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Purchasing a camera and spending money, high school newspaper edition

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by sgreenwell, Jan 3, 2010.

  1. sgreenwell

    sgreenwell Well-Known Member

    So, I'm kind of a novice when it comes to the world of digital cameras, so I thought I'd ask here for advice. I run a high school newspaper, and we just got about $500 in grant money. I've earmarked about $200 for equipment - Not a lot, but I need the other funds for joining a high school press association and printing costs. (Right now, I'm using money from my stipend to get the paper printed.) Ideally, I'd like to buy a digital recorder too, so I'm guessing it leaves around 150 to 170 for a camera(s). I can go a bit over that if it's worth it.

    For the kind of content they're producing, you can see a PDF of the paper here. They're mostly interested in things like profiles, question and answers, interviews, etc. I have one photog who has her own camera, and most of the photos that aren't Google Image and Wikipedia things are by her. There isn't a ton of interest in sports outside of some senior photos.

    With that in mind, what sort of camera should I look at for the budget? The closest "camera shop" to where I am is probably Walmart, so I looked at what they had on their web site, and I really don't have much clue at the differences between, say, an $80 one and a $150 one. With what they want to do, am I better getting two cheap-os, or just one nicer (but still cheap) one? Any recommendations on specific models or brands?
  2. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    Well, I'm not enough of a technical camera wizard to tell you specifically which brand or model is better, but from the looks of your PDF edition I think some of the >$100 models, with 10MB resolution, should be OK.

    Are you likely to have many situations in which you'll need more than one camera at once? If the answer is yes, obviously it would be a good idea to have a couple on hand, but if not, it simply means one more thing that can get lost/stolen/broken. If most of your photos are pre-scheduled shots of classes, mug shots, "grip-and-grins" as we call them (heheh), you only need one camera at once. However it's almost guaranteed at some point that one camera will be broken or in somebody's locker or something, so I'd definitely say to have two on hand. (Remember a battery charger too!!)

    Offhand, I don't think the $150 cameras are that much better than the $80 models that it's probably worth sinking all your money into one camera.

    The point at which you start needing dramatically better cameras is when you start shooting a lot of action photos (sports especially) when all the bells and whistles in terms of flash, exposure, focus, zoom and all that good stuff jump from nice extra bonuses to pretty much necessities. At that point you would want to jump from a snapshot camera to the DSLRs, which would burn through your budget in a hurry when you start getting into accessories like flashes, etc. etc. Those bad boys start at a price range way over your budget, and it doesn't sound like you guys cover a lot of things like that.

    A couple quick notes on the issue of Google images, which somebody may already have mentioned: First of all, remember Google images are not simply free photos; usually the original creator still retains legal rights to it. It's not too likely somebody is going to hunt down a HS newspaper for using a Google image, but you never know -- weirder things have happened.

    Here in big-time newspaper land (ahem), I never use a Google image unless we can e-mail the originator of the photo and get permission to use it. It's a pain in the neck and sometimes all but impossible to track down the originator -- and sometimes they want money, which usually ends the discussion -- but better to do that than find out later you hit the one-in-a-million lottery where somebody decides to sue.

    The other issue with Google images (or anything off the internet), as I am sure you know, is that most images do not have adequate resolution to be used in print. One of the biggest mistakes in my life was the day I showed one of our writers (a 25-year veteran) how to save photos off the net. As a result now, that's all he ever does -- he never schedules us to take photos, he never asks the subjects to send decent-sized shots -- he just sends me 72-dpi thumbnail after 72-dpi thumbnail off the net, half the time when we need a 2- or 3-column photo. Of course the pictures end up looking like pastel charcoal drawings (so we can't use them). :eek: :eek:

    One quick design note on your pdf edition, which does look pretty good and is quite clean (very few typos!): very narrow columns, with short, choppy lines, are usually pretty hard to read visually. I see most of your pages are on a 6-column format; it might look better on a 5-column format, if your layout program can handle that without too much hassle.

    I don't know if that answers your questions, but maybe some other people with a lot more technical expertise will jump in and give you more specific advice. Even though we old fogeys moan and groan and wring our hands about how the print journalism field is going down the chutes (it kinda is), one way or another, there will be newspapers of some description coming out in the years to come, and it's fun to see some of you guys getting interested in it. Just keep in mind how your content can be adapted to other formats (i.e. online) and you should be fine.
  3. sgreenwell

    sgreenwell Well-Known Member

    Hey Starman, thanks for the advice! I will probably skew toward two cheaper ones then. It's not so much that they *need* two, but more that I think I'd be able to double output if I had two, and most of the good input I've gotten back has been concerning the limited amount of photography they've done. And yeah, we don't do enough sports to warrant getting a camera that nice; they mostly do "season wrap" articles by the time it comes out, so profile / "kid shooting a free throw" stuff works.

    Regarding Google, I generally just try to pluck promotional images that are on every web site out there. For example, this issue had something from the CW's web on 90210, a box art of Modern Warfare Call of Duty 2 and free license images on Wiki of Switzerland. I am aware of the resolution images, which is always a pain, but they've printed OK for the most part so far.

    I'd love to switch to five columns, but the ads for it are six, and I've been told they want to keep this size template because that's what the other HS paper they print uses and they can bundle the ads easier that way. I'm using Quark and just doing the layout somewhat-quick by myself. And, judging from who I've got writing, I don't think I have to worry about dissuading people from pursuing newspapers. (Man, kind of sad to have to say that.) They're mostly happy doing stuff about their friends, reviewing TV shows, interviewing exchange students, etc.
  4. deskslave

    deskslave Active Member

    Not that you asked for layout advice, but I figured I'd chime in anyway. You say that the printer likes the six-column grid because of the ads, and that's understandable, but looking at your PDF, there's not much, for lack of a better word, integration between the ads and the copy. In other words, you've got copy/photos in one space and ads in the other. There aren't any stacks of ads that would make it noticeable if you changed the number of your text columns.

    You'd have to keep the Quark grid on six columns, which would make it a pain, but you could switch it to five, do everything you needed to do, then switch it back to six when you sent it.

    Alternately, you could keep it at six and just change some of the stories to five, or even four. Quark will allow you to define the number of columns in each text frame, as you doubtless know.

    The only place it would get tricky would be on pages where you have vertical half-page ads, but even that shouldn't be too tough. Just leave yourself enough space to the side of the ad.
  5. sgreenwell

    sgreenwell Well-Known Member

    Hey Desk, thanks for the advice. The ads are kind of limited, you're right, so I could switch some of the pages without them to five columns. Two and three were the only pages with ads (I'm not sure why they offer the original PDF as opposed to the one with the ad copy). I am the one laying this out, so if there is room for improvement, I should integrate some changes the best I can.

    One frustrating aspect - Content. I thought I was bad in college, but high school kids are still the champions of procrastinating, ugh. I've told them a fake, three-day early deadline for this next edition (March) so that they actually get things to me with a reasonable amount of turnaround for me. If you notice any font issues with this PDF, this is why.
  6. deskslave

    deskslave Active Member

    It's tough when you don't have any alternative content, because they know there's nothing you can do if they don't hit deadline. You can't hold their story and run wire. And there's no sense threatening them over deadline if you don't have anything to back your threats up with.

    Maybe assign more stories than you're going to need for an edition or two? Then if someone's late, you can hold their story; if no one's late, you just hold something that's not time-sensitive -- and written by someone who won't get too upset if you hold their stuff. ;)
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