Learning to see by observing

By Krysten Massa

Pictures are really important in journalism. Sometimes, seeing has a larger impact than just reading words. A good photo stands out, and I am walking out of my internship with Heather Walsh Photography a much better photographer than when I began.

The funny thing about that is I never actually shot any photos when Heather and I were on an assignment. I watched, I observed, and I took it in. I am definitely a more visual learner, and just being on a photo shoot and seeing how she presented herself taught me about how I should behave when I get out into the work world.

I did not know what to expect when I accepted the internship, and I was a little nervous that I would not be able to do what Heather wanted me to do. I had never photo-assisted before, and I was afraid that I was going to mess up or make her photo shoot more difficult as opposed to helping.

What I can say is that I actually did well.

First of all, yes, I was working for Heather, but she never treated me like I was beneath her. I know that I was her assistant, but we felt more like a team. She was always really eager to have me come to a photo shoot, and that made it all the more exciting for me.

I am so happy I got to learn about lighting because I am planning on continuing with photography and video and hope to have a successful career with it one day. Currently, we don’t have a class at the School of Journalism that teaches the more advanced, technical parts of photojournalism. Although all journalists are encouraged to know how to shoot and take photos, I learned this semester how competitive it is for photojournalists and videographers.

I really appreciate the lighting techniques that she taught me. This is something I honestly never thought I needed to do, but now I see the importance of lighting a photo. Heather taught me little tricks on how to make my photos stand out against others. The proper lighting could make the difference between me and my competition in getting a job.

I cannot think of anything that I wish I had known at the start of the semester. Although I did not know exactly what this internship was going to entail, nothing about it made me think, “Oh, I wish I had known that going in.” The point of this internship is for it to be a big learning experience. So although going in I didn’t know how to shoot with a flash, and I didn’t know how to properly process my own photos or present a portfolio, I was not embarrassed by this. The point of the internship was to learn these things. Heather teaches you not only photo techniques, but also how to present yourself and your portfolio when you are being interviewed by a potential employer.

I would tell an interested SOJ student that in this internship, you are going out into the field and doing real reporting and work. Although it may not seem like assisting would be a lot of work, you will take a lot away from it. You will get to assist on assignments for Newsday, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. It is really cool to go on these assignments, and you feel really professional while you are there.

This internship will give you a different perspective than what you are learning in your classes. You get to see the back end of something that we do not think about: the work of the photojournalist. The photojournalist puts in as much work as the reporter does.

If you are a professional photojournalist, you do not just go in, take a few shots and think it is good enough to leave. You think about everything, and you have to think about giving the editors options to go with. You have to shoot a lot to make sure you get the right shots, and you even have to do some reporting yourself because understanding the story will help your creative process.

This internship also teaches you how to deal with the people you are taking photos of. Most people are uncomfortable being photographed, and a lot of stories require portrait shots. I walked away from this internship knowing how to talk to sources and get them to relax in front of the camera so that you can get a nice, natural shot of them. I’ve worked with a lot of different types of people throughout this internship. We had autistic sources, high school students, kindergarteners and older people, and all of these photo shoots required different approaches. It was really interesting to learn how to handle different assignments.