My “Selected Studies in Journalism” course that focuses on photojournalism is becoming my favorite class to teach. This week, I invited one of my former colleagues and photojournalist for the Orlando Sentinel, Jacob Langston, in to speak about his experience “making pictures” and working his way up from when he started as a photo tech in the late ’90s to where he is now. Jacob opened by showing the class an impressive online portfolio of editorial images taken through the years and offered his #1 piece of advice: “Get comfortable shoes.”
Students asked questions as he continued clicking through, stopping when he had a story to tell or distinct memories from the assignment. Sometimes, he told students, when working with a reporter, it’s a good idea to get to the shoot before them because “you end up getting in each other’s way.”
When shooting for the newspaper, he talked about “artsy” pictures and how they sometimes don’t make the paper. “The editors want stuff that’s very literal for the paper.”
On finding story ideas, Jacob said, while he tries not to take pictures while driving, he finds a lot of things just by driving around. “You gotta be ready,” he said. “Stuff happens quick. You have to be ready even in the between moments.”
When approaching people for caption information, Jacob said he is “always amazed how open people are.”
On technicalities, Jacob told the students “never to use flash,” and instead set a higher ISO. He encouraged them to use layers in their shots and “shoot through people,” while simplifying everything.
Of course, the industry is hard to break into. “It’s not like nursing,” he said. “It’s always good to have a back up plan.”
After a while, one of the students called out, “I think you have the photographer’s eye.” But of everything he said, his best piece of advice was, “Carry little debt as possible. It can make you stagnant.”