Most professional photographers began shooting with digital cameras before the year 2000. I was a late-comer, finally buying in February 2001. By then, the pressure to turn around assignments within a couple of hours made using film impossible. Editors at daily newspapers have come to expect images in-house within an hour or so of an assignment ending—whether the assignment is in the same city or 3,000 miles away.
The accelerated pace of delivering news affects everyone in a newsroom. Photographers, though, are in a great position to adapt to technological changes. We are gear people. We are techie-obsessed by necessity. The photo world even created a digi-specific photo term: “chimping"—which means previewing images on the camera back LCD screen after taking a photo. It’s controversial behavior in the photo world. Pro photo rule says: more chimping means less experience and more insecurity. Plus, if you are busy looking down, you’ll miss the Pulitzer Prize-winning moment. Others say the technology is there, why not check exposure and edit in real time? Check out SportsShooter on “Chimping: How and Why?”
How Does the Digital World Affect Photo Editing at Education Week?
The photo department is small. For every 10 reporters there is one photo staff member. With such an inverted ratio, we can’t possibly use staff photographers for every story. We rely on hiring freelance photographers and using photo agency images.
The print version of Education Week is a weekly with rolling deadlines starting a week before the cover date (on Wednesdays) with the entire paper going to press by noon Fridays. Digital image workflow has cut image processing time by one full working day. Eight hours! I started working at Education Week two years ago. Even by then, all assignments were digital.
What About Photos and edweek.org?
In film days, without a larger photo staff or gigantic budget, providing daily photo content for online use would have been near impossible. The worldwide digital workflow means we can move from weekly to daily photo-gathering mode almost seamlessly.
With more space available online, we have the flexibility of using additional photos with stories that don’t fit into a print layout. And the addition of multimedia projects gives us more ways to tell a story. To that end, the photo department recently bought some sound gear for collecting audio on assignments. One microphone mounts to the top of the camera and points out—creating a decidedly “photographer as unicorn” profile.
From a photo perspective, online is a good place for us to stretch our creativity—both visually and on the technology front.
Director of Photography
A version of this news article first appeared in the Behind the Scenes blog.