Nonetheless, I started as a writer. I still recall some of the tricks of the trade.
To make it fun, I'll juxtapose (place beside for comparison or contrast) writing with photojournalism. The photo part is longer because it's more difficult to explain. However, photojournalists should read both parts because they need to write cutlines and sometimes entire stories.
Keep it short. If possible, keep each sentence to a noun, verb, direct object construction. This increases the number of people who can understand the sentence in one reading. Because Einstein was so brilliant, he wrote in simple, straightforward sentences. The rule of thumb is: if it doesn't add to the sentence, cut it.
Visually, select the subject. Narrow the image to its subject, action and supporting evidence. Change the framing to remove or downplay the remainder. You can choose different angles, longer lenses or distance to the subject to clean the backgound. This also increases the number of people who can understand and appreciate the intent of the image. The rule of thumb is: if it doesn't add to the image, crop it out (in the viewfinder).
Keep it simple. Complex subject matter is not an excuse for a complex sentence. It's a scream for simplicity and coherent thought. Break the subject down into bite-sized morsels. Organize them in a logical order.
Keep it simple. A messy environment is not an excuse for a sloppy image. It's a scream for simplicity and coherent thought. Break the subject down to its elements (ie. firefighter, burning house and child). Organize them in a logical order (firefighter carries the child in foreground with the a sense of the burning house in the backgound -- we don't need the whole house and it needn't be in sharp focus). Then press the shutter release button (if automatic advance, lean on the button to ensure a sharp image).
Use as many single-syllabled words as possible. This tightens the text and improves clarity. Look at each prepositional phrase and dependent clause to make sure it can't make a stronger adjective. For example: "The man from the north, who had a beard, left the room." Could be: "The bearded, northern man left the room."
Visually, place only required supporting information in the background or in the foreground with softer focus (if it's smaller). This directs the viewer to your subject (the sharpest part of the image) without confusion.
If a sentence cannot be spoken in one breath, it's too long. This is the acid test. In several blogs, I've noticed a sentence might be a page long. I dare the authors to stand and read the entire sentence with one breath. If writers don't do this, it's immediately evident when they turn red and try to read without enough air.
Shoot and edit a photo assignment to one image. This is the visual acid test. If no single image gets to the heart of the story, the PJ has failed. News PJs rarely get space to tell a full story with more than one image. If the PJ don't do this, it's immediately evident on the light table.
Written stories are a construction of complementary sentences -- never redundant. Make each word count.
Photo stories are a construction of complementary images -- never redundant. Make each image count.
Enough for now,