Introduction to Photojournalism Syllabus (Spring 2019) UGA

Back in Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 I taught Intro to Photojournalism at the University of Georgia. I was helping them out for one year as they were hiring a Phd. Professor position and needed help until the search was done. This is the syllabus for the Spring Semester.

I cannot thank Mark E. Johnson more for this opportunity. I learned as much as I taught. Maybe you are interested in seeing what a college photojournalism class looks like. Enjoy!

Friday 9:05 – 11:00, 11:15-1:10
Office Hours: Friday 8 a.m. – 9 a.m. or by appointment Stanley Leary
[email protected]

This class

Today more and more staff jobs are going away and freelancers are becoming the norm. I am one of those freelancers. To make a living now, you have to be a photographer who occasionally does photojournalism. You have to be able to do weddings, corporate or event work. We will learn how to maintain journalism ethics when doing photojournalism even if these standards are not applicable to other genres.We are here to learn how to communicate visually. We will do this by learning the mechanics of your digital camera and by learning how to compose a photo that tells a story. This is photojournalism. Photojournalism is different than documentary photography, social documentary photography, street photography or paparazzi. It is the ethics of journalism that sets it a part. This is telling stories visually. We will have conversations about journalism, community, ethics, communication law, psychology and everything in-between.

I have been teaching photography at other colleges and workshops for most of my career. You will discover there are no magic settings for your camera nor are there a simple rule book to follow for storytelling. Together we will explore how we approach stories. We will do this as a community where your participation is expected for all of us to learn and grow as a community.


You are responsible for all the content that is presented in class: verbal, multimedia, blogs, videos, handouts, guest speakers and written assignments. If I give instructions in class then you are responsible for that content even if it isn’t written in the syllabus or other places. Take notes!


Attendance is mandatory. By majoring in journalism, you have chosen a field that requires attendance and demands timeliness. Be in class and be early. Be sitting in your chair when class starts. Each unexcused absence or tardy appearance results in a five-point reduction on your final grade. If you think I do not keep up with this, you are sadly mistaken.

Health is important. Life happens. If you are sick or experiencing a hardship in life, please notify me before class and we can discuss whether or not your absence is excusable. Communication is key. Be proactive, not reactive.


Meet them. Failure to turn in your work on time results in a zero on the assignment.


This class will uphold the National Press Photographers Association Code of Ethics. As with all classes, you are expected to follow UGA’s Culture of Honesty. Familiarize yourself with both of these documents. Ignorance is not an acceptable excuse.

Things to note:

  • We DO NOT photograph friends, family or groups we’re involved with on campus
  • We DO NOT stage events or images

*I will call you out on this.


Because I am a part-time instructor at UGA, I do not have a full-time office in Grady College. If you would like to discuss anything in person, please come visit me before or after class on Fridays. Sometimes it’s easier to discuss visual things in person.

Your success is incredibly important to me, and if questions or concerns arise that you would like to discuss sooner than Friday, please email me. I always have my phone/email on me, and will be there to help as soon as possible.

  • History of photography and visual journalism
  • Visual ethics
  • The digital camera
  • The mechanics of exposure
  • The equivalent exposure
  • Focus and focal lengths
  • Digital workflow
  • Caption collection and data preservation
  • Composing for an unknown viewer
  • Subject selection
  • Copyright

The end goal of this class is for you to learn how to communicate visually, for you to learn to control a camera, to compose an image and to capture a moment that others will understand. (That last part? That’s the hard part.)

Equipment and Supplies

You are required to have your own digital SLR camera that meets the following requirements:

  • Sensor resolution: 12 megapixel minium
  • Sensor size: APS-C or full frame
  • Controls: full manual control over aperture, shutter speed, ISO, focus and white balance
  • File format: JPG
  • Media: SD or Compact Flash card
  • Viewfinder: Optical
  • Lens: 3x normal zoom (approximately 18 mm to 55 mm for an APS-C sensor; 24-75 for a full frame sensor)

You will also need to have a laptop with Adobe Creative Cloud installed. (Specifically, you will need Lightroom and Premiere Pro.)

I highly recommend using an external hard drive for all your content. This is not required, but recommended. There are two main reasons this is a good practice. 1) Photos, Audio and Video all are large files and eat up space quickly on a hard drive. Having these not on your computer will free up space that you need to run the software properly. Also it will help your laptop last longer. 2) If your computer crashes you can take the external hard drive to another computer and still work.

Please note that the best way to purchase Adobe Creative Cloud software is through the University System of Georgia’s Technology Store – it’ll be $75 for a one year subscription as opposed to $240 through Adobe’s education pricing.

The Department of Journalism recommends a Mac laptop as that is what will be demonstrated in person and in video tutorials. If you will be doing a lot of video and photo work, I would recommend a MacBook Pro with 16 GB of RAM and at least 256 GB of storage. You can work with less, but you’ll be happier with more memory. 20% empty hard drive space is recommended for editing with PhotoShop and Adobe Premiere. 

An audio recorder will be helpful later in the semester but not required, your phone will work for recording but will impact the quality of your work.

If you cannot afford these items, the department has a financial need application we can work with to help you out. If you have questions about whether you have the right gear, let me know – I speak geek.

As this is a shooting class, you must bring your equipment to every meeting. In-class exercises and shooting assignments will happen. Be prepared.  The #1 Way to Get Better as a Photographer  

Computer Crisis

If you have a computer crisis you have a few options.

Skype: You can contact me by email and we can then schedule a Skype session. This is a great way for you to share your computer screen and I can talk you through some difficulties. My Skype email address is [email protected].

Google Hangouts: Go here My address for this is [email protected]  You can share your screen here as well and then I can guide you.

If your  computer stops working the Digital Media Lab (DML) provides UGA students access to the latest in multimedia software and hardware for the creation and editing of digital media projects.


Your assignments will be graded as follows:

1) Nouns & Verbs (Jan 23, 8 pm) 5%
-200 Nouns, 200 Verbs
You need to be intentional with each click of the shutter. Using Manual mode pick the best ISO for the scene. Dial the correct Aperture & Shutter-Speed to get a good exposed photo that is in focus and sharp. Pick the best White Balance as well.
Nouns are just how you use them in a sentence. A noun is a part of speech that names a person, place, thing, idea, action or quality. All nouns can be classified into two groups of nouns, either common or proper. So a picture of an object is a noun. A photo of a person is a noun.
Verb is a word that expresses an action or a state of being. … Helping verbs always help either an action verb or a linking verb. Show people doing and objects in some action.
Follow the proper way to caption a photo by putting the work “Noun” or “Verb” in the caption field. Be sure the other Caption Fields are also filled out properly.
“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson
–I highly recommend you shoot these images outside
For most who take this class this is there first time owning a camera that is not a smartphone. Being able to change ISO, Aperture and Shutter-Speed has not been possible until now. You will be learning not just how these technically work to give a proper exposure, but also how to use them to creatively improve your storytelling.
How to Nail Exposure using Manual Mode
Storytelling?–I don’t think so

2) 36 Faces (Feb 13, 8 pm) 10%
This assignment is often terrifying for students due to having to talk to strangers. This is a skill you must master to work as a journalist. This assignment is also to help you know how to get a good photograph of a person in different types of light and if you have a choice which one you will try and put your subject in the future. One more technical piece of knowledge you will learn is how to fill the frame with the same size head in each photo. This will require you to step close to the person when at 18mm and further away at 55mm to maintain the same head size in the frame. After doing this you will learn what lens choice does to people’s heads.
-Vertical mugshots of 36 individual strangers. 12 pictures zoomed all the way in.
-4 are in bright light, 4 are in the shade and 4 use window light
12 pictures zoomed about half way.
-4 are in bright light, 4 are in the shade and 4 use window light
12 pictures as wide as your lens will let you.
-4 are in bright light, 4 are in the shade and 4 use window light
How to take your best portraits using window light – a beginners guide to digital photography
Open Shade Portraits: Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace

How to ASK STRANGERS for PORTRAITS (with Jamie Windsor & Pablo Strong)
Great example of how one photographer made portraits On Streets Of New York, The Penitent Pause For A Portrait

3) Depth-of-Field & Lens Selection (Feb 20, 8 pm) 5%
This lesson is to teach you how Aperture and focal length affects the Depth-of-Field.
4 images with the same composition and subject, altering the aperture and focal length
1. Widest focal length, widest aperture (~ f/3.5)
2. Widest focal length, aperture between f/11-f/22
3. Longest focal length, widest aperture (~ f/4.5-5.6)
4. Longest focal length, aperture between f/11-f/22
Depth of Field & Lens Selection– I created this page for this assignment to help you.
Depth of Field Preview – A tool underused by many photographers
Depth-of-field is more than Aperture
Telephoto or Wide-angle Lens?

4) One Face, One Story: An Instagram Photojournalistic Post (Due Feb 27, 8 pm) 15%
Each of your assignments going forward require you to write different style captions. This is a long form caption where the complete story is in the caption. Today Instagram is one of the most popular social media tools used by media outlets and individuals to show images and tell short stories. Probably the most successful at doing this is Brandon Stanton, UGA graduate, who started Humans of New York. Even National Geographic uses Instagram as well. The assignment is a controlled portrait, so the examples on these instagram accounts do not always use a portrait, but that is the photo assignment. The examples are included more for their examples for storytelling through a caption.
A portrait, completely controlled, of someone we should know about in Athens. SHOW US something about them, tell their “story”, in a single frame and with well written long form caption like you see in Humans of New York and National Geographic’s Instagram feeds.
Humans of New York – While these are not journalism, he is engaging his audience with interesting stories. The length of his captions is just about right for this assignment.
On how I approach strangers in the street | Humans of New York creator Brandon Stanton – Great video on how to conduct an interview to find a story from a subject you just met.
One Face, One Story– Page of examples of the type of portraits which will work for this assignment.
What is an environmental portrait and what it is not
Environmental portrait needs to explore possibilities 
The environmental portrait
Explore with your subject

5) News Package (Due March 20, 8 pm) 15%
You should always approach every assignment as a package. Finding the one photo that can tell the overall story can be overall shot, medium shot or even super closeup detail shot. Together these photos can often engage readers better than a word package alone can do.
A three to five photo package of a scheduled event. No sporting events for this assignment.  This event needs to be approved by me no later than March 1st.
*Needs to show visual variety
News Package– Page created for this assignment to give you some ideas.
Variety is the spice of life
Photo Tips: Covering a Meeting 
Shooting a photo package on a person – Not an event, but gives examples of exploring subject

Photography: Assignment Details

6) Multimedia Story PART 1 (Due April 3, 8 pm) 15%
You will interview a person and tell their story. When you talk to them about this project tell them you plan on doing this story two times. The first time will be a draft, which this is that you are doing, then you will come back after some coaching, by me, and then refine the story.
Produce an audio slideshow that is 90 – 120 seconds in length
Multimedia Package– Page created for ideas and how to guide
One of my first SlideShows Chick-fil-A Daddy Daughter Date Night
How to develop muscle memory for photographers

7) Features (Due Apr 3, 8 pm) 15%
Two separate feature photos [Not of the same subject] – slice of life images that share what it’s like living, working or studying on the UGA campus. Feature – Images and subjects that don’t fit in Spot News, General News, Sports or Illustration. Typically found moments or slices of life. Pictorial images – images that show graphic and aesthetic qualities of a subject with strong emphasis on composition.
Features– Page created to help you with this project

8) Multimedia Story Part 2 (Due Apr 17, 8 pm) 15%
This is a redo of the first story or if necessary of a different person, where you are now demonstrating what you learned from the first one.
Produce an audio slideshow that is 90 – 120 seconds in length
Multimedia Package
One of my first SlideShows Chick-fil-A Daddy Daughter Date Night
How to develop muscle memory for photographers

9) Participation, 5%


I’m here to make sure you learn about visual journalism and to grow as a photojournalist. Your grade is not the most important takeaway from this class. There aren’t honor graduates in life, and your priorities should be in learning instead of a letter grade.

With that being said, I know Grady students are exceptionally bright and strive to do well in the traditional sense of academics. If you receive a grade you are not happy with, you have two weeks to redo an assignment for a better grade (except on your final portfolio & any missed deadlines).

Grading Guideline

A: Professional work. Excellent technical execution. Valuable content. Flawless captions.

B: Journeyman photojournalism. Strong technical execution. Competent storytelling. Adequate captions.

C: Entry level photojournalism. Adequate technical execution. Struggles to communicate. Problematic captions.

D: Not publishable. Poor technical execution. Unclear composition. Incomplete captions.

F: Not publishable. Major technical issues. Content provides no journalistic value. Inaccurate captions. Missed deadline.

All assignments where you turned in work on time, but got a grade you are unhappy with can be redone, except the portfolio. You have one week after grade is posted to redo an assignment. You will need to email the project to me and send larger files as DropBox or something similar.


Deadlines are sacred in the news business. Therefore, any assignment not turned in by the assigned deadline will not be accepted and assigned a grade of zero. All assignments will be submitted via a dropbox on eLC. Each assignment will have both a date and a time deadline (the default time being 8 pm on the deadline day unless otherwise specified).

Note that if your upload to eLC is not completed before the deadline, eLC will not accept your submission and that will be considered a missed deadline. The system records when you have logged in and when you have submitted assignments. As you can submit from anywhere with an internet connection, make sure you are budgeting enough time to account for slow upload times. I recommend for the larger files to upload on campus where the internet speeds are faster. Details for how your work will be submitted will be explained in class and must be followed precisely – having the work done but not turned in properly is a missed deadline. Grady College is a professional school and professionalism is expected in this class.

Academic Integrity

All academic work must meet the standards contained in A Culture of Honesty. Each student is responsible for informing themselves about these standards before performing any academic work.

The only reason readers continue to support news organizations is because they believe they are credible. All work done for this course must be your own and done this semester. If you are assisted during a shoot, it is advisable to notify the instructor prior to submission.

The ethics of the visual journalist are extremely important and we will use the National Press Photographers Association’s Code of Ethics as a guide. Learn it, live by it.

It is very easy, and very tempting, to digitally enhance or retouch your images. If it is suspected that you have retouched an image to alter its meaning or content in any way you will be asked to provide all of the original files from the shoot. If it is found that you have manipulated the image – either digitally or through subject direction – a report will be filed with the Office of the Vice President for Instruction in accordance with the University of Georgia’s Academic Honesty Policy. Failure to provide requested, supporting information or files will result in a grade of zero and notification to the Office of the Vice President for Instruction.

The course syllabus is a general plan for the course; deviations announced to the class by the instructor may be necessary. You are responsible for what is verbally said in class for the assignment and not just what is written here on the syllabus.

Special Needs Students

The Disability Resource Center provides academic services to eligible students who have a documented physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more life activities. Students with a disability or health-related issue who need a class accommodation should make an appointment to speak with the instructor as soon as possible.

Diversity issues in journalism come in numerous forms, from how a newsroom is staffed to how decisions are made on those we document. We will spend time discussing how we continue to diversify the journalism ranks as well as analyzing how we select stories and images for publications. You will be challenged to ensure your visual reporting is reflective of the community you serve and helps bring awareness to those who are underserved or underreported.

Professional Values and Competencies:

The Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications requires that, irrespective of their particular specialization, all graduates should be aware of certain core values and competencies and be able to:

1. understand and apply the principles and laws of freedom of speech and press for the country in which the institution that invites ACEJMC is located, as well as receive instruction in and understand the range of systems of freedom of expression around the world, including the right to dissent, to monitor and criticize power, and to assemble and petition for redress of grievances;
2. demonstrate an understanding of the history and role of professionals and institutions in shaping communications;
3. demonstrate an understanding of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and, as appropriate, other forms of diversity in domestic society in relation to mass communications;
4. demonstrate an understanding of the diversity of peoples and cultures and of the significance and impact of mass communications in a global society;
5. understand concepts and apply theories in the use and presentation of images and information;
6. demonstrate an understanding of professional ethical principles and work ethically in pursuit of truth, accuracy, fairness and diversity;
7. think critically, creatively and independently;
8. conduct research and evaluate information by methods appropriate to the communications professions in which they work;
9. write correctly and clearly in forms and styles appropriate for the communications professions, audiences and purposes they serve;
10. critically evaluate their own work and that of others for accuracy and fairness, clarity, appropriate style and grammatical correctness;
11. apply basic numerical and statistical concepts;
12. apply current tools and technologies appropriate for the communications professions in which they work, and to understand the digital world.

The Department of Journalism has noted five of these standards that are specific to this course:

1. understand concepts and apply theories in the use and presentation of images and information – We will spend a great deal of time analyzing how the public will respond to your images, including discussions on the differences between snapshots and news photographs. You will make photographs for those who were not there, not as memory triggers.

2. demonstrate an understanding of professional ethical principles and work ethically in pursuit of truth, accuracy, fairness and diversity – As discussed elsewhere, we will apply the National Press Photographers Association’s Code of Ethics to all of our work and we will analyze issues that have arisen throughout the history of photojournalism.

3. think critically, creatively and independently – We will discuss how to assess various news situations, seeking out moments that will illuminate stories and not decorate them.

4. critically evaluate their own work and that of others for accuracy and fairness, clarity, appropriate style and grammatical correctness – A core component of this class is the belief that journalism is a public act. Most assignments will be reviewed in class allowing you to get feedback from your peers as well as develop your own ability to assess photojournalism imagery. Captions will be critically important, as well, and we will focus on writing accurate and informative captions to give editors the information they need for publication.

5. apply current tools and technologies appropriate for the communications professions in which they work, and to understand the digital world – In short, we will geek out a bit. We will not use technology to be more creative for individual works but will use it to tell more comprehensive stories. By blending visual and audio elements, we will develop stronger stories.