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Submitting Photos to Newspaper

Jim McClainJim McClain Registered Users Posts: 60 Big grins
edited September 17, 2014 in Mind Your Own Business
My apologies if you read this post on another forum. I wouldn't normally post identical topics on competing forums, but this got no replies and I need some feedback. Thanks for any you can offer.

I went to a local event over the weekend to listen to music, eat some food and maybe, just maybe I'd find a picture I wanted. I'm not much for street photography, but once in a while I will catch something sweet, like a little girl dancing. And since the event was in a grassy plaza near some historic buildings, I thought that would make a good background.

As I was sitting on the grass shooting, the editor of our local newspaper came up to me. I don't know her particularly well, but we are facebook friends and she likes many of the pictures I post on facebook. She said she'd dropped and broke her camera and asked, if I got any crowd shots, would I be willing to submit them to the paper (it's published only once a week). Of course, I was flattered she would ask and said I would.

Many years ago, when I was involved in film photography, I had some pictures published in lesser-known SF Bay Area newspapers (San Mateo Times was one). It was a thrill to see my byline below a picture. So, I was a little excited and I shot almost 150 pictures Saturday. I pared them down to about 30 that might meet her criteria as crowd shots. The crowd was not very enthusiastic, very little dancing or clapping/waving of hands and arms, so it was a crap shoot - pun intended.

When I spoke with her at the event, it was obvious she didn't know what "RAW format" meant. She was trying to convey that she just wanted the raw pictures without my artistic touch. The only camera I have ever seen her or any other newspaper employee use is the P&S variety. I'm also aware that most every picture I've seen in our paper is flat and washed out and nearly colorless. I can see what the newsprint process does to those P&S pictures. So, I developed in Lightroom - 30 some odd pictures - and sent her an email with just one teaser and asked if she could come by to choose from all those I had to offer.

When I processed, I knew much would be lost in the newsprint process, so this is what I sent her (the following images are reduced in dimensions and dpi from the 6000x4000 300dpi originals):

*Sorry, image removed.*

She replied to my email with...
I absolutely love the photo content and the scene that you captured. But it has a stylized look to it, that makes it look like a cross between a photo and a painting. It's absolutely beautiful, but we couldn't run it like this in the newspaper. The picture of the little girl that you posted on Facebook, would be appropriate style-wise. I would love to run the photo that you submitted to me but more in its raw form. Is that possible?
I had explained when I sent the image that it was over-saturated to compensate for the loss of saturation during newsprint processing. I hoped that she understood that, but I still wanted to have a picture to submit. She said nothing about the 30 other pictures I offered to let her choose from. So, to appease her, I sent the following 2 versions, a desaturated color and a B&W that I thought was an acceptable compromise - after all, it is a newspaper that posts a lot of B&W images.

*Sorry, images removed.*

She replied back...
They still have a painted quality.

It needs to look like a virgin photo that is virtually untouched. Is that possible. Do you still have the photo just as you took it?

The photos are beautiful but too artsy. I don't know if I'm explaining this well.
I don't know what she would have done if I sent her the .NEF file. In exasperation and wanting to honor my commitment, I sent this final, unedited image:

*Sorry, image removed.*

I suggested she use her own image editing program to make any changes. She replied back...
This one is perfect !!!
This will likely be the last time I ever submit a photo to my local newspaper. I won't see the result until Wednesday, but I anticipate it will be as flat and washed out as this - even worse in newsprint. She doesn't know the difference.

What I should have done is ask for advice on processing here on DGrin first, then submit. Am I dealing with a clueless editor, or is this the norm?

Jim

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    moose135moose135 Registered Users Posts: 1,419 Major grins
    edited September 15, 2014
    They are looking to document the event, and as you said, it's going to appear on newsprint and the average reader will probably spend 3.4 seconds looking at it. They don't want fancy processing, "just the facts".
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    Jim McClainJim McClain Registered Users Posts: 60 Big grins
    edited September 15, 2014
    Seems to me that a newspaper with declining readership would want their pictures to represent those facts - the fact that the sky was blue and had clouds, not white and no clouds, and that colors appeared more natural instead of washed out and pixelated. Why would a paper move to more color pictures than B&W if they didn't want to represent color more realistically?

    I tried to compensate for the way I have seen them print color images by over-saturating my first submission. Maybe that wasn't what I should have done, so I was happy to submit the image de-saturated and looking more like what the scene was in real life. That image may have even been more like what an in-camera processed image looked like from a P&S camera.

    Maybe I'm way off base - you might even say paranoid - in thinking the editor did not want the publisher to see that there are other photogs out there in our little town that are capable of producing better images than she can. Job security. Maybe not. I've just worked hard to improve my skills and develop my talent and it upset me to know another ugly-ass picture in the paper will have my name under it. Maybe I'll get lucky and she will choose someone else's picture to publish.

    Jim
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    SamSam Registered Users Posts: 7,419 Major grins
    edited September 15, 2014
    Seems to me that a newspaper with declining readership would want their pictures to represent those facts - the fact that the sky was blue and had clouds, not white and no clouds, and that colors appeared more natural instead of washed out and pixelated. Why would a paper move to more color pictures than B&W if they didn't want to represent color more realistically?

    I tried to compensate for the way I have seen them print color images by over-saturating my first submission. Maybe that wasn't what I should have done, so I was happy to submit the image de-saturated and looking more like what the scene was in real life. That image may have even been more like what an in-camera processed image looked like from a P&S camera.

    Maybe I'm way off base - you might even say paranoid - in thinking the editor did not want the publisher to see that there are other photogs out there in our little town that are capable of producing better images than she can. Job security. Maybe not. I've just worked hard to improve my skills and develop my talent and it upset me to know another ugly-ass picture in the paper will have my name under it. Maybe I'll get lucky and she will choose someone else's picture to publish.

    Jim

    Jim,

    Your way over thinking and trying over deliver (delivering what you think they should want versus what they do want).

    For them it's a simple thing. A damn photo showing the event. Nothing fancy, no fine art, etc. Quick get it, plug it into the paper, print, and 10 minutes after reading the paper no one will remember the photo.

    Of course she doesn't know what a RAW file is. She is just using the term to describe a straight out of P&S camera jpg.

    I will bet the farm if you could shoot all the shots she needs for the paper, (without the back and forth), at the same free rate, she would be all over it.

    Most newspapers get their photos from existing staff with simple gear, and readers for free. The days of a full time photographer for the paper are over.

    Sam
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    Jim McClainJim McClain Registered Users Posts: 60 Big grins
    edited September 15, 2014
    I understand what you are saying, Sam. I'm not really interested in news photography, so I should have just politely declined. But I remembered the excitement I felt when I had pictures appear in other papers many years ago. Those were all B&W and real news (I spent an inordinate amount of time on highways in the SF Bay Area, so I saw a lot of accident scenes). At that time, the requirement was to submit the roll, not individual pictures. But they took the time to develop and I was not disappointed in the quality of the few pictures I had published (except that they never published the dead or injured and I was sick enough at the time to have thought those were my best).

    My focus should be on improving my artistic ability and not try to be something I have no real interest in.

    Jim
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    GlortGlort Registered Users Posts: 1,015 Major grins
    edited September 16, 2014
    I can tell you are dissapointed with what transpired with your pictures. You wanted to try and improve the quality of the images in the paper and be rewarded with some warms and Fuzzies. Understandable and fair enough.

    What the paper is thinking about is more likley consistancy, speed and playing to the lowest common Denominator... Their readers.
    When they get a Jpg shot out of their camera they know how it's going to print. It conveys the message, gives repeatable results and dosen't get anyones nose out of joint.
    The more straightforward the process is and the faster and easier that edition is to put to bed, the better.

    I very much doubt if the colour quality of the pictures in the paper improve more people are going to start reading the paper and it's circulation will improve and that's all the people that publish the thing are concerned about. Something like this is a filler piece anyway and if the weekend was rainy and the event was abandoned they would really worry. They would do as they always do on a wet weekend when they have a bunch of sprts pages to fill that got washed out, they put in some filler story about Fred Jones's 50Lb pumpkin that he grew..... 8 months ago.

    When the editors priorities are not that of geting the best pretty pictures. It's basicaly about securing advertises and putting out fires. She's looking at your pics and dosen't understand what you are talking about. What she has in her mind is when the pics look likethis, they come out like that which is the way they always look and is perfectly acceptable.

    The other thing is that the print process they use may not allow the straight pull back type look you think. The inks and paper may not simply pull the pics back in colour as you think, they may shift sideways. There are additive and subtractive process and probably a few new ones in between now.

    I think you did have a real interest in improving what the paper published from your sense of commounity and doing your best but unfortunately there are other factors at work here that aren't going to allow your efforts to be apprecaiated. You did the right thing and your thoughts and intentions were pure, just misplaced.

    Do what you love, have your heart in and have control over.
    The outcome will be much more satisfying for you.

    $50 says the editor will be in contact with you to do more pics sometime in the future. thumb.gif
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    Jim McClainJim McClain Registered Users Posts: 60 Big grins
    edited September 16, 2014
    Thanks Glort. All good reasons why I should have posted about this here BEFORE I decided to develop 30+ pictures with my own ego as my first priority.

    Jim
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    orljustinorljustin Registered Users Posts: 193 Major grins
    edited September 17, 2014
    Seems to me that a newspaper with declining readership would want their pictures to represent those facts - the fact that the sky was blue and had clouds, not white and no clouds, and that colors appeared more natural instead of washed out and pixelated. Why would a paper move to more color pictures than B&W if they didn't want to represent color more realistically?

    I tried to compensate for the way I have seen them print color images by over-saturating my first submission. Maybe that wasn't what I should have done, so I was happy to submit the image de-saturated and looking more like what the scene was in real life. That image may have even been more like what an in-camera processed image looked like from a P&S camera.

    Looks like you were overusing some HDR or tone map processing. It wasn't just oversaturation, although the first is way oversaturated, cartoony and isn't showing skin tones well. The second still retains that cartoony tone-mapped looked. The third best represents the skin tones, although the sky is blown out. Some simple saturation added on that one would probably have worked best.

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    SamSam Registered Users Posts: 7,419 Major grins
    edited September 17, 2014
    Thanks Glort. All good reasons why I should have posted about this here BEFORE I decided to develop 30+ pictures with my own ego as my first priority.

    Jim

    Hey, at least it kept you off the street corner and out of trouble. :D

    Sam
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    johngjohng Registered Users Posts: 1,658 Major grins
    edited September 17, 2014
    The general concept for newsprint publishing is you should never do heavy toning or hdr. Besides cropping and general exposure adjustments /slight sharpening / slight noise reduction if appropriate - you shouldn't do more editing than that. Colors and tones should look more natural. Some magazine work has moved toward a more processed look but not so newsprint. I think many newspaper editors would reject your first 3 images.
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    mercphotomercphoto Registered Users Posts: 4,550 Major grins
    edited September 17, 2014
    John is spot-on here. Photojournalism is all about documenting reality and that is vastly different than making a piece of art. Any self respecting newspaper SHOULD have rejected your first 3 submissions because of that. There is a code of ethics in photojournalism that most people outside of the trade do not know about or understand.
    Bill Jurasz - Mercury Photography - Cedar Park, TX
    A former sports shooter
    Follow me at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bjurasz/
    My Etsy store: https://www.etsy.com/shop/mercphoto?ref=hdr_shop_menu
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