Sunday, December 19, 2010

We still need the "darkroom"

Almost all pictures can be helped by a little Photoshop.
More and more newspapers are having their reporters take pictures. That's O.K. That's right, I think it is about time reporters shot some of their own art. Today's cameras make shooting a quick head and shoulders or a fast shot of a crumpled fender easy. I say free up the photogs for the stuff that requires a skillful photographer.

Just because reporters are now also shooters does not mean the paper can get by without trained photographers. Unfortunately, the folk in charge of today's newspaper chains can't see past the bottom line. If they could, they would still have lab staff. With the wet darkroom gone, these bean-counters let all the lab staff go.

And along with all the folk they showed the door, they also moved a lot of concern with picture quality out of the newsroom. Don't follow the lead of the newspaper folk. Set up a darkroom, an electronic darkroom, and "print" your pictures.

At a minimum, this photo needed white and black points set.
I use Photoshop. But I have played with Adobe Elements and Adobe Lightroom and found them very good for the price. On vacation, caught without Photoshop loaded on my laptop, I resorted to using ACDSee to enhance my images.

Compare today's two pictures. The top picture has been "printed" in the electronic darkroom (Photoshop). The bottom picture is just as it came from the camera. The difference is not always this dramatic but almost all images benefit from some "printing."

And now you know why, if your paper is like The London Free Press, why the images in your paper are occasionally so poor.

Addendum: I noticed that this post was hit by someone at The London Free Press. So, I quickly found an image shot by a reporter, John Miner.

In the old days a picture shot by a reporter was printed by the lab staff. When the lab staff was let go, the duty fell to the photographers. Now, with the photo staff severely chopped and under great strain, I'm not sure who enhances the pictures shot by reporters. From the looks of this example, the answer is no one.

John Miner's a bright guy, very talented. There are some nice things about his shot. The movement, the one foot off the ground and the other lifted. The flying snow. But the image is presented to the reader in a very poor manner. The picture says: "We don't care about quality."

I am not suggesting that John Miner or the photo staff should enhance this image. This could be done by the modern equivalent of the old lab staff and this would free photographers for shooting and free reporters for reporting. Both should be encouraged to be two-way people but with reporters the emphasis would be on the writing and with photographers on the art.

That said, if papers were using their staff wisely, they would be amazed at the untapped talent in their newsrooms. For instance, one photographer at The Free Press started out in a journalism course. Originally, this fine shooter wanted to be a reporter. As a double-threat person, a two-way person, this photographer would do a superb job if given the chance, and the time to do it right.

As I was saying, almost all images can benefit from a trip to the "darkroom."

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