Journo2Go

Backpack Journalism

Journo2Go is a blog focusing on multimedia reporting - specifically backpack journalism. Steve Johnson, the blog's creator, is a freelance journalist and adjunct lecturer at the University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications.

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Sideline Report: End-of-season editing

So the collegiate sports year is basically over, right?

I mean, lets face it, the Gators aren’t booking any hotel rooms in Omaha for a baseball comeback anytime soon.

So what does that leave us photographers to do?

Cleaning cameras only takes a few hours and while I have been accused of being a little obsessive, I’m not breaking out the alcohol swabs every day to make sure my Nikon logo is spotless.

A lot of the offseason involves pecking away at a keyboard and mouse trolling through the tens of thousands of photos that hit the cutting room floor before they chosen ones make it to press.

Editing through the Florida / Texas A&M game.

That sounds easy, right? Just select all and delete. Sadly, no.

We keep every photo taken at every game - just in case.

Just in case that right guard from that highly competitive non-conference football game against the Norfolk State Scuba Diving team happens to get in trouble with Jeff Driskel. Or that second baseman who no one though would ever go pro happens to make it out of the farms leagues and wins a World Series within two years of leaving Gainesville, Fla.

All of these could happen and in some various scenario have happened before.

We saw a prime example of this during the investigation of the Boston Marathon bombings. I bet the photographer that took photos of that boxing competition thought to select all and delete after that season, too. Now his photos became one of the backstories to explaining such a horrific day in sports.

So as the season ends the scanning begins.

Florida / Texas A&M photos in my library.

Scanning through every game, tagging every location, best plays, importing rosters, tagging key players and writing descriptions.

I manage roughly 450,000 images in my photo library at any given time - sometimes I do delete photos once I am 100 percent sure no one would ever need an out of focus, over exposed, blurry photo of my shoe during a gymnastics meet.

All of these are broken down by year, publication, sport and date.

The system of folders and projects in my Aperture library.

I use Apple’s Aperture photo editing software to manage and backup every photo I have taken in my career.

It’s like a time machine for a photographer.

So many of us document what we do, from Instagramming our food to snapping an iPhone photo of that sunset that one time after dinner.

What’s nice is that our smartphones actually live up to their name in being smart. They embed GPS information so you can see your photos on a map. They keep time, dates and even the exposure. If you want to nerd out, just import some of your iPhone photos to Photoshop and view the metadata.

Well, our big DSLR cameras are pretty smart, too. Virtually every bit of information besides who is in the photo is recorded automatically by the camera as we shoot each photo.

But it still has to be managed. That’s where the human element comes in. Although, I feel like a cyborg by the end of each summer - combing through 40,000+ photos from the previous sports season and 80,000+ photos total each each year.

Even at the consumer level, some of these professional techniques may help you stay little more organized and not lose some memorable photos in the process.

So here are a few tips that keep our heads on straight and our editors happy.

  1. Date everything: I said everything, not everyone! Each time you go shoot something, create a project with the date as the beginning of the name. For example: “2013-02-23 UF vs. Arkansas”
  2. Create folders: Once you have the dates projects, organize them by sports. Most times this is intuitive. The Gators are probably only playing Arkansas in basketball on Feb. 23, 2013, but there could be something else going on the same time.
  3. Rate your photos: Come up with a rating system. This will save you a ton of time when you want to go back. Often we are so concerned with deadlines during a football game, we shoot, we edit, we send off the photos and then forget about them. Well, sometime you’ll have to go back, and starring the photos 1,2,3,4 or 5 starts will help you determine what to keep.

Rating system of photos after the Florida / Texas A&M game in 2012.

I rate one stars as friends at the game, two stars for video and special projects (like focusing on one player for a feature story), three starts are good photos, four stars means I should send it out ASAP and five stars is a portfolio-worthy photo.

Just a few of these steps to help you manage your photos can make the difference between a very good Mother’s Day gift just days before when you realize that you should make a photo album and a disastrous night pecking at your computer to try and find that perfect photo from that time you cant remember at that place you have no idea about.

So as we recap each season and you view those best-of galleries and feature stories leading up to next season - remember, some of us have bloodshot eyes making lemonade out of our lemons that are photographs on the cutting room floor.

Have a great summer and happy shooting.

Shooting Tip - Have a conversation

Joe Namath in 2008.

Five years ago, I was asked to take a portrait of Joe Namath before a golf tournament for the Orlando Sentinel. I was 18 years old and didn't know much about the football legend. So I called my grandmother, a New York City native, who knew everything about him. I took 20 photos, all of which he wouldn't take off his sun glasses. So I asked him to take one without his sunglasses and then asked, "what was it like to call the Superbowl in Miami?" This was the result.

So what is the lesson here?

Well first, always listen to your grandmother, but it is just as important to get to know your subject - even if they are a football legend. Do the research, and then, make a connection. Don't just ask a silly question about their best day ever. Connect with your subject in a way that makes them feel something - this will certainly show in the photo.

Happy shooting.

Top Five Tips for the Underage Journalist

Shooting the Tampa Bay Bucs football practice at age 17 for the Orlando Sentinel Sports Reporting Institute.

Shooting the Tampa Bay Bucs football practice at age 17 for the Orlando Sentinel Sports Reporting Institute.

Spring is the time for baseball, flower and garden festivals and journalism conferences.

Just a few years ago, I began speaking at a session here or there, and now, I feel like Tony Robbins at times - running from conference room to conventional hall trying to answer as many questions in between.

So after stops in some of my favorite states on the East Coast, I would like to share a few tips for those journalists who can't yet grab a beer with their editor.

I got my start in journalism when I was at the ripe age of 17, and a lot of these tips come from first days in journalism.

In no particular order:

Don't network, connect.

It's easy to print out 1,000 business cards and tweet every professional in your field. But does 'networking' really help you land that job? No. We are in the business of communications., and communicating with a colleague or mentor or editor is much more than a shotgun approach. Find a way to connect with an editor, source, colleague or reader. This can be in person or through a personal message. Then stay in touch through the more traditional channels of social networking.

Create a home base on the web

While belonging to the latest social network is always a good idea, and Facebook and Twitter are the current juggernauts for broadcasting content, you should always have a landing strip for your content. I would recommend a well-designed Wordpress or Squarespace. Then, post, tweet, link, share your content from your website. This will drive traffic to one location instead of confusing potential editors or colleagues to which place to go to find all of your work.

Just get started already. (What have you done for me lately)

Seriously. Stop reading this, and get off your butt. Or, hopefully, you're reading this on a mobile device while working. Nothing replaces hard work. Often, students think that they cannot be respected as journalists without a degree. Wrong. As long as you continually produce good journalism, age or experience will be less and less of a limiting factor in your career.

Do work

Again, nothing replaces hard work. Journalism is a field that is not only highly competitive between colleagues, but your success is dependent upon the connections you make. The only way to make those connections is by practicing journalism. Thus, it's a pretty simple equation; the more you work, the better you get and the more people you meet. This will result in better assignments for bigger news stories. Period.

Find a mentor

Your advisors are great, your professors are experienced and your mother loves you (still fact check that), but you need a professional - someone you can call when you need to figure out a day rate or when you need advice on contracts. Mentors can help you find that first big job and can know you well enough to tell when your work is slipping.