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JO513 Photo 2

Spring 2024


Peter Smith, Master Lecturer        
cell: 617 548-0109

Office hours:  Room COM B33
Tues. 11 – 2 p.m.
Wed. 11 – 12 p.m.
or by appt.

Equipment Reservations:

“Each day as the earth revolves towards sunrise, members of a select human species awaken to observe the world with three eyes instead of two.  They are the photojournalists of the world, men and women who write the visual biography of humankind on earth.”     John Morris

We photograph people – Peter Smith.

Photojournalism is a demanding, competitive profession.  Advances in photo technology have leveled the playing field. Still, the best photojournalists always seem to successfully capture images that have immediate and lasting value, connecting readers and the world to their local communities.  Although modern cameras enable everyone to take pictures, the best photojournalists stay ahead.  Having a camera doesn’t make you a photographer any more than flossing makes you a dentist.

The purpose of this course is to acquaint students with the necessary tools to enter the profession of visual journalism and succeed.  It will be hard work but no more demanding than the field itself.  It should also be fun.  I have never known a photographer who decided on this career for a reason other than pursuing exciting experiences.  At this point, it is expected students will have mastered the basics of photography and are familiar with the requirements of photojournalism.  This course offers the opportunity to learn photojournalism on a professional level.

Your photos should be clean, graphic, and easy to read. Dodging and burning are okay, but stay within the rules. Blacks can be snappy but should maintain detail. Crop wisely and use the original aspect ratio. 

We live through a historic global pandemic, political upheaval, social and political polarization, and economic insecurity. Think of visual stories that connect with these broad forces.

No pigeons, squirrels, or ducks, and no photos of friends, roommates, or relatives.  Photograph powerful and
entertaining moments of life – at events, on the T, on campus, or within your community.

We will discuss safety guidelines for each assignment.


Week One, January 23
Class Intro – review syllabus, software, and hardware recommendations. You’ll need an external hard drive (SD). Deliver assignments to Smugmug. I’ll send you an upload link to your own Smugmug folder.
Assignment 1:  Shoot features from various angles/distances/focal lengths and show five images for critique.
Bring cutline info to class for the caption writing lab.

513 photos: 

Homework – features: Look for moments of human interest in your neighborhood, on the BU campus, or across the city.   Photograph interesting moments of people in a public setting. Use striking lighting and composition. Write strong captions explaining who is in the photo, when and where it was shot, and the historical, cultural, or news context connected to that moment is essential. 

Review best practices for keeping safe when working in the field.
Review Tyler Hicks’ Amazon Photo Essay. Review caption writing.

Week Two, January 30
Lecture: Caption writing.
Assignment 1, feature photographs, rough draft due today.

Shoot portraits of shop owners and residents. Talk to people. Photograph artists and bakers and barbers. Photograph features of life on the street. Photograph people working. Shoot scene-setters, use backgrounds well, and tell a story with your pictures. Look for overviews – shoot from up high and from down low. Talk to people, engage. Tell them why you are there and what you are looking for – a picture story of their unique neighborhood!
Deliverables: five unique images. (10 points)

Review future class assignments. 
Create a spreadsheet of visual story ideas.
This week:  Set up an Adobe Portfolio for this class.

Week Three, February 6
Due: Assignment 1 Features – final edit.
Editorial portraits. Find a good story of someone who does not look like you. Shoot multiple situations and shoot multiple angles, distances, and focal lengths. Shoot wide, medium, and tight. Shoot both formal and candid moments. Look for different backgrounds and lighting situations.
(10 points)

Week Four, February 13
Due today: Assignment 2, Portrait, editorial style.  (10 points)
Homework: neighborhood assignment: Shoot portraits of shop owners and residents. Talk to people. Photograph artists and bakers and barbers. Photograph features of life on the street. Photograph people working. Shoot scene-setters, use backgrounds well, and tell a story with your pictures. Look for overviews – shoot from up high and from down low. Talk to people, engage. Tell them why you are there and what you are looking for – a picture story of their unique neighborhood! (10 points)

Week Five, February 20
Due today: Assignment 3, Neighborhood. 
Homework: prepare a pitch for a photo package. What is the visual element of your subject? Who is the main character? What are the issues? Do you have access? Who cares about this story? – who is your audience, and what’s new about your story? What’s your interest in the subject? 

Week Six, February 27
Due: Photo Package 1 (10 points)
homework: prepare a photo package pitch. 

Week Seven, March 5
Due: Photo Package 2 (10 points)
homework: prepare a photo package pitch. 

March 12

Week Eight, March 19
Due: Photo Package 3 (10 points)
Due: Pitch Photo Essay in class.

Week Nine, March 26
Photo Essay: shoot 1 – ten photos

Week Ten, April 2
Photo Essay: shoot 2 – ten photos

Week Eleven, April 9
Due: Photo Essay, shoot 3 – ten photos

Week Twelve, April 16
Open lab to finish photo essay edit.

Week Thirteen, April 23 
Due: photo essay – 10 photos (30 points)

Week Fourteen, April 30
Due: Adobe Portfolio


By the end of the course, students will be expected to have achieved specific goals and acquired defined skill sets, including:

  • The ability to take a set of photographs of a subject or event that will communicate the essence of that subject matter to the viewer of the pictures.
  • The ability to edit a collection of photos into a package with a compelling and coherent storyline.
  • The ability to write publication-quality captions and provide written reporting to complement photo stories to deliver a complete editorial product to viewers.
  • The ability to generate various ideas for publication-quality photo stories. The diversity of subjects is critical.
  • Knowledge of professional practices and ethics in photojournalism.
  • The ability to articulate criticism of photographs and photo stories to contribute to their improvement.
  • The ability to manage workflow to adhere to strict weekly deadlines.
  • Mastery of photographic skills utilizing digital photo equipment, including a full range of lenses and lighting options.
  • Consistent use of advanced photographic techniques, including lighting, motion, depth of field, and effective composition, to achieve maximum quality.
  • Competence in digital processing of images to provide photographs that achieve publication quality in color balance, exposure, sharpness, and resolution.
  • Basic knowledge of business practices and opportunities in the professional field of photojournalism.

Throughout the term, you will be working on picture stories: not just pictures, but stories.  Each week, you must pitch at least two story ideas in class that are well thought out and fully developed, with information about how you would approach producing that story.  I will serve as your “editor” and require you to sell me your ideas in the same way you would need to convince a website or publication editor to give you space for your story.  Each week, you will produce one finished story that must include five selected images with well-written captions and/or a story block.  Complete, informative, well-written captions are an absolute requirement; photos without written information are useless in the broader world. Pictures and words must work together as if you are producing a photo package for the internet or a full-page photo essay in a newspaper or magazine. 

Images must have proper color balance, exposure, sharpness, and accurate, comprehensive information in the written component.

Though this is not a course requirement, you can explore multimedia presentations for weekly assignments and final projects.  The primary goal of this course is to learn how to inform people through your photo coverage.  The partnership of photographs and other media is explored extensively in other classes.

To get you started, I will give you several story ideas.  You can choose among these until you have generated your ideas. I can assist with story ideas should you need help.  These are standard assignments you would expect during work at a publication or online news outlet.

  1. WORK.  Find a subject who is engaged in an attractive, unusual profession.  Follow that person as long as it takes to tell the story of who they are and what they do, and convey it in your photos.
  2.  NEWS EVENT.  Find an event that can yield a picture story.  Remember that your job is to connect your readers/viewers to that event.  Stay away from routine events unless they can be made interesting.
  3. SPORTS EVENT.  Cover a sports event, but don’t just shoot action.  Look for storytelling moments.  The best photos are often reaction shots from players, coaches, and fans.
  4. GROUP ACTIVITY.  Examples include the production of a play, a dance troupe in rehearsal and performance, and students making a film.
  5. PERSONAL PROFILE.  Spend time with someone you do not know, telling the story of his or her life.  Subjects could include a person with a unique lifestyle or set of relationships or facing particular challenges.

Occasionally, the entire class will be assigned to cover one topic or event in the same way the staff of a publication works.  The goal will be to provide comprehensive coverage and to experience working as a team.  In the past, these projects have included the Boston Marathon, the New Hampshire presidential primary, election night, the Head of the Charles rowing regatta, and others.

You will need to get going on this early. You should take the opportunity to produce a piece of work you would be proud to have in your portfolio.

Class structure and subject matter will vary in response to student interests.  Therefore, you will not have a rigid schedule of classes for the term.  However, the “standard” class will start with presenting and discussing contemporary and historical figures, photojournalists, and documentary photographers. Students will pitch photo story ideas followed by a critique session of your weekly assignments.  These critiques are among the most critical opportunities in the course.  Therefore, photo stories must be ready for presentation at the start of every class.  The learning experience in this course is a collaborative effort.  You will learn not only from your successes and mistakes but also from the experiences of others in the class. All students need to offer opinions and share their ideas.  Please engage.  The sooner you learn to articulate your ideas and views, the more you will grow as a photographer.

Classes may include guest lectures by working photographers in different arenas of photojournalism.  These presentations will be tailored to the needs and interests of the class. In the past, visiting speakers have come from the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, the Associated Press, and independent photographers who work for various news organizations, publications, and clients. 

REQUIRED READING –, daily. Also, follow several other divergent news sources like PBS, NPR, and other online news sites. Be informed.

RECOMMENDED TEXTS:  These books are not required course reading, but I urge you to read them if you are serious about your work in photography.

Photojournalism – The Professionals’ Approach: Seventh Edition, Kenneth Kobre

ISBN 978-0-7506-8593-1

Truth Needs No Ally, Howard Chapnick  ISBN 0-8262-0955-6

Get The Picture, John Morris  ISBN 0-679-45258-3

Grades will be based on the quality of work, ideas, and effort shown. It is not expected that everyone’s talent level will be equal, but full effort and commitment are required at all times.  We will critique student work as a group in class; participation is mandatory.  It would be best if you treated the due dates of your photo stories as you would an assignment deadline.  Photo stories are expected at the beginning of class each week, and late work will not be accepted without a compelling reason.  Each weekly photo story submitted will have equal weight, but the final project will be the equivalent of three weekly stories.

Captions must be accurate and complete = 20% of the assignment and final project grade.

Photos must be sharp, well-toned, and cropped; show a variety of angles, distances, focal lengths, and situations = 40% of image grade for assignments and the final project. All images must tell a story or contribute to a visual narrative = 40%

The portfolio must show well-edited images, diversity, and high quality.
All work must be completed with high industry standards and ethics.
Engagement: Active in sharing ideas and critiques. 

Assignment 1, 10 points
Assignment 2, 10 points
Assignment 3, 10 points
Assignment 4, 10 points
Assignment 5, 10 points
Assignment 6, 10 points
Photo essay shoot one
Photo essay shoot two
Photo essay shoot three
Photo Essay, 30 points
Portfolio, 10 points

GPA conversion

A: 4.0
A-: 3.7
B : 3.0
B-: 2.7
C : 2.0
C-: 1.7
D : 1.0
F : 0.0

Percentage based Grade Scale
A : 93-100
A-: 90-92.99
B: 83-86.99
B-: 80-82.99
C: 73-76.99
C-: 70-72.99
D: 60-69.99
F: 0-59.99

Boston University Policy Statements

Sexual Misconduct 
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Diversity in the Classroom
Please alert me to anything related to preferred pronouns, preferred name or nickname, or any extenuating circumstances or trigger warnings (personal, medical, etc.) that might affect your classroom experience via our pre-class survey. I want to ensure you have the most positive experience in the classroom possible. Boston University’s founders opened its doors to all students regardless of religion, race, or gender. Building and sustaining a vibrant community of scholars, students, and staff remains essential to our mission of contributing to and preparing students to thrive in, an increasingly interconnected world. We strive to create environments for learning, working, and living that are enriched by racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. We seek to cultivate an atmosphere of respect for individual differences in life experience, sexual orientation, and religious belief. We aspire to be free of intellectual parochialism, barriers to access, and ethnocentrism. 

Success in a competitive, global milieu depends upon our ongoing commitment to welcome and engage the wisdom, creativity, and aspirations of all people. The excellence we seek emerges from the contributions and talents of every member of the Boston University community. 

This course encourages open discussion and respectful debate, as students are expected to hold various beliefs and attitudes, particularly about communication. At times, we may cover topics you are uncomfortable with, or lectures may include information that causes you to feel uneasy. Such controversial issues will only be discussed if they hold academic merit. However, discussion and debate will always be respectful and appreciative of others. If this is not the case, or if statements are made decisively determined not to be respectful, appropriate action will be taken. 

Hate speech will not be tolerated under any circumstances, and any instances of hate speech (either online or in-person) will result in the maximum allowable punishment, up to and including the potential for federal-level investigation and prosecution.

Social Climate
Any student who has difficulty affording groceries or accessing sufficient food to eatevery day, or who lacks a safe and stable place to live, and believes this may affect their performance in the course, is urged to contact the Dean of Students for support. Furthermore, please notify the professor if you are comfortable doing so. This will enable them to provide any resources they may possess. Also, it is not unusual for students to feel stress, and about 15% of students experience depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns. We are here to help you find the resources to help you get through this stressful time. 
If work shown in this class, professional or student-generated, offends you in any way, please mention it in class or talk to us privately about it so that we can all learn from each other. This is not to say we will ever restrict freedom of speech or water down an aggressive or edgy idea, but we want to discuss anything that someone deems troublesome or offensive. 

Finally, there are many resources available to students. COM has a 

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, a DEI student group, and a Facebook group. All are welcome. 

Disability and Access Services
If you are a student with a disability or believe you might have a disability that requires accommodations, please get in touch with the Office of Disability and Access Services(DAS) at 617-353-3658 to coordinate any reasonable accommodation requests. DAS is located at 25 Buick Street, on the third floor.

Student Athletics
All student-athletes should be provided with a sheet from Student-Athlete Support Services regarding absences throughout the semester. These sheets should be handed in as soon as possible to avoid potential conflicts and so arrangements can be made to provide for missed lecture notes, classwork, or discussion.

Recording of Classes
Due to most classes being offered in the Learn from Anywhere format, students should expect each class session to be recorded. It is important to note that recordings on Zoom may capture the chat during the class, including private chats. If you have questions or concerns regarding the recording of this class, please see your professor. Note also that recording devices are prohibited in the classroom except with the instructor’s permission.

Academic Code of Conduct
The Academic Conduct Code binds all BU students. Please review to ensure you are acting responsibly and ethically in regard to your academics. There may be changes here due to the nature of the pandemic, so please read everything carefully. Students must be familiar with the college handbook and fully understand the expected code and conduct. The academic code of conduct is fully explained at:

Regarding Group Work:
Each student involved in group work is potentially responsible for all work turned in by the group. If a student knows or has evidence of academic misconduct within a group, the student should address it with his or her group or professor before submitting the assignment.