Jeff Kida of Arizona Highways presents at the 2012 IRMA conference in Scottsdale.

A few weeks ago I attended the 2012 International Regional Magazine Association (IRMA) conference in Scottsdale. While my primary duties as editor of Nevada Magazine revolve around the words, I do take quite a few photos for the publication and am always open to learning more about the craft of photography. That’s why I was especially intrigued to hear the presentation by Jeff Kida, photo editor at Arizona Highways magazine.

Kida says to shoot in RAW format whenever possible, which gives the photographer and editor access to a more dynamic range of image data. And always save your digital files in more than one place.

There are three main rules of photography to be concerned with: Aperture, ISO, and Shutter Speed. Kida says to never set your ISO on “Auto”; always set it manually. Of course the situation will dictate the correct setting, but he said for most conditions an ISO of 200 (he uses a Nikon) is optimal. Also, for landscape photos, when you can, use a tripod in combination with a slow shutter speed to ensure that the image will be sharp and entirely in focus.

Great food photography typically has very little depth of field; in other words, the background is blurred, with the food or drink very much the center of focus.

Light is always the law, Kida says. Front light is commonly used, but don’t forget about side light (brings out textures) and back light, which can be very dramatic. Time of day matters, which is why you see so many spectacular sunrise and sunset photos — when the light is gentler. He also said that if the outside light is harsh, explore the interior (if applicable to your assignment). Mainly, be curious. Use soft light if you’re taking portraits, or as Kida puts it, “Be kind to people.”

Some more of his general advice that stuck with me:

  • Allow for moments. “Just let it happen, especially with kids,” he says. “Become a watcher.”
  • Learn to anticipate. Be aware of situations on the fly, as something will inevitably change. “Be with the place for a bit, and you’ll start thinking differently.”
  • Think about camera angle.
  • Finally, don’t settle: “If you think you’ve got it, keep going. Keep workin’ it.” Arizona Highways hosts a number of Photo Workshops throughout the year, and not just in Arizona. The magazine also has a TON of Photo Tips on its website.

I have become a much improved photographer over the years, and I always tell people — like Jeff stresses — that it’s all about lighting. If the light is not in your favor, you’re probably not going to walk away with the ideal image. However, especially in my experience, you don’t always have the luxury of scouting and revisiting the location, so you have to make the best of the situation you’re confronted with. That’s when I try creative angles, or zoom in drastically on objects; I really observe the scene to make sure I’m not missing something that I don’t see at first glance.

What are your photography tips? How do ensure that the lighting works in your favor? What is your favorite type of photography (food, landscape, people)? If you’re an editor or art director, how do you work with photographers to ensure they get the images you need to tell the story? I’m interested to hear your thoughts.

This photo taken in Nevada’s Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in October 2009 is one of my personal favorites. The afternoon light in combination with the marshy autumn landscape worked to my advantage. Photo by Matthew B. Brown


Terry Greene Sterling speaks at the 2012 International Regional Magazine Association (IRMA) conference in Scottsdale.

Last week I attended the International Regional Magazine Association (IRMA) conference in Scottsdale. One of the speakers was Terry Greene Sterling, writer-in-residence at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University who has won multiple journalism awards.

Her journalism mantra is to work for the greater good. She writes the talk, too, having penned such investigative triumphs as Illegal: Life and Death in Arizona’s Immigration War Zone.

She said that generally speaking reading is about the fusion of pleasure (women, on average) and knowledge (typically men). Writers should always keep this in mind and learn the secrets of literary journalism:

Report with all your senses. Remember them all (sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste), and make the setting vivid for the reader. Set the scene as well; what Terry calls the tiny stories within the story.

Illustrate the characters. Dig deeper to get something human. Push really hard for honesty from the people quoted and referenced in your story.

Tell all sides of the story. Do not leave any holes, which is ultimately the editor’s job to challenge the writer.

Story setup and context are key. What is the point? Why does the story matter? What’s new? “There has to be something new,” Terry says. This reminds me of what my Chico State journalism professors called the “so what” of our stories.

Finally, Terry reminded us editors to communicate with our writers. Collaborate and be open-minded. At Nevada Magazine, I like to send a PDF to writers before we go to print so they’re aware of any changes to their stories that might lead to inaccuracies. They can also help fact check photo captions at this time.

What improves your writing? Do you agree with Terry’s writing pointers? What would you add to the list? If you’re an editor, how do you massage the editor-writer relationship?

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