free time, a lot of patience, a spark of creativity and a story worth telling.

How to avoid creating a snooze-worthy PowerPoint presentation

It’s not PowerPoint’s fault your PowerPoint presentation sucks. Like Comic Sans, it just gets a bad rap because of how it is egregiously misused. Use the following tips to liven up your presentation and discourage your audience from looking for the exit.

1. Don’t write out every sentence

Many workshop presenters include bulleted lists in their PowerPoint that they then read verbatim. If your presentation contains every word that you plan to say, the audience has no incentive to listen to you. Instead, include just a few words or a phrase that describes your point and save the sentences for your notes. This will encourage the audience to listen and pay attention.

2. Think visually

If you include examples in your PowerPoint, there’s no rule that says you have to use bullet points to show off each one. Instead use an image or visual representation of your examples. For instance, if you are listing various websites, include screenshots of the websites in your PowerPoint. This will give everyone in the room something to look at while you are talking and will keep their focus on the subject at hand.

3. Don’t give away the presentation

Some presenters opt to distribute printouts of their PowerPoint before the actual presentation takes place. While their hearts are in the right place, what inevitably happens is the audience flips through the pages and knows exactly what the speaker is going to cover before they even open their mouth.

A similar dilemma happens when the speaker delineates each of the points they’ll cover in the very first slide. Keep your participants guessing by passing out handouts at the end of the presentation and letting them find out the points during the course of the presentation.

4. Be creative

Most PowerPoints are slide with bullet points after slide with boring bullet points. Keep your audience guessing with creative methods of presentation (and no, kooky transitions and unusual color choices don’t count).

Take a note from presenters like APM’s Joaquin Alvarado, who at the recent PRPD conference, showcased a PowerPoint in which the information for each slide was sketched out on a napkin. The unique display of information was clever and a big hit with the audience. Or follow the example of multimedia guru Richard Koci Hernandez, who instead of responding to an email interview with text answers, sent the writer a group of Polaroid photos instead.

Image: Innovative Interactivity

5. Road test it

If you spend more time fumbling over your presentation and trying to remember what you wrote, you’ll undoubtedly leave the audience reaching for their BlackBerrys. Before you present your PowerPoint in front of an audience, give it a test run beforehand. Often, you’ll find something that needs to be changed or sections where you’d like to add additional information.

6. Don’t blame PowerPoint

Just because every PowerPoint presentation you’ve seen before has bored the pants off you doesn’t mean yours has to be a snooze too. Think beyond the status quo and think of ways to engage and talk with — not talk to — your audience.

 
Also on 10,000 Words:
How to be a rock star at your next conference
3 reasons journalists shouldn’t use Flash
15 Journalists’ outstanding personal portfolios

Top 5 free Android apps for journalists

By Ethan Klapper

With more and more people turning to Android phones, here are some useful apps for journalists. All are free and available from the Android Market.

1. Live video: Qik

Qik was given a positive review on this blog back in May, and the Android version of this app is an excellent way to broadcast live from breaking news, very fast. New features are added frequently and the quality of the video continues to improve. But a word of warning: Be sure to keep an eye on your battery life! Qik drains batteries very fast.

2. Blogging: WordPress for Android

WordPress for Android is a solid app that’s perfect for a breaking news situation. It’s fast, and has robust posting and comment moderation features. Users can even upload photos and videos to accompany their posts. WordPress for Android works for both WordPress.com and WordPress.org (self-hosted) blogs. Users of WordPress.com stats can also view their traffic numbers remotely through the app. Remember: Blogging on a phone is harder than it sounds, so be sure to check your work before hitting the post button!

3. Photo editing: Photoshop Express

As the quality of the cameras on Android phones continues to improve (the new DROID X has an 8 megapixel camera), it’s essential to have access to photo editing software on the go. Photoshop Express for Android lets you crop, tone and add a few fun filters and borders to your pictures. While it’s no substitute for Photoshop CS5, Photoshop Express is a great tool to use before sharing your mobile picture on your blog or Twitter.

4. Audio recording: VoiceTask

Forget your voice recorder at home? No worries, because VoiceTask is a free and easy-to-use voice recording app. VoiceTask users can enter their e-mail address in the app’s settings page and receive an e-mailed MP3 recording. Remember, the recordings will sound like a phone conversation, since you’re using the microphone from a phone. But for casual, transcription purposes, VoiceTask definitely will work well.

5. Note taking: Evernote for Android

Every journalist needs to take notes, and Evernote is the perfect application if you ever get sick of your reporter’s notebook. Not only can you use Evernote to take text notes, but you can also upload pictures and audio. The best part is that Evernote stores your data in the cloud, meaning the notes from your Android phone are readily available on the Evernote desktop app (Windows and Mac) or website. An added bonus: Evernote lets you tag each of your notes, helping you stay organized.

Know of any good Android apps for journalists not mentioned here? Share your favorites in the comments!

Rise of the machines: Robot reporting and automated journalism

The massive amounts of layoffs in the journalism industry in the last few years have left many newsroom positions vacant and many reporters and editors are charged with taking on more work than ever. Enter automated journalism.

Computer programs and artificial intelligence are taking over the tasks that were once the work of journalists and sometimes making an actual human obsolete. If this sounds like futuristic malarkey, consider the following examples of how automation is making the live reporter extinct.

Weddings

The New York Times is one of a few media orgs who have taken advantage of semantic web technology to automate wedding announcements. Instead of a reporter writing each announcement by hand, readers can simply input information in an online form such as the bride and groom’s name, occupation, and more. The information is then used to create a wedding announcement, Mad Libs-style.

 

Sports

Sports writers should also hold on to their notebooks as new technology is in the works to produce sports stories based on various stats. If one team wins or loses, a computer can automatically generate a readable story, including what happened in the game and when based on input data. You can check out an example of how this works in this Business Week article and more information on automation in sports journalism here.

Finance

Financial news and analysis will also be impacted by automation and advanced technology. Programs like Infonic’s Sentiment software can analyze thousands of news stories and determine how a particular company is faring. The technology is pitched to financial traders, but is, in essence, the news affecting the news.

News design

A number of academics have proposed the idea of using algorithms to determine the layout of a newspaper or print publication, an idea encapsulated by this post by Steve Yelvington. Instead of a news designer laying out the paper or magazine, a computer examines the content of available stories and lays them out according to factors like length and keywords. The idea hasn’t caught on just yet as human-powered news judgment is still the preferred method of design. However, the idea of automated layouts isn’t so farfetched.

TV news

It’s not just the print journalists who are becoming obsolete. This Variety.com article examines Tribune Company’s experiment with anchor-free television. Instead of news anchors, voiceovers are heard as video clips and images are played. In the experimental model, there would be no anchor desk and no on-air correspondents. (The article is worth a read, if only for this quote: “We’re trying to get away from Barbie and Ken sitting behind a desk chit-chatting with each other with their nice teeth.”)

If you still like to see and hear people delivering the news, check out News at Seven’s news reports delivered by animated characters. The voices of the characters are also computer-generated:

 
While the traditional reporter isn’t going anywhere just yet, automation will continue to find its way into journalism. Is this a good or bad thing? On one hand it frees up journalists to do less menial tasks and focus on “big J” journalism. On the other hand, it makes news reporting less human and gives up lots of control to computers. What do you think?

 
Also on 10,000 Words:

  Should journalists learn programming skills?: A Flowchart
  3 Ways journalism classes are making education more interactive
  5 Interactive maps that connect communities

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