Visual Journalism: How It Impacts Readers

September 19, 2013

Impact of Visual JournalismThey say a photograph says a thousand words. But does it say more when it’s paired with an article?

In visual journalism, photographs are used to emphasize the content of the article. Photos are meant to speak up, to say something more. As you put together articles or photo essays for your courses in your visual journalism degree program, think carefully about the impact these photographs are meant to have.

Knowing how the photos are supposed to work and what makes them so impactful for readers can help you find the right photographs to say what you want to say. Learn how visual journalism works and start using it to your advantage:

According to Steve Sanders’s Digicam Knowledge Center, journalism has risen in popularity and has become a more powerful resource since the introduction of cameras. He says, “Photographs are a testament to what has happened in the past and present, capable of making people aware of events and situations which are happening in other places.”

Visual journalism reaches out to people. It documents events and allows people to connect with the content of the article in a different way. In many ways, it’s more personal. Sanders argues that even if you are separated by the event by many years – or many miles – you are more connected through a photograph than an article.

In this way, photographs leave a long-lasting impression on their viewers. They make words mean more – and, in a visual age, are more effective.

But visual journalism faces a significant challenge today: mobile phones. With applications such as Instagram and Twitter, unskilled photographers and everyday people can take photographs and share them across the Internet.

Former managing editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Hank Klibanoff argues that this movement along with “the economic crisis [have] undermined the quantity of photographers in print media.” Editors at newspapers can choose from a variety of citizen photographs that capture public events, natural disasters and real-time events. Smartphones can capture quality images that might be seen as a good alternative to professional photographs.

Though some professionals are concerned about this new competition, educated photographers are still preferred to citizen photographers. New-media Web sites continue to emphasize and value photojournalism. Now it’s up to visual journalism students to take the current photography trends and find something innovative to create from them.