Photo guide

Cameras in the courtroom

YOU CANNOT TAKE PHOTOS IN OPEN COURT UNLESS YOU HAVE FILED FOR “EXTENDED COVERAGE” PERMISSION AND HAVE BEEN TOLD YOU MAY DO SO. The Northern Star is part of a media pool, which has paid for special equipment to be installed in the DeKalb County Courthouse. This equipment must be used when taking photos. Usually one representative from the media pool is granted extended coverage and the media pool member taking photos must share them with other members of the pool. Taking photos in open court is a big enough deal that you will know well ahead of time that you may do so. It’s a safe bet to say that if you don’t know if you can take photos, it means you can’t take photos.

Photo equipment


Cameras should be checked out with a bag – especially if there is a chance of rain or snow.

Photographers also are responsible for returning flash cards to the desk and putting batteries in the charger. Do not leave batteries or flash cards in the camera when you turn it in.

Always check before you leave the Star for an assignment that your battery pack is fully charged and that your flash card is empty.

Be extremely cautious when changing lenses. Protect the inside of the camera from dust. If dust gets on the image sensor, the camera will be damaged. Shield the camera from the wind with your body and change the lens quickly. Place an end cap on the lens you’re putting in the bag, to keep dust out.

Cameras should be stored with a lens or a body cap attached. Never leave a camera anywhere without a lens or a body cap.

Lenses should be stored with both a lens cap and an end cap. Keep dust and moisture out!

Don’t remove the UV-haze filters from lenses except for cleaning. These protect the lens from dirt, moisture and scratching.

Always use a neck strap with the camera – never take a chance on dropping it.

In short: The Star has invested thousands of dollars in photo equipment. We are relying on each photographer to protect that investment for the benefit of the next staff.

Doing great photojournalism (courtesy of Kelly Bauer)


From Brian Plonka, former photographer, Joliet Herald-News. Here are tips from a workshop Brian did at the Northern Star.

  • Create an atmosphere where excellence is the standard. Do not accept mediocre results.
  • Carry your camera at all times. Any time you go out, take a quick light reading and set your camera — point it at the grass, check the meter and then underexpose just a little from there. By having the exposure set in advance, if you see a good picture, all you have to do is focus and shoot.
  • Look for emotion. People overcoming adversity almost always make good pictures.
  • Establish camaraderie with your subject. Don’t just go in and start shooting pictures. Find out what you have in common, then exploit that.
  • Think as a journalist. You’re a reporter, not just a photographer. Ask questions. Dig for information. Always get the phone number of people you shoot — a reporter may want to contact the person for a story to go with your picture.
  • Concentrate on a clean background. It allows you to show the subject clearly, with no distractions. Find the setting, get a clean background, then wait for the moment.
  • One good technique to highlight a subject is to decrease your depth of field to put the background or foreground out of focus. That helps the reader to zero in on the subject.
  • When using a flash, don’t shoot a subject straight on — you’ll get a harsh reflection. And, move away from walls to avoid harsh shadows.
ISO/Shutter/Aperture settings
ISO/Shutter/Aperture settings

Light & Exposure

Light is 100 percent of any photo. The secret to being a good photographer is to look at light in a way no one else looks at it.

  • The best natural light for photography comes early in the morning or late in the afternoon — times when the sun is low in the sky. Those are the times you should be shooting outdoor assignments. Use the middle of the day for indoor shots if possible.
  • Try to know whether your photo will run in black & white or color. If b&w, then think in black and white.
  • Time exposures: Use low light and shoot between f8 and f11. Bracket your exposures.
  • TV: To shoot a picture of a TV image, expose at 1/30 second and f4 or f5.6.

Smartphone photography






  • When shooting a game, your pictures should reflect the tone and atmosphere of the game. Take along a portable radio with an earplug and listen to the game. The announcers will help you know what players to key on.
  • Never shoot sports action at less than 1/250 second.
  • Two sports techniques to help your lighting: 1. Shoot from your knees for a low angle. You’ll get a cleaner background and a halo effect from the lights. 2. Shoot from a high angle and use the floor or field as a background. This can be especially effective for black players, or players in black uniforms, so they don’t get lost in your background.

Equipment for shooting sports

Convo Center
The Star owns a strobe-lighting system which is suspended above the main floor in the Convocation Center. Photo editors will work with Convo Center staff to be sure the system is turned on before games. Photographers mount a remote control unit on the camera’s hot shoe. This fires the strobes.

Caution: Never use this system at concerts or any other low-light event. The flash will be too distracting.

Huskie Stadium
Several staff lenses are available for use with Canon SLRs. In particular, we use a 400mm/f2.8 lens that must be mounted on a monopod or tripod. When you check out this lens from the cabinet, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR IT. And it cost $8,000.


How to write good cutlines

  • Think of yourself as not just a photographer, but a photojournalist. Use good reporting techniques to get information for cutlines. Double-check spellings of names, dates, times, places, etc. Get this information when you take the picture — not later.
  • Cutlines complete the information begun by the story and the photo. They should not repeat what’s obvious by looking at the photo. Avoid words such as smiling, shaking hands, holding the championship trophy, looks on, so-and-so is all smiles.
  • Never inject opinion into a cutline.
  • Write in the present tense: Sammy Sosa slides into second base.
  • For a stand-alone photo (one that doesn’t run with a story), be especially careful that the cutline contains all pertinent information. It is the story as well as the explanation of the picture.
  • Identify every significant person in the photo. And, find out how the final version will be cropped, so you don’t name someone who ends up being cropped out of the picture.
  • If the cutline refers to a story on another page, double check that the page number is correct (this responsibility likely will fall to page designers).
  • Use these styles when referring to people in a photo: Abe Lincoln (left) shouts insults at men’s glee club members (left to
    right) Wally Cleaver, Bing Crosby and Evel Knievel.
    Sophomore English major Leo Tolstoy explains the art of hula-hooping to students Tuesday in the Campus Life Building.
  • Read the cutline aloud to be sure it makes sense and sounds the way people talk.
  • Use spell check.
  • Include a credit line. Our style for a single photo is: DAWID KLIMEK PHOTO
    For multiple photos on the same page, it’s: DAWID KLIMEK PHOTOS