Warm Lenses

This is the second part of a two-part entry. Part I covers tips for Journalists, while Part II covers tips for Photojournalists.
As a journalist, staying practiced up is something that’s a must. Whether you’re a student, a stringer or a full-time staffer, you’ve got stay on top of your game. I call it keeping your pencil sharp for journalists and your lenses warm for photojournalists. Here are a few tips for doing just that.

Tips for keeping your lenses warm:

  • Shoot. Evaluate. Shoot better. Always evaluate your work. Look through the contact sheets and see what worked and what didn’t. Then figure out what you need to do more of and what you need to avoid so you can do it better next time.
  • Keep the camera close. Don’t find yourself wishing you had brought the camera. Sometimes this means leaving the extra lenses in the car and just grabbing a 50mm lens and body in a low-key bag. When on a documentary shoot in Guatemala, I was given a natural fiber satchel that was commonly seen in the market. I used it to carry an extra lens and avoided a large camera bag.
  • Challenge yourself. You can be your worst enemy if you let yourself get by with being lazy. Fight off the laziness by challenging yourself.
  • Get other opinions. Find photographers who will honestly tell you what they think about your work. Be warned, you might not always like the truth and since you asked, they’ll probably tell you. Get over it, and then ask them how you could do better. Be willing to learn from everyone, and you’ll be a much better learner. Three ways to do this are:
  1. Compete. A great way to get other people’s opinions is to enter your work in press association contests or in other contests. There are a lot out there, just start entering your best shots.
  2. Find a friendly rival. Do you know another photographer? Once a week, send each other your best shot of the week. Then honestly vote to see who got the best one.
  3. Ask your editor. Getting honest feedback sometimes means asking for it. Ask your editor what they’d like to see more or less of in your work.

Michael Shead is a photojournalist and writer with experience in small town journalism as well as international video documentaries. He serves as Communications Director at Resurrection Life Church in Grandville, Michigan. He also teaches photojournalism at Cornerstone University.