15 August 2008

SPOTLIGHT - PHOTOS & SLIDESHOWS

Hello and welcome to the latest SPOTLIGHT post where we’ll be examining the different ways that newspapers are using photographs in their online coverage.

Compared to the early days of text-only pages, today’s newspaper websites offer a veritable feast for the eyes with photos and graphics wherever you look.

This trend seems to be growing with many nationals, like the Daily Mail and the Telegraph, recently unveiling relaunched sites featuring heavy picture use on the homepages.



And thanks to multimedia tools, today’s photographers and journalists now have the option of using audio-visual slideshows as vehicles for their stories.

So in the light of all these developments, we’re going to take a look at examples of innovation in the field of online photojournalism.

We’ll also be seeing how newspapers are incorporating photos from their users in interesting ways and how they’re using slideshows as a new storytelling technique.

And we’ll wrap up as usual with links to some useful online resources for anyone who wants some practical tips.


1 - PRODUCED BY PHOTOGRAPHERS


First we’re looking at photographic content produced by photographers and journalists for their own websites.

Galleries

The majority of newspaper websites in the UK and US seem to have a picture gallery of some description, whether it’s a small selection of images accompanying an article or a mass array of photographs grouped by theme or place.

And newspapers owned by Morris Communications have made theirs distinctive with group branding and promotional activities.

The American organisation’s regional news sites have a Spotted section where visitors can browse galleries of pictures from local events.

Meanwhile, photographers hand out “You’ve Been Spotted” cards to people at community gatherings to encourage them to check the site.

And due to its success generating about one in eight page views of Morris’s newspaper web pages, Spotted has been featured as an audience building initiative case study.

Other newspapers feature galleries showing the week in photos, such as the Oakland Tribune, and use themed collections for visitors to browse.

Slideshows

These usually comprise a selection of photos with an accompanying narration or soundtrack and either play automatically or can be moved on by the user.

Slideshows are becoming really popular and there are so many examples of some really great ones that the following is just a tiny sample of what’s happening with this alternative storytelling technique.

The Pulitzer Prize winning feature from the Concord Monitor illustrates how slideshows can be used to tell moving stories as it chronicles the life and death of a young mother.

While this story of a seven-year-old preacher won the best audio slideshow award for the Roanoke Times at this year’s Best of Photojournalism (BOP) awards.

Also picking up an award at the BOP awards was the Chicago Tribune for its use of audio, visual and text to show the plight of today’s urban poor.

Other photojournalists are using slideshows to offer the audience a slice-of-life piece, such as The City Exposed from the San Francisco Chronicle.

In a similar vein is the New York Times’s Riding the Q Train, which shows a “New York Slice of America” on the city’s subway trains.

While others opt to document a moment in time, such as the Birthday Dream Comes True slideshow from Midland Daily News which shows a soldier surprising his young daughter by returning home on leave for her birthday.

According to Martin Stabe, the Michigan newspaper’s multimedia section is well worth a visit for this and other impressive slideshows.

Finally, some newspapers are also introducing some great interactive elements to their slideshows, such as the Top 25 Superbowl Moments feature from the St Petersburg Times.

Each selected superbowl moment is given its own slideshow with audio commentary from a well known sports announcer and users have to rank them in order of their favourites.


2 - PRODUCED BY USERS


Breaking News

It’s now commonplace for most newspaper websites to include user-generated content (UGC) in their breaking news coverage.


Often it can result in the publication of some extraordinary images - such as the users’ pictures from last year’s failed car bomb attack at Glasgow Airport submitted to the BBC.

Regional news sites are also now well versed in appealing for users’ photos and these can often form some impressive galleries.

For example, The Gazette in Iowa recently documented the effects of flood waters through compiling breaking news galleries of users’ pictures.

(Interestingly, a recent survey from the Project for Excellence in Journalism found a general consensus among editors that weather-related photographs are the most simple and effective forms of UGC.)

Galleries

For examples of some innovative UGC galleries it’s back to Morris Communications where its newspapers’ Spotted features have a You Spotted section dedicated to readers’ photos of anything and everything.

Another effective format for users’ photo galleries can be found at the Bakersfield Californian where registered users can display their pictures in their own photo albums.

While National Geographic has opted for a clean and simple approach with its Webby award-winning Daily Dozen photo feature.



Competitions

Internet-only photographic competitions are becoming more popular with both newspapers and readers.

For example, the Ipswich Evening Star held a contest last Christmas to see which reader had the best festive lights display.

Entrants had to submit their pictures to the website where fellow users would vote online for their favourites.

While the Bluffton Today website has a great little ongoing competition where each day a different readers’ photo is chosen as the site’s banner-head.


3 – COLLABORATION


This final section will look at some innovative projects where journalists and photographers are working together with the audience.


Crowdsourcing


Mentioned on this blog before but well worth another mention is the New York Times Polling Place Photo Project.

According to the NYT, the initiative is “a nationwide experiment in citizen journalism that encourages voters to capture, post and share photographs of this year’s primaries, caucuses and general election.

“By documenting local voting experiences, participants can contribute to an archive of photographs that captures the richness and complexity of voting in America.”

Another American example of a photographic crowdsourcing work is the Absence of Place project from the Miami Herald.



Subtitled “An Interactive History”, the project asked readers to take photos of buildings and landscapes that used to be the home of something different in the past of relevance to the photographer.

The resultant collection of photos and accompanying captions are displayed online and were included in an exhibition.

Social Media

Photo-sharing websites have become an extremely popular way for people to display and organise their pictures online, often for free.

Some newspapers and broadcasters are now harnessing the popularity and ease of use of sites such as Flickr to create a place where readers and photographers can display their efforts side by side.

For example, the BBC ran a weather watchers pilot project on Flickr with users from Leicester.

Others have simply set up their own group on Flickr and invited readers to submit their pictures of the local area.

The Wrexham Evening Leader did this and more earlier this year when it set up three Flickr groups, including one called Aspiring Photographers to act as a discussion forum for keen amateurs.

Other newspapers have also set up groups based around a particular theme or event, such as the Liverpool Daily Post which created a group entitled Capital of Culture 2008.

The group has attracted almost 300 members and displays some impressive photos of some of the city’s best known sites like the Anglican Cathedral and the Royal Liver Building.



Each photo also appears in the Daily Post’s online “Culture through your eyes” gallery on its own web pages.


RESOURCES

General

The web is teeming with information and resources for photographers so these are just a few examples of what’s out there.

Sports photographers may like to check out the Sports Shooter site dedicated to all things sporty.

The Digital Photography Review has plenty of practical advice and reviews of hardware while the Online Journalism Review (OJR) has a review of the best photo gallery software.

Slideshows

The Interactive Narratives website displays lots of the best slideshows created by newspapers, while judges for a National Press Photographers Association award recently gave their tips on how to create a good slideshow.

Again the OJR has some useful features such as a review of slideshow editing software packages and an article concerning a study about how users actually navigate slideshows.

Blogs

There are plenty of blogging photographers sharing tips and advice to their communities of readers.

Worth a look is the blog from Dallas-based regional press photographer Mark Hancock and this photojournalism blog from Michael Zamora in Texas.

Finally, for an international news perspective pay a visit to the Reuters Photographers blog.



So that’s it for this SPOTLIGHT post. As always, get in touch if you have any examples of innovation you’d like to share or there’s any areas you’d like to see covered in future posts.

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