The shadow of a small newspaper photojournalist

As a senior in your last semester of college their is no slow start to homework.  The chaos begins on your first day of class.  The Photographic Process, one of my four journalism classes, started with an assignment to job shadow a professional photojournalist in the real world.

With prior experience working for MLive, a larger newspaper company, I wanted to go smaller.  I looked to the Midland Daily News in Midland, Mich. where I found Brittney Lohmiller.

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Brittney Lohmiller speaks with a patient inside the MidMichigan Medical Center Joint Camp in Midland on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015. Four Red Wings players toured the hospital and visited with patients during the Red Wings seventh annual MI Wings Community Tour.

Less than a year ago, Lohmiller went through a similar transition herself.  She was working for the Savanna Morning News in Savannah, Georgia when she downsized more than twice the circulation in January 2015.

Lohmiller talked about how she really liked the transition.  “I prefer a community centered approach to journalism, it is better suited for the type of photographer that I am,” she said.

“I found that I had more control over how my pictures were used too,” since at the MDN the photographers are also responsible for the page design.

From the Rochester Institute of Technology she graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Arts, Photojournalism Major and a Spanish Minor in 2011.  Since then has worked for MLive The Saginaw News in Saginaw, Mich. and the Natchez Democrat in Natchez, Mississippi.

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Brittney Lohmiller, center, laughs as she converses with a group of mothers volunteering on Picture Day at Jefferson Middle School in Midland on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015.

Day’s Agenda

  1. 7:50 am – Arrived at the front door of the Midland Daily News
  2. 8:00 am – Watched as Brittney put together the front page of the days newspaper
  3. 9:00 am – Had a meeting with the staff in preparation for the day
  4. 10:00 am – Front page needed to be ready for print
  5. 10:15 am – Arrived at MidMichigan Medical Center to photograph Red Wings players visit with patients during their seventh annual MI Wings Community Tour.
  6. 11:30 am – Went back to hub to edit photos and post on Facebook
  7. 12:00 pm – Lunch break
  8. 1:00 pm – Arrived at Jefferson Middle School in Midland for features of Picture Day
  9. 3:00 pm – Headed back to the hub to edit and talk about the experience
  10. 4:00 pm – Thanked the staff and said my goodbyes
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A boy speaks to a row of friends as they wait for the rest of the class to get their pictures taken on Picture Day at Jefferson Middle school in Midland on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015.

After spending the day with Brittney at the Midland Dailey News I can definitely say that if I were to work for a newspaper, it would have to be one similar to the same size.

I loved everything about Brittney’s job, from having the opportunity to create the front page, editing and selecting which photos best represent each story, having more leeway to find your own stories and having a more hands on approach as a photojournalist.

I could feel how connected and invested Brittney was with the community and that is exactly what I would want to have.

On Assignment

Even with the MDN being a smaller newspaper, there is still that urgency found with larger newspaper companies.

First thing in the morning during the staff meeting in John “Jack” Telfer’s office (Newsroom Editor), Brittney was asked to get a quick photo of one of the statues displayed downtown.  As soon as the meeting was over, Brittney grabbed her DSLR, slung it over her shoulder, checked her batteries and made a dart for the door.

She scurried to the closest street corner where a statue was displayed, took a few quick photos and within minutes was back in the newsroom uploading her photos to edit, caption and upload to the archives before giving Telfer a shout to let him know the photos were available and ready to go.

After both assignments, Brittney was also in a hurry to get back and go through the same process so that the stories could be posted to Facebook along with MDN’s online website.

In the old dark room located in the basement of the hub was where we ended our day.  This is where the photogs hang out next to a row of computers and photos of previous work that lined the wall.

We chatted about the day, going over the photos I took at each assignment.

Red Wings visit 

The Red Wings event being the first was a little challenging.  There were photographers and broadcasters moving about a small room which made it difficult to get a clean photo of patient-player interaction without getting another journalist in the background.  Not to mention there wasn’t much emotion happening either.

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Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brian Lashoff hands back his signed autograph to a patient inside the MidMichigan Medical Center Joint Camp Wednesday morning. Lashoff, along with Luke Glendening, Darren Helm and Riley Sheahan, toured the hospital and visited with patients during the Red Wings seventh annual MI Wings Community Tour.

A few tips from this assignment:

  • If you need to get personal information about a subject that you missed (name/ city of origin/ title), due to whatever reason, go back to get it.  For example, the Red Wings players after 30 minutes of interacting with patients were moved to a different location in the hospital.  Brittney got ahead of them as they walked through the hallway to take photos of them in action and also at their next location interacting with surgeons.  After she was finished getting what she needed she went back up to the floor from previously to get names of a few patients that she missed.
  • Make a clean photo whenever capable.
  • Go where the TV people are not.
  • When there are posed photos take it just to have it, even if the newspaper usually doesn’t run them.
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Detroit Red Wings center Riley Sheahan signs his autograph for a police officer inside the MidMichigan Medical Center Joint Camp Wednesday morning. Sheahan, along with Luke Glendening, Darren Helm and Brian Lashoff, toured the hospital and visited with patients during the Red Wings seventh annual MI Wings Community Tour.

Feature Picture Day

She took advantage of the down time to seek out possible location shots that provided a good angle and clean background.  I watch as she stood up on her tippy toes to see if she could get up high enough to see over the black curtain that separated the area where the kids lined up and where the pictures were taken.  It was really cool to watch as she planned out her next move and to be able about it after.

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A group of middle school boys look at their reflection in a mirror as they comb their hair before taking their school picture at Jefferson Middle school in Midland on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015.

BEST TIP of the day:  BE PATIENT!!!! As Brittney went through my photos she read out loud to me, “1:14:30 – 1:14:32 – 1:14:50 – 1:14:56 – 1:15:01 – 1:15:02 – 1:15:05 – 1:15:06 – 1:15:18.” Those were the time stamps on my photos. I spent less than a minute on a location and angle before moving onto the next.  This was something I was aware I got worse at over time with the “now” and “large gallery” mentality.  She had told me that I will get better photos if I wait longer for a moment to fully bloom or for one to even cross in front of my lens.  This is definitely something I’m now working on because it is important to me to wait.

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A group of middle school girls chuckle as they play around in front of a mirror before taking their school photo on Picture Day at Jefferson Middle school in Midland on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015.

To go off of the previous tip, look for details.  Britney explained that these are easier to find and can also make your gallery look more complete and fill the gaps to provide you with more time to spend on the moments.

This experience is not one you can replicate in a class room.  Their is nothing better as an aspiring photojournalist than to go to a newspaper publication and have the chance to have a one-on-one with a professional.

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Volunteers look down at their cell phones as they wait for another class to arrive on Picture Day at Jefferson Middle school in Midland on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015.
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A group of girls stand in line as they wait their turn on Picture Day at Jefferson Middle school in Midland on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015.
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A mirror is used by two girls as they comb out their hair before getting their school pictures taken at Jefferson Middle school in Midland on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015.
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Two middle school boys look towards each other as they simultaneously comb their hair towards the ceiling on Picture Day at Jefferson Middle school in Midland on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015.
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