about this sitesee Meranda's resumesee clips and work sampleskeep in touch

Feeling amateur

So, I was reading this blog post with interest about training the staff of the Canton Repository on video. In part because being from Ohio (Canton’s just a half-hour south of Akron, where I was grew up) I have an interest in media there, but also because I once was considering an online job there. And still have some reservations — yes after everything they’ve been through — about not going there because of what I could have learned and the freedom I would have had to experiment. But c’est la vie!

I found this comment in particular spot-on:

The small camera issue was also brought up by the photo staff. Professional gear brings with it a perception by the public that you are professional. Prosumer gear/consumer gear can create a different perception.

Let me tell you how much I hate our (the paper’s) point and shoot cameras. Doing head shots, I do not mind and prefer a point and shoot. In fact, I often times just use my personal one for the schools page mugs just because a) it’s smaller, b) I don’t need to sign it out, and c) it’s always on me so I can grab mugs & quotes any time I’m out on another assignment rather than having to set aside time for that.

But when they ask me to use the cameras to take a real picture? It’s embarrassing.

I know, I know. It shouldn’t be right? But that comment up there is exactly how I feel, like an amateur. (The photos also tend to suck, because you can only do so much with zoom and the standard flash.) Plus, our point and shoots are clunky and annoying and just… embarrassing. But again, what can you do.

I guess what you do is as the blog poster suggests, you act like a professional. It goes back to the old saying, you can get in anywhere with a clipboard and a sense of purpose. So, I guess rather than fumble and make a joke about the point and shoots, I should just act like it’s just another day and nothing out of the ordinary. And that’s how people will (hopefully) perceive it.

I’ll report back on whether this works.

7 Responses to “Feeling amateur”

  1. cyndy green Says:

    Yeow! Don’t get sucked into believing size is everything. I used to work in TV with the $50,000 plus camcorders and now I’m shooting stories with the Exilim (definitely NOT in the same league) because it intrigues me. Which is more important – the gear or the story? I’m finding that although the consumer cameras present their own special challenges (read hard to use controls, not the high quality, etc), the storytelling is pretty much the same.
    And by the way, the training was using a still camera w/video abilities – so the staff was learning how to shoot and edit video.
    Something I see in looking back at my years in news is that often the professionals get caught up in one-upmanship. We compete at levels the public isn’t even aware of. Split second editing. Nuances visible only to the trained eye. Some of this matters because it subtly affects the audience. Some is just plain showing off to peers.
    Something Richard Koci Hernanez (http://www.multimediashooter.com/( said: It’s not about you – it’s about your audience. Some tools make the job easier. Some tools challenge you to become better.

  2. Notes from a Teacher: Mark on Media » Saturday squibs Says:

    […] Feeling amateur. Mulling the idea that giving newspaper staff anything less than pro-level gear makes them feel less professional. Personally, I’ve never bought into the by-our-gear-ye-shall-know-us mindset, which seems to put the emphasis on the wrong things. That’s just me, though. […]

  3. Howard Owens Says:

    The “small camera is embarrassing” POV is new to this debate.

    I don’t buy it. In the past two years of handing out small cameras, no reporter has said “this is embarrassing.”

    It’s all mindset.

    Also, to put a finer point on Cyndy’s response — when she writes about the small cameras and photographers, she’s referring to Canon HV20 camcorders, not the Casios.

    One thing we’ve found previously is that when we hand out bigger, more expensive prosumer cameras photographers fuss about all the extra equipment and time to set it up. Now they complain (not the same group to be sure) about the size of the easier to use camera.

    Unfortunately, there is no middle ground here — either you have have the more professional looking kit (which really has no quality advantage on the web) or the eaiser to carry and use HV20.

    And from past experience, reporters won’t use something like the HV20 because it gets in the way of taking notes for print stories, it’s “too bulky” and involves more shooting-related work.

    I don’t think it’s hard to explain to a source what you’re using, doing and why — most reporters tell me sources are intrigued by the whole thing, and by the second time they see a reporter with a small camera they’re used to it.

    It’s all mindset.

  4. Meranda Says:

    Howard — I agree it’s all mindset, my mindset. That was my point when I said “I should just act like it’s just another day and nothing out of the ordinary. And that’s how people will (hopefully) perceive it.” Not just other people, but myself.

    I can’t speak for every reporter who has ever been handed a camera, but I can speak for myself, and whether you buy it or not, I’ve been embarrassed. And this from a girl who never leaves home without my personal point and shoot and who, you can ask anyone who’s ever gone anywhere with me, is not shy about using it. But that’s for a different purpose. My experience w/the paper’s cameras has nothing to do w/camcorders, so I can’t speak to that.

    It’s just something I have to get over, which was what I intend to do.

  5. Susanne Says:

    Sorry, but I have to agree with Meranda. This not-naturally-a-photographer journalist has been in two bureaus over three years, all the while equipped with a camera. Point and shoot, naturally. And I would have been proud to call my own if they were my personal cameras by they way.

    But they weren’t, and I wasn’t. Each time I whipped those cameras out, I felt embarassed, namely because I felt like an amateur. Especially when the amatuers had better cameras than me. More than once, I got “would you like me to email you some photos” after pulling out my camera.

    But, like Cyndy, my issue comes down to the quality of the photo. I’ve taken some great photos with a point and shoot. But, as my old basketball coach always said, a blind squirrel will find a nut every now and then.

    Point and shoots are great for mugs, great for grab and grins, great for photos where the object isn’t going to move and crash scenes.

    But any fast movement events: awful. The shutter time is too slow. I was at an Easter Egg hunt, where children grab eggs like ravenous beasts eating prey.
    I sit by an egg waiting for a kid to come, see kid, click on button, kid off and gone iwth egg. My photo: half of the kids behind and a blank area of grass where there was once potentially a great photo. Then there was the community garage sale. By the time my point and shoot flashed, the two women I was trying to capture as they made a transaction, had turned and were giving me their brightest fake smile. My newsy shot was immediately a posed, grab and grin.

    Fine, you say “mindset.” But this squirrel knows she would have had plenty more nuts if she had a more professional camera.

  6. cyndy green Says:

    Hey Suzanne…
    You’re referring to P&S for still use – and I meant for video. My biggest gripe with P&S for video is the short zoom – virtually no zoom at all. But I’ve been able to think my way around it by getting in closer. Other gripe is audio quality – getting closer is, once again, the solution.
    Love your squirrel reference – I’m into the dinosaur motiff right now. Survival mode and looking out for those pesky mammals after my job.

  7. Mike Braun Says:

    It isn’t the size of the cat in the fight it is the size of the fight in the cat. Type of equipment is not relevant. If you can take good photos/vid with a P&S or cheap digital, so be it. I keep a cheap, old digital in my car, just for emergency type breaking, spot news events. And I’m a designer, not a reporter. I don’t really care what my equipment is, but I’ve been in this business for 30+ years, starting as a general assignment reporter and lugging around an old Russian 35mm (Zenit) that was all I could afford in those days ($135 per week to start) and I used it well. Whatever equipment you get your hands on, just learn it inside out and you’ll do well. Better is better, but you gotta go with what you have.