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How to Write a News Article: Photos/Graphics

Basic guidelines for creating news articles in print, photos, and video.

Comics, Photos, & Other Graphics

Comics were part of news before photos and still are. Not just the result of an Art class, comics can express opinions in a manner that any reader can understand. They can also be disrespectful of authority where a paper might get nervous.

Matthew Brady first brought home the realities of the Civil War with photos and Eddie Adam’s photo of the assassination of a Viet Cong soldier helped end the Vietnam War. A picture can have a powerful impact on the viewer that speaks directly to his or her feelings.

Because photos have such impact, it’s critical to be accurate. Never alter or mislabel a photo and be sensitive to situations and people. Today a reporter may be asked to provide their own photos or video, so a Photography class may be in order. When taking photos, look for:

  • Drama – What’s happening? Who’s in the middle of the action?
  • Take pictures other than the main action - How are the bystanders reacting?
  • Stand back – Shoot far away to up close. The same thing will quite different as different distances.
  • Get as close as you can - Show tiny details blown up.
  • Work off-center - Things will stand out when the central focus is empty space.
  • Consider light and contrast – What stands out? What catches your attention?
  • Check your background - You don’t want trees growing out of someone’s head.

Cutlines are the copy that describes the picture. They identify the subject of the photo and are essentials on computers for the blind. Always double-check names of your subject and be specific about date, time, and place.

Photos aren't the only graphic with impact. Think about how helpful a map can be. Charts, in particular, can help convey complex information.  To ensure accuracy, include:

  • Headline – a plain text statement of what the chart represents
  • Labels – What is the X axis? What is the Y axis?
  • Legend – what symbols or colors represent what information?
  • Explainer box or accompanying paragraph that tells the reader how to interpret the chart.
  • Source – where did the chart come from?

And you thought Math had no place in news!