Chapter 6: Visual storytelling with photographs

Summary: Pictures can engage a reader on a level that the written word can’t, no matter how well one writes.  As ubiquitous as digital cameras have become, it behooves the aspiring online journalist to acquire basic photography and photo-editing skills.

Digital photography, the basics:

What is a megapixel?

  • Digital cameras measure the size of the image by pixels, specifically megapixels. The larger the megapixels, the larger the digital image size (also known as the resolution). This is important not only when taking photos but also editing and uploading them. A large megapixel image is good for cropping a smaller area or making a large print, but is not desirable when uploading to a Web site.

What is zoom?

  • Zoom is how far away a camera can bring an image into view. Digital cameras measure their zoom by magnification (i.e. 5x = five times the magnification). Digital cameras also offer a function called “digital zoom” which is much like blowing up a photo on your computer; it will make the image larger but the quality will suffer.

When should I use the flash?

  • A camera flash helps direct more light on a subject, but may have the undesirable effect of making them look too shiny. Using natural lighting or a brightly lit room is ideal, but avoid having your subject stand in front of the light source. Other considerations should also be taken when using a flash.

What is composition?

  • The goal of photographers is to capture a fleeting moment that tells a great visual story. Having a basic understanding on how to compose your photos will make the difference.

Editing a digital photo:

A popular photo editing software is Adobe Photoshop,  but there also free programs such as Google’s Picassa or GIMP for basic photo editing and resizing.

When editing a photo.

  • Edit a copy and not the original.
  • Keep in mind the resolution of the image you are using, less that one megapixel if you want to upload the image on a blog or Web site.
  • Correct the color and tone,  an off color photo looks unprofessional.

When publishing a photo on a blog.

  • Use wrap around text so there are no awkward spaces between your uploaded image and blog text.
  • Use intuitive alternate text so its easier for search engines to find your photo.
  • You are really adding a link to your photo, so the image needs to be uplioaded on the web for your blog to find it.


Not all images on the web are free to be used. Copyrighted images need permission from the copyright holder to be republished, some images found in the Creative Commons have limited use capability for not-for profit Web sites. Refresh yourself on the use of copyrighted images, and always attribute!


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