Is College Best for Aspiring Photographers and Photojournalists?

Natalie Cole, U of M journalism junior, captures a photo within a photo.

According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, 68.1 percent of 2010 high school graduates were enrolled in colleges or universities in October; the top five college majors for 2011 are business, psychology, nursing, biology, and education, according to the Princeton Review. But what about  photography and photojournalism? Some top schools for gaining a photography or photojournalism degree include: NYU, Western Kentucky University, Syracuse University, Ohio University, and University of Missouri, but has our fast-paced, do-it-yourself, media-frenzied society deterred students from the value of pursing postsecondary education for these careers?

Is college really the best option, and more specifically, is it best for aspiring photographers and photojournalists? This topic has recently become relevant due to the the popular allure of photography and the easy access to top-notch photography equipment for producing high quality images. Many are drawn to the idea of being a photographer with all the self-help videos and how-to tutorials. Even though technology makes pursuing these careers easier than in past years, students must remember that the jobs entail more than what meets the eye.

“If you really want to be a photographer, it’s much more than just taking the pictures, which can be hard enough. Cameras these days have made it much easier… that’s why it’s so many people out there trying it, whether or not they’re good at it,” said Mark Weber, Commercial Appeal staff photographer.

When it comes down to income and career advancement, the reality of degree versus no degree hits. When the amount of money high school diploma holders typically make is compared with those having a college degree, there is a difference and the gap is growing every day, according to How To E-D-U. http://howtoedu.org/college-facts/how-many-high-school-graduates-attend-college/ Also, even without a degree, having some college experience makes it  is much easier to get hired.

According to Georgetown University’s website http://www9.georgetown.edu/grad/gppi/hpi/cew/pdfs/FullReport.pdf, having some college but no degree or a postsecondary certificate is worth about $473,000 more than a high school degree.

“Between 2008 and 2018 there will be just under 47 million job openings, which will include 14.4 million new and 32.4 million replacement jobs. Some 29.9 million of these openings—63 percent of the total—will require at least some college education,” the site says.

A clear majority of the graduates reported they had been prepared for today’s job market by their courses, according to the 2010 Annual Survey of Journalism & Mass Communication Graduates.

“I came to college because I wanted to learn more about the field. It’s true no one can teach anybody how to create art and you can’t learn talent, but the University has taught me many things I would not have learned on my own. I have learned so many different processes and techniques that have developed me as a photographer,” said Marlon Turner, University of Memphis photography major.

College teaches skills that can be learned without holding a degree, but actually going to college and having hands-on learning in the classroom, an environment for testing out those skills in the darkroom, printing labs, studios, and feedback from educated professors, provides for a different level of knowledge and education. The majority of 2010 bachelor’s degree recipients said they had the skill when they completed their studies to write for the web, edit for the web, use still photography on the web, adapt to the digital environment generally, and use the social media professionally, according to  http://www.grady.uga.edu/annualsurveys/Graduate_Survey/Graduate_2010/Grad2010MergedB&Wv1.pdf

“We teach skills. Anyone can take a few good pictures. But we want to graduate students who have control over the image-making process, so they consistently produce strong work,” said Professor Coriana Close ,University of Memphis Advanced photography professor.

Another big advancement college can provide is networking. Networking with alumni, professor recommendations and internships, can do wonders for one’s career.

“…many of the professors here are in the field and have given great recommendations to me and my colleagues. It’s not guaranteed to all, but it sure beats being at home waiting for an opportunity to fall out the sky,” said Marlon Turner.

“…when you have the degree it gets your foot in the door per se, like any other major, etc. Newspapers pull potential employees from a poll of colleges just like any other industry. I think the key is individuality, skill, and making connections. When it comes time to apply for photography positions of freelance jobs, publications are going to look and see if your work is good,and if you happen to know the photo editor, the editor in chief or reporters at a particular publication, then your chances are higher of getting hired. That is why internships are important. If you do a good job and take it seriously, they will remember you, whether it is for a freelance job or staff position,” said Aaron Turner, University of Memphis photojournalism major.

Not all feel as though college will aid in their advancement or give them anything other than college loan despair down the road; some simply believe that they can save the cost by just using their own raw talents with whatever help they can pick up along the way. Or some say that college is just a way to stifle people’s  minds instead of helping them to embrace creativity. Even some of the photography greats such as Ansel Adams and Richard Avedon did not receive college degrees, let alone finish high school, but still achieved success.  There are even businesses and websites promoting this notion, such as ztcollege.com (zero tuition college), where they claim to give you “a strategy for giving yourself an affordable, effective, and adventurous education without college” and Uncollege.com, which states on its website that it does not wish to discourage college attendance but offer another way.

However, in today’s economy, with jobs being a sore spot for many, even people with degrees are suffering, and the fact that about 65 percent of workers will require some college or better in 2018, according to Georgetown.edu suggests that now is not the time to skip out on gaining a college degree; even if it isn’t in photojournalism or photography, it will still reflect well on you when seeking a job.

“Those who study in schools, the primary ones that come to mind are Western Kentucky and Ohio University, are going to be poised to land jobs more so than self-taught journalists because of connections they will make while in school and are given time to grow their craft under direction of well-respected professionals. 

Being a good storyteller is what will give you a competitive edge. I’ve seen photographers come out of school that couldn’t shoot their way out of wet paper bag, and others that will go on to win Pulitzers. Anything in life, whether it is photojournalism or some other profession, will be driven by what you put into it and how hard you are willing to work to achieve your goals. YOU are who will determine what your competitive edge will be, not a school or anyone else,” said Mike Brown, Commercial Appeal photojournalist.

Cat Fight: TSU Tigers vs U of M Tigers 88-64

It was a Tiger on Tiger, cat fight, Thursday night on the 1st of December, as the U of M Tigers took on the TSU Tigers. The Memphis Tigers started off dominating the scoreboard with 9 straight unanswered points as the TSU Tigers struggled to keep up. Ramses Lonlack scored the first points of the game and did not let up scoring 17 points for the Memphis Tigers.

The Memphis Tigers showed great presence, defensive skills, and overall teamwork against the TSU Tigers as Brittnay Carter scored a game-high 23 points and scored a career-high six steals, Danay Collier  scored 12 points and Jasmine Lee added on with 11 boards. Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir had eight assists, a career-high, helping the Tigers improve to 6-1 on the season. Tennessee State fell to 3-5 with the loss.

This was a great feat for the lady Tigers as this was their second-highest total of the season and the team assisted on a season-high 24 baskets. The Tigers connected on a 33-of-63 shots (52.4 percent) and held Tennessee State to 22-of-68 (32.4 percent) shooting, according to official Memphis Athletics.

The band added to the intimate feel  and enthusiasm by chanting “D up” and “Ole” every time a 3 point basket was made.

The fans had the the entire gym live as well. When some fans were asked what brought them out their responses were as lively as the action taking place on the court.

I love basketball and we seem to have a women’s program that’s on the rise. It’s great entertainment,” said Keionia Ellison University of Memphis freshman

     “I came to show support for the team…,” said DeAubrey Weekly University of Memphis freshman

     “I wanted to come out and support the lady tigers throughout the season, “said Keenan Alexander University of Memphis freshman

The halftime score was 55-32 with the Memphis Tigers up against the TSU Tigers.

Tennessee State had some key players keeping them in the game scoring in double-digits, led by Destiney Gaston’s 20 points. Jasmin Shuler contributed 15 points and Kesi Hess scored 13 points.

The final score in the end was 88-64 putting the Memphis Tigers at a 8 games won to only 1 game lost for the season, which is a great improvement from the previous season for the Tigers.

http://www.gotigersgo.com/sports/w-baskbl/recaps/120111aab.html

Day in the Life with Mark Weber (sports photographer)

Mark Weber, Commercial Appeal sports photographer, flashes a goofy smile at the camera while posing for a photo.

With every career one must start from somewhere. Every career has its own special quirks that make it special, tiring, thrilling. Well, Commercial Appeal staff sports photographer Mark Weber offers some insight into his world of sports photography and more in a sit down interview.

Q: So for starters, what is a day in the life like for a sports photographer? What is your job?

A: I mean I can tell you what I did today. I got a phone call last night telling me what time to be here [The University of Memphis], which was like 8:30. Telling me to meet Joe Jackson outside of the Carpenter complex. And this was, uh you know, we’re dealing with the sports information department, so sometimes the lines of communication are kinda crossed or um, or slow moving and so.  So we met Joe at 8:30. And basically the story today was the day in the life of Joe, it’s what he does day to day, uh,  for our basketball preview, which will be coming . So today I was just basically a fly on the wall to Joe and what he did today and I just went anywhere and everywhere with him, went to class, he was in the UC, for a little while, he went to study hall, he had a workout at the Finch Center, played videogames with his teammates in the locker room after that, and that was a full eight hours right there with him.

Q: Do you enjoy that aspect?

A: Yeah, it’s great, I mean, it’s nice to see these people as real people, because they’re somewhat looked upon as superstars. I don’t really see them that way because I’m around them quite often, they’re college kids just like everybody else, you know, and so I don’t get star-struck. It’s been a long time since I was somebody who got star-struck. I think with as long as I’ve been doing this, as many U of M players that have filtered through, I’ve been to so many sporting events that’s it’s just second hand nature to me.

Q: How did you get your start in sports photography?

A: Well you know that’s actually kinda funny, because I went to Western Kentucky University for their photojournalism program and I had never really looked at sports photography as something I would enjoy doing. It just never really dawned on me. I really wanted to be a documentary storyteller, which I still do for the paper, I do a lot of projects. So essentially I have the best of both worlds, but it turned out that when I, my first job was in Birmingham, Alabama and I just so happened to be in the football country of the world, I covered a lot of Auburn football for three years, and I actually was pretty good at it and I just got better and better. And working for a newspaper you start working more sporting events and it turned out I was pretty good at it and I came to Memphis and they said well, your gonna be a sports photographer for us, and so I essentially got thrown into the U of M beat and have been doing U of M football and basketball ever since I got here.

Q: So did you come to Memphis and apply at the different publications or they just said here’s your job?

A: No, I was transferred here from the paper I worked at in Birmingham. Memphis plucked me out of there and brought me here. So yeah, that’s essentially how it happened, and then I was handed the U of M beat . They looked at my portfolio and said “well okay, we really feel like you can excel in sports” and so that’s what they started to have me do. I go to every Memphis basketball game, and if the football team is decent I will go to every football game.

Q: With preparation, when you’re having to shoot on site, what elements do you look for? How do you prepare?

A: There are several things you have to think of, I can run down what it’s like for me to get ready for the Memphis basketball season. So before I came over here I was looking at flights, hotels, you have to know where the arenas are, essentially you need to know how easy it is to get into a city and out of a city. So essentially the work for sports photography is a lot more work besides showing up and shooting pictures. Deadline pressures have gotten more and more shorter in time, so basically by half-time and we can’t even get something in the paper, depends on the game schedule.

I can go in and set up 3 or 4 cameras that I’ll trigger throughout the game so that takes a couple of hours right there to get those ready to get them ready for the game. Then you gotta edit all your, so then you have to shoot the game, edit all your film, send it back to the paper, then you have to do a slideshow, so we do a slideshow once the game is over ,then I have to take down all the remotes. When I do a freelance job for like the Associated Press, I just show up and shoot pictures; it’s not that hard.

Q: Do you enjoy that freelance work?

A: Yeah, it’s not as labor-intensive, it’s just you go in, you shoot the game and you leave. A lot of people think it’s just fun and easy to be a sports photographer, and yes it is, but they don’t generally understand the work that goes into it to do it well, and you really do need to know the teams.

Q: You said you have to go and edit the shoots,  how do you know, looking though your film, when you have the shot?

A: This day and age we have digital cameras, so you can look on the back of your camera and know if you got a good shot or not, so its pretty easy that way. You can even go as far as to mark the image on the camera, so when you go back to the editing room,then you can pretty much use the software ….and you can pretty much bring up those images that you marked in the camera. I generally don’t do that because I like to look through the whole take if I can do it. It’s much more stressful because you don’t know if you have the image until and you are hoping you have the image.

You just go and you do your job. It’s fun because it’s different weeks, its different teams, different personalities on the teams, but generally you’re just covering a basketball game or a football game or a track meet.

Q: In college did you major in photojournalism?

A: Yes, I have a photojournalism degree, a four year photojournalism degree from Western Kentucky University…It’s pretty intense. It’s very competitive.

Q: I know you have to keep up with the different equipment. What are expenses of the job? 

A: For me it’s nothing because its paper-based work. But I can tell you I have a Mark IV, which is the latest film body that’s come out from Canon. I have the long glass, I have the short glass. I tend to shoot, when I’m at the Forum because it’s so many photographers at the games, I tend to stay right underneath the basket and try to shoot wide angle and long glass at the ends and whatever remotes I have setup I tend to do that.  On the road I have more opportunity to move around, less people, depending on where you go,  so I will generally go up in the stands and shoot from the stands, which is really nice. It depends where you are at on what lens you need to use.

I know the cameras are generally around three to five thousand, the lenses are fifteen to two thousand for the 16 to 35 or the 25 to 70 or the 70-200. I know the 300 hundred is probably in the several thousand dollar range. When I shoot football, I use a 400 2A which is one of those big ones and it’s probably an eight thousand, so at anytime  I can have, easily, 20 thousand in camera gear on me.

***To read the rest please continue to the next post.***

Day in the Life with Mark Weber (sports photographer) cont.’d

Q & A with Commercial Appeal sports photographer Mark Weber

Q: How many cameras do you generally carry with you?

A: Well in the car I have about four; when I’m shooting a football game it could be as many as three.  I will have a short glass, the medium length, and the long glass on a monopod. If I don’t feel like it’s going to be a lot of plays coming near me, I just stick with the medium length, the  seventy-two hundred in long glass.

Q: With being so close in the action, and I have always been curious because I’ve watched the photographers as the players go off track or they’re coming right at you, is it scary or have you ever been hit?

A: I’ve never actually been, well I was run into by a high school kid but I did more damage than he did. He ran into me and he wasn’t a big kid. But other than that I’ve never actually been hit on the sideline.

In basketball I’ve been run over, on the sid-line, in basketball it’s about on the baseline, but you basically figure out, you just make sure you don’t go where their knees are going, because you’re sitting on the baseline so their knees are generally at your head level; so if you can see their knees are coming this way, you go this way or you just make sure your head isn’t where their knees are. But I’ve been “turtled” before, which means, because we sit in canoe seats, so if you get knocked over you pretty much have your little arms and legs up like a turtle because you’re stuck in your seat. But that’s not that bad.

Q: If anyone, who has been the biggest impact on you, photography-wise? Is there anyone you looked up to or aspired to be like?

A: William Albert Allard, geographic photographer; Neil Leifer, he was a sports illustrated photographer, he had a Muhammad Ali picture that won the Pulitzer. I have a lot of photography books that I look at. Bruce Davidson, just about any geographic photographers. Of course everybody when they are coming up wants to be a geographic photographer.

There are plenty of people, you name them, I’ve looked at them; but sports-wise, to be completely honest,  I look at sports photographers and I kinda see what they’re doing different, like if they’re doing different angles; so if they are doing different placements of their cameras, or if they’re in a different spot, because it really is a genre of our industry that can tend to get very stagnant, I mean it’s just, you shoot from the same position a lot of times. And the access, I find it really dumb, these days, it’s gotten harder to get to the athletes, try to get them in moments where they aren’t contrived or in a press conference; because it’s really, really hard to get those kinds of personal moments.

Q: So you like the more personal, behind the scenes shots?

A: One of my favorite moments that I have taken was after the Final Four with Robert Dozier in the locker room, once they’d just lost the Final Four, and he’s just sitting there with this look on his face like, I don’t know what just happened, and he’s got like a hundred microphones, cell phones, and video cameras, and they’re like all in his face, and he’s just got this look like I don’t know what happened. So that was a moment that I really enjoyed making because it was something that the fans could not see, it’s not something you could see from your seat. It was much more personal. So I did start out as more of a documentary photographer, I wanted to do documentary stories , but I still do. But that’s what I really like about doing sports photography:  Interviews, getting something different.

Q:  What has been your favorite moment?

A: Gosh, sports wise, I think sitting there at the Final Four going wow, these dudes, I mean you cover the whole year, you start to know these guys,  they know you, and I was just sitting there and I was like, they are actually gonna pull this off, and then all of a sudden, I guess it was I was excited, and I was not excited that they were gonna win, or that they were gonna lose, but like, what am I gonna do, how am I gonna cover this, what’s gonna happen . Do I need to focus on coach, do I need to focus on the players, are they gonna win, are they gonna lose, to I need to get a rejection picture. I think the picture I had was when Chris Douglas Roberts was coming off the court with his jersey over his head and the Kansas players celebrating in the background, you know your thinking in the last few moments of the game, oh my gosh, what am I gonna do? How am I gonna cover this? How am I gonna shoot this? So it was exciting from that point because, there was a lot of action the last two minutes of the game, and it was new to me.

It’s like I had never seen a team win a national championship in person or lose one in person. So it was really exciting compared to the everyday norm of just covering a basketball game. (Me: Different element) There was a lot on the line for everybody, and we come from a town where it’s not the most well-to-do town, and they get behind their Tigers, so I knew everybody was gonna see these pictures, and I had gone to friends’ homes that didn’t know me at the time and seen pictures hanging up in their house. They didn’t know I had taken the picture, I was there, I took it, I can remember the moment like, just screaming, just foul, like everybody else said , just foul .

Q: What  do you love most about your job?

A: Sports photography wise, well, I do like the fact that I get to see these guys as human beings. You know, they’re put on a pedestal by a lot of people, most everybody puts them on a pedestal, I get to just see them as who they really are.  They’re just kids; they are playing video games, they’re going to class, you know, they’re looking for girls to talk to, girls are looking to talk to them, they’re just human beings in a way. That aspect of sports photography I really like. I mean I can be sitting behind a desk, that wouldn’t be too much fun, or I could spend my Friday night watching some football or traveling. I mean that’s another good thing about my job at the Commercial Appeal, I get to go to certain places that are really nice.

Q: Do you necessarily pick your assignments?

A: No, I go to every game, every game, I go to. Where ever they are playing, I go to.

Q: What is your relationship with other sports photographers?

A: I know all the guys around town because we’re all at the same sporting events.  I know who they are; there are a whole lot of them. I generally think there’s just a handfulof sports photographers who cover it … for news organizations.

Q: What is your relationship like with sports reporters? Do you have a relationship with them?

A: I travel with Jason, the beat writer for the Commercial Appeal. So we go to every game together.

Q: What are the difficulties, pressures of job security?

A: Sure! There is defiantly that. This industry is defiantly losing, coming from a newspaper standpoint, working at a newspaper, newspapers aren’t doing  the best right now. There’s not a lot of hope that they are going to last forever. I mean they are trying to figure out how they are going to make it a sustainable industry like it once was, but it is hit and miss on what we can do. But I am just glad I’m at a place where they still value what I do and they still send me to all the games because  they could easily pick up wire images, but they value that I can do it better.

Q: Is there anything else you want to add?

A: If you really want to be a sports photographer it’s much more than just taking the pictures, which can be hard enough. Cameras these days have made it much easier to do sports photography, that’s why it’s so many people out are there trying it, whether or not they’re good at it.  It’s in the eyes of the beholder, but generally there’s a lot of behind the scenes work that goes on to get to these events; to cover these events, to do it right it’s hard work.  It’s not just showing up and taking pictures.

For me it’s traveling, it’s putting cameras up, so I can get different angles, editing film, doing slide-shows, and getting them back to the paper in a timely fashion so I don’t miss deadlines. Some games that are late in the evening, if you have a nine o’clock game and the deadline is ten, you pretty much have halftime and if you don’t have anything by halftime, oh well, something’s going in the paper and your name is gonna be on it so, there’s pressures. But when you have done it as long as I have it’s just another day. You wake up, go to work, and go home.